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Past Articles Library | Tips for Growing and Caring for Canterbury Bells

Canterbury Bells are a plant that can find a home in container gardens, cottage gardens and along the borders of flowerbeds.  The flexibility of this plant continues into its planting time.  What I mean by this is the fact that this perennial can be planted outdoors in the spring after your local frost free date and in the Fall.  The key to this approach is twofold.  The location for these seeds needs to be in a sunny or slightly shady area that is well draining.

Now that we know some basic requirements of this plant, let’s begin the planting process.  Canterbury Bells can be directly seeded into the garden bed.  To do this, select the area according to the requirements described above.  Next, prepare the garden space by removing unwanted plant material.  Loosen the soil a bit and add a good amount of well seasoned compost and/or manure.  Canterbury Bells like a rich soil and adding the well seasoned compost and/or manure will improve the richness of the soil without creating nutrient buildup.

Once you have added the seasoned compost and/or manure, the next step is to smooth over the soil so that you have a flat planting surface.

As you open your seed packet, you will notice that the seeds of the Canterbury Bells are very small.  In doing so, you will only need to top the seeds with ¼ inch of soil.  As far as the spacing goes, you can either just broadcast the seeds and thin later or plant the seeds the proper spacing.  If you choose the latter, you will need to plant the seeds 12 inches apart.

Once all the seeds have been planted, put the sprinkler head on the watering hose and water the seeds into the ground.  Do not water the seeds with a blast of water.  This act will bury the seeds too deep and affect your germination rate.  Keep the soil evenly moist and in 14 to 21 days, you will begin to see little sprouts appear.  These are your Canterbury Bells.

While approach is great and easy, there are times that planting directly outside will not work.  First, if you want to grow your Canterbury Bells in a container garden, you will need to plant seedlings and not seeds.  The reason for this is the fact that the soil in the container, even after your local frost free date, can become too cold for proper seed germination.  The solution to this problem is to start your seeds indoors.

To begin this process, starts off with a calendar.  You will need to count back 4 to 6 weeks from your local frost free date.  If you do not know this date, check with your local extension agent.  Once you have that date, you will need to begin to prepare for that planting date. 

The day you plan to plant your seeds inside, pull out a bucket and fill it with warm, soapy water.  To this water, add a capful of bleach.  Place the container by which you plan to plant your seeds in inside the bucket and soak for a few minutes.  Next, scrub the container to remove soil and water spots.  Rinse the container in clear water and set out to dry completely.

While you are waiting for the container to dry, pull out the soil.  To keep you from burying the seeds when you water, we are going to premoisten the planting medium.  We will water the soil surface again but the goal of this watering is to just moisten the sprinkled soil on top not the whole container of soil.

When it comes to moistening the soil though, you do not want it dripping wet.  Instead, you simply want it evenly moist.

Once the container is dry and the soil is moist, it is time to fill the container.  The next step is to sprinkle the seeds on top.  Add a ¼ inch of soil on top of the seeds and mist with water.

Now, put the seeds on a sunny windowsill.  Continue to monitor the soil moisture and water as needed.  In 14 to 21 days, you will begin to see the evidence of seed germination.  Once you see the evidence of seed germination, continue to monitor the soil moisture and when the seedlings have grown their second set of true leaves you can upside the container.

After the seedlings have their second set of true leaves, you will first need to prepare the individual containers.  This process is the same as what was done to prepare the container for the seed planting.  To continue with this process, read the previous description on preparing the container.

Once the containers have been prepared, gently remove the seedlings from the original container.  While you may be tempted to pull the seedlings out, do not.  This action will damage the seedlings.  The best approach is to slide your finger under the seedlings and lift up.  When you do this act, the seedling will come out easily and separate.

Plant each removed seedling in its own container and water in. 

As the weather warms, gradually expose the seedlings to the outdoor environment until your local frost free date has passed.  At this point, your Canterbury Bells are ready to plant outside.

Once they are in the ground, top the soil surface with mulch.  This will do two things.  One, it will help keep the area weed free and tidy.  The second thing that mulch will do is reserve the soil moisture. 

If you added compost or manure when you prepared your garden bed, you will not need to fertilize the plants the first year but if you skipped that step add a balanced fertilizer to the soil every other month during the growing season.

To keep the plant bloom, make sure to remove any spent blooms but do remove them all.  Allowing a few of the spent flowers to remain will provide seeds for the next year.  These seeds will fall off themselves and grow in the existing soil for a crop next year. 

After your local area has had its first killing frost, pull up the plants and dispose of in your compost bin. 

Do not worry about pest and disease when it comes to this plant.  Canterbury Bells are pretty much problem free.


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Check Light Availability

Most shrubs can grow in both sun and shade to varying degrees.

Many flowering shrubs, however, tend to need some sun to flower.

Be sure to double check the amount of light you have available to the shrubs you are planning to plant so you are happy with the outcome.

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