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Looking After Your Christmas Bells

Florence Treverrow

Large-flowered Christmas bells (Blandfordia grandiflora) are Australian plants that occur naturally in coastal heathland in elevated swamps. They are perennial grass-like plants which have an underground rhizome. In their natural environment they only flower well after a fire, probably because they don't compete very well with other plants.

   Blandfordia grandiflora

Although Christmas bells may survive very harsh conditions once established, they need to be looked after if you want them to flower well every year.

In-ground Planting - Christmas bells can be grown in the ground provided the soil is well drained. A fairly thick mulch of tea tree or pine bark is necessary to keep the roots cool and to keep the weeds down.

Pot plants - Christmas bells need to be grown in a deep pot as they have roots that pull the plants down into the pot and they can very quickly become root bound. The pot needs to be about 30 cm deep and even then, the plants will need to be repotted every couple of years. The best time to do this is in the early autumn. Use a potting mix suitable for native plants. Place the plant in the pot with the roots just covered with mix and then spread a layer of mulch over the surface.

Christmas bells can be divided when the clump of plants becomes big enough. When potting on, gently twist the plants away from each other. Clumps will break up fairly readily if the plants are large enough or if there are small plants which sometimes arise around the outside of the clump. If the clump does not easily break up leave it as it is.

Position - Christmas bells can be grown in full sun to partial shade. Some shade in the hottest part of the day is best. Frost is not a problem.

Fertiliser - The best fertiliser to use is a low phosphorus, 8-9 month slow release product applied at the rate of about a teaspoon per plant in late summer and about the same amount of potash in early spring.

Water - Water is very important, especially in early spring as this is when the flower spike starts developing, and it is often very dry at this time. Plants in the ground need to be watered every second day in spring, and may need to be watered more often once the flower spike appears if it is very hot. Water potted plants more frequently than plants in the ground and do not allow them to dry out except in winter.

From the newsletter of the Far North Coast Group of the Australian Plants Society, date unknown.

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Australian Plants online - 2008
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