Bells of Ireland, also known as Shell Flower and Molucca Balm, form dramatic spires of green in the garden, the tiny white or pinkish flowers being almost hidden within the large, green bells (or calyxes). Native to western Asia, the name "Molucca balm" and "Molucella" were applied mistakenly, for at one time they were thought to be natives of the Molucca Islands.
Description of bells of Ireland: Bells of Ireland at their best grow in spires to 3 feet, surrounded by the netted, green, bell-like calyxes. The flowers are fragrant.
Growing bells of Ireland: Grow bells of Ireland in full sun or partial shade in an average garden loam with good drainage. They can be sown outdoors in spring as soon as the ground can be worked. Space them 12 inches apart. To prevent their toppling, plant them in areas protected from high wind; they may also be staked. They mature fairly rapidly and do not rebloom. For a longer show, start plants at different intervals. They reseed themselves readily. After maturity, plants are not especially attractive, so they should be planted where the residual foliage is out of sight.
Propagating bells of Ireland: By seed. Sow in place. For earlier flowers, start 8 to 10 weeks prior to planting out. Seeds germinate in 25 to 35 days at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't cover the seeds; they need light to germinate.
Uses for bells of Ireland: Plant at the rear of the border for a vertical thrust. The chartreuse color of the bells combines nicely with lemon-yellows, sky-blues, and pinks. Especially revered by flower arrangers, the light green flowers hold unfaded for a long time in arrangements. For drying, hang them upside down in a dark place. They'll mute to a warm tan when dry and will last well in winter arrangements. They are especially attractive with other warm-toned components such as ornamental grasses and seedpods.
Bells of Ireland related varieties: Seed companies offer their own selections.
Scientific name of bells of Ireland: Molucella laevis