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Calibrachoa ‘Cabaret Purple’ (photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story)
Calibrachoa ‘Cabaret Purple’ (photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story)

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Zone
Zones 2-24, 32-43
Full SunPartial Sun
Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate

Calibrachoa

Solanaceae
Annuals, Perennials, Flowers

This cheery summer bloomer looks like a small petunia, to which it is related. It is native to Brazil and Peru, and its garden forms are hybrids. It was once called Million Bells—the name of an early and still-popular series—but now just Calibrachoa. The plants have tiny, closely set leaves and a profusion of small, single or double flowers that fall off as they fade; blooms keep coming all season long. Colors include solids, bicolors, and veined patterns in shades of white, yellow, orange, apricot, red, pink, blue, burgundy, lavender, and purple. For hybrids between Calibrachoa and Petunia, see x Petchoa.

There are many excellent Calibrachoa series with names like Callie, Colorburst, Can-Can, Million Bells, and MiniFamous. They sometimes differ by color range and pattern, but there is overlap. The heat- and disease-resistant Superbells series, for example, includes about 30 varieties in a wide range of colors and habits.

Trailing calibrachoas in all series grow lower (usually 3–7 in. high) and spill out to the sides, while mounding forms can be 8 to 15 in. high, and grow about as wide as high. Intermediates are just that.

A good rule of thumb is to put calibrachoas in pots and petunias in either the ground or pots—but never petunias and calibrachoas in the same pot, since the petunias will overwhelm the smaller plants. Calibrachoas struggle in garden beds that have anything less than perfect drainage. Consider them perennials only where frosts are nonexistent or light.

Calibrachoas are generally less hungry and thirsty than petunias grown in the same conditions, but because they are at their best in containers, regular watering and fertilizing are still the rule. (Avoid using water-retention gels.) The plants’ wiry stems are less subject to breakage than are petunia stems, and tobacco budworms seem uninterested in foliage and flowers. 

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