A member of the mint family, Molucella is a genus that contains only four species. The most popular species, the Moluccella laevis, is commonly referred to as Bell of Ireland on account of its green colour and bell-shaped leaf bracts, not because it is native to Ireland.
The plant has a tall, woody stem around 60cm long. Moluccella laevis produces tiny white flowers encased in small, pale-green calyxes – cup-shaped leaves which resemble bells.
Moluccella laevis is native to the Mediterranean, particularly in the east, and Syria. While the plant can adapt to different soil types, it grows best in a compost-rich soil with good drainage.
Moluccella laevis is an annual summer-flowering plant that can be propagated indoors or planted outside in the springtime, once the frosty season is over. The plant has an average bloom duration of around ten weeks.
The species is Laevis and the genus Moluccella. A smaller breed of moluccella laevis is the Pixie Bell, which typically grows to around 30cm long.
Growing it requires a certain degree of skill, as the plant can be difficult to germinate. However, once the shoots have appeared, Bell of Ireland is a hardy plant which can be grown in a variety of different soil types. Molucella laevis seeds must be sown under cover in a propagator or greenhouse. Once the seeds have germinated, the seedlings must be allowed to acclimatise gradually to outdoor conditions.
Did you know?
Moluccella laevis are excellent as dried flowers – simply hang them upside down after you’ve cut them in bloom.
The white seeds of the plant can be found at base of the petals, which is why it is sometimes referred to as a ‘shell flower’.