Spring Production Of Million Bells Calibrachoa

Calibrachoa 'Million Bells Brilliant Pink'

Million Bells are versatile plants that are suited to hanging baskets, patio containers, window boxes and landscapes. You could consider Suntory breeder Yasuyuki Murakami the father of the entire calibrachoa genus for global commercial flower production. Starting out with just a few colors, today the popular series spans reds, blues, oranges and yellows and splashy patterns like Crackling Fire and Terra Cotta.
Suntory continues to reinvest in and improve the series, which now spans 14 mounding types, five trailing types and the new Bouquet subseries, which appeals to growers looking for more compact varieties for high-density production. The original trailing types are still best sellers because of their vigorous growth, profuse blooming and ability to create lush, cascading displays, especially in hanging baskets.

Helpful Hints
from John Barone
Barone Gardens, Cicero, New York

When working with Million Bells calibrachoas, start them warm in a well-drained soil mix, then finish cool after they are well established. The key is to keep the pH down to help prevent Thielaviopsis root rot, which is less persistent in media with a lower pH. We will use an acid feed with added iron based on a soil test to accomplish this. Calibrachoas respond well to added iron. We’ve found an aggressive, preventative fungicide drench to be worthwhile in establishing this crop and maintaining it. As the plants are established, plant growth regulator treatments of Florel or B9 are used. We pinch as needed to shape. Bonzi drench treatments are used later in the season and we like to use multiple lower-dose applications. For combination plantings, I love the trailing Million Bells. Blue ’09 with Yellow and Magenta is an outstanding one.

Proven Performance
Calibrachoas are annuals in Zones 2-8 and can be perennials in Zones 9-12. Heat tolerant, cold hardy and prolific, Million Bells produce flowers from spring well into fall. Each summer, Million Bells stands out among hundreds of calibachoas to earn high marks in leading university trials. Penn State University named ‘Million Bells Bouquet Cream’ one of the top new varieties for 2011. At Michigan State University, ‘Million Bells Trailing 09’ was named an early favorite that same summer.

General Culture
Calibrachoa is a facultative long-day plant. Provide long days during propagation and production, if possible, although modern breeding has made great advances in bringing the flowering timing forward. Once cuttings are rooted and established, liners can be given a pinch to encourage a bushy plant. This is usually around three to four weeks after sticking. If this is not done by rooting stations, it should be done by the grower at potting or just afterwards. As the crop grows, it may require more pinching to encourage the right habit and breaks to get bushy, spreading plants.

Rooted cuttings should be potted up as soon as possible into 4-inch or larger pots, using using a well-drained peat/perlite mix. Keep pH at 5.2 to 6.0 to prevent disease and nutritional problems. Temperatures of the crop at this stage should be 65-70˚F for the first couple of weeks. This will enhance root development. After two weeks, the crop is best grown at 60-65˚F.

Avoid overwatering Million Bells. Watering is a key issue. High levels will encourage root rot, so a little-and-often regime is encouraged when plants are young to provide as much air to the crop as possible.

Crop Timing
• 4-inch production – four to six weeks with one liner and one or two pinches
• 6-inch production – six to eight weeks with one liner and two pinches
• 10-inch production – 10-12 weeks with three liners and two or three pinches

Growth Regulators
Million Bells responds to sprays of B9 (2,500-5,000 ppm) or Sumagic (5-20 ppm).  Another option is a Bonzi drench (2-3 ppm)

Pests & Diseases
Insect pests to monitor include whitefly, western flower thrips, aphids and red spider mites. Diseases to prevent include Botrytis, Powdery Mildew, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, Pythium and Thielaviopsis.

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