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Plant Profile: Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis)

Also called lady in the bathtub, shell flower, and molucca balm, this annual is native to Turkey, Syria, and the Caucasus. It is a member of the mint family, Laminaceae, that also includes basil, ajuga, and bee balm. Plants grow 2-3′ tall and have square hallow stems with tiny thorns that can cause an allergic reaction. The light green leaves are ovate and up to 2.5″ long. Tiny white to pink fragrant flowers appear from mid summer to fall and are surrounded by a showy large green bell shaped structure that is actually the calyx. The calyces are packed closely on spikes from top to bottom and turn papery and tan as they mature and seeds form. A striking plant in the border, bells of Ireland are good in the vase both fresh and dried. The genus name, Molucella, refers to the Molucca Islands off Indonesia where Linnaeus mistakenly thought the plants were native. The specific epithet, laevis, is the Latin word for smooth and refers to the leaves.


Bloom:Tiny fragrant white to pink flowers surrounded by showy large bell-shaped green caylx; mid summer to fall

Size:2-3′ H x 1-1.5′ W

Light:Full sun

Soil:Average, medium moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 2-11

Care:Fertilize every month once plants are established; stake when spikes of flowers develop and become heavy.

Pests and Diseases:Slugs


Companion Plants: Dahlias, hollyhock, love lies bleeding