By: Teo Spengler
Look for desert bluebells in California’s Mohave Desert. For more information about desert bluebell flowers, read on.
So exactly what are desert bluebells? With the scientific name of Phacelia campanularia ssp. vasiformis, these plants are native annual herbs that like sun and dry soil. The plants themselves are stiff and erect. If you start growing desert bluebells, you’ll find that the oval leaves are rounded and covered with fine hairs.
Desert bluebell flowers are large, bell-shaped, and a vivid shade of blue. They have yellow anthers that protrude from the bell of the petals.
Desert bluebells grow naturally in deserts in southern California. Sometimes they flower en masse after a wet winter, with thousands of them forming masses of sapphire blue. If you’d like to see that gorgeous blue color in your own garden, you may want to know how to grow a desert bluebell.
First, check your hardiness zone. Desert bluebell care is easiest if you plant the flowers in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 10.
Site these beauties in a full sun location. They need well-draining soil, either coarse or sandy. Act in late summer or early fall, sprinkling seeds on top of the soil to give them the light they require to grow.
Before you start growing desert bluebells, you’ll want to know their mature size. They can get to 24 inches (61 cm.) tall and 18 inches (45.5 cm.) wide. Flowers appear in February and March and last about a month.
Second to the indigo color of the flowers, the best thing about these plants is the ease of desert bluebell care. Remember that these are natives, and native plants know how to fend for themselves.
For example, once the plants are established, don’t irrigate them. They will make do with whatever water is available. Ditto with fertilizer. Don’t use any.
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Walk through the forest in the spring and you might just be rewarded with the beautiful sight of a carpet of Virginia bluebells in flower. They’re one of the few plants with true-blue blooms, and stumbling across a mass planting—wild or cultivated—is a real treat.
Virginia bluebells are native wildflowers that colonize in the moist woodlands of eastern North America from zones 3-8. You can also recreate a bit of their spring magic in your own garden.
Scientific Name: Phacelia campanularia
Common Names: Desertbells, Desert Bell, Desert Bluebells, California Bluebell
Arizona Native Status: Native, Introduced. This showy wildflower is often included in desert wildflower seed mixes, and the plants found here may be naturalized escapees from cultivation.
Habitat: Desert. It is most common along roadsides and in sandy desert washes.
Flower Color: Dark to medium cobalt blue
Height: Up to 2 feet (61 cm) tall, but usually much less
Description: The flowers are bell-shaped, 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide, and have 5 broad lobes. The leaves are dark green, fuzzy, heart-shaped, coarsely toothed, and edged in dark red. The stems are reddish and hairy.
Allergenic – The foliage can cause contact dermatitis in sensitive persons, but luckily there is little reason to handle this plant since it is not transplantable and does not make a good cut flower.
Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Family: Hydrophyllaceae – Waterleaf family
Genus: Phacelia Juss. – phacelia
Species: Phacelia campanularia A. Gray – desertbells
An increasingly popular plant for desert gardens, the Paddle Plant features bright red coloring along the edge of each of their green leaves — ideal for adding a pop of color to your desert landscaping. The texture of the Paddle Plant is smooth with rosettes of round, flat leaves, reaching 6 inches in length. Paddle Plants may grow as tall as 2 feet. During the summer, a mature Paddle Plant may sprout sweet-smelling, yellow blooms.
An Africa native, Paddle Plants are pleasantly drought-resistant and heat-tolerant. They require minimal care but can burn when exposed to too much sun.
Take care not to water the leaves of Paddle Plants. This will help to prevent the leaves from rotting and result in a longer lifespan.