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What is Nolana?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2018
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Nolana is a genus of flowering plants native to the coastlines of Peru and Chile. These plants are known as Chilean bell flowers and they are cultivated ornamentally in gardens all over the world. People interested in growing them may be able to find seeds or seedlings at a nursery, and they can also cultivate Nolana from cuttings. Members of this genus are usually started in a greenhouse, as they can be very tender when they are young.

Most species in this genus grow in low mounds. They produce blue to purple flowers with a rich gradation of colors, including yellow in the center of the flower and black streaks around the edges. The leaves are dark green and roughly ovate in shape. Depending on the species and the climate, Nolana can be an annual or a perennial. Perennials tend to become woody over time and may develop a leggy, ragged appearance after several years.

People living in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones 10 and 11 can usually cultivate this plant as a perennial, while people in cooler climates may grow it as an annual. Plants in this genus need a sunny, sheltered area of the garden. They prefer light soil with ample drainage, worked with a little bit of organic material for fertilizer. Pinching the plants off can encourage them to develop a more compact, tidy growth habit, or they can be allowed to sprawl in the garden.

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These members of the nightshade family can also be grown in greenhouses, solaria, and other sheltered indoor areas, as long as they get plenty of light. For people in coastal regions, Nolana is salt tolerant and can also cope well with sand and harsh soils, thanks to the fact that it has adapted to growing along the coastline. The plant can be planted as a trailing groundcover and will help to prevent soil loss and erosion as it roots and spreads.

Cultivars developed for gardeners may come in unusual colors and sizes. The flowers of domesticated Nolana species are usually a bit larger, reflecting a preference for big flowers among many gardeners and breeders of ornamental plants. The blooms may be pale to dark blue, and the streaks of other colors may also be variable in some cultivars. Gardeners should be advised that seeds do not always breed true and if a particular plant is of interest because of the color of its flowers, a cutting should be taken for the best propagation results.

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