How to Grow Nolana

Nolana plant up close

abriendomundo / Getty Images

You might mistake nolana for a morning glory at first glance, but this flowering plant is actually a separate species, sometimes referred to as the Chilean bellflower. With blue or violet blooms and a tendency to creep, this plant makes a great groundcover plant or a flowering spiller in a container. It’s an annual in cool-weather climates and a perennial in warmer areas (hardiness zones 10 and 11).

It’s interesting to note that this plant is actually a member of the nightshade family. You might know nightshades by their edible types, like tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. This type of nightshade, however, gains its fame for its beautiful blooms all summer long. 

Botanical Name Nolana
Common Name Chilean bellflower
Plant Type Annual or perennial
Mature Size 6 to 12 inches tall and wide
Sun Exposure Full to part sun
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Slightly acidic
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Blue, blue-violet, pink
Hardiness Zones 10, 11
Native Area Chile and Peru

How to Grow Nolana

Growing nolana is not complicated but does require understanding what these plants need to thrive--which isn't much! First, ensure that you have a location with plenty of sunlight—8 hours of direct sun is preferable. Second, make sure that the soil drains well. Third, don't worry about watering unless conditions become extremely hot and dry for an extended period of time.

If you understand these basic growing requirements, along with the more detailed information on growing conditions, you'll have a happy, healthy plant to reward you with beautiful blue blooms all summer long.

Light

Nolana is a sun-loving plant and thrives when planted in full sun. This plant requires 8 hours of sunlight a day for best blooming. It might survive, but won't thrive, if planted in partial shade.

Soil

While nolana is tolerant of a variety of soil types (including sandy or rocky conditions), one condition it cannot tolerate is too much water. Be sure that you plant it in very well-drained soil, otherwise it might be subject to rot.

Drought tolerance makes nolana a great option for raised garden beds, container gardens, and rock walls, if sufficient drainage is in place. Use a layer of gravel to enhance drainage and ensure that its roots don’t become waterlogged.

Water

Nolana plants are moisture management masters and they don’t require much in the way of regular watering. The foliage of these plants excretes salt and features hairy filaments on the underside of the leaves, which serves to attract moisture.

Do not water nolana on a regular basis unless there is a period of intense heat with little or no rainfall. If you notice that the blooms begin to wilt, you can lightly water the plant. 

Temperature and Humidity

Native to Chile and Peru, nolana does best in hot, dry climates. The plant is well-suited to making the most of very little water and dry soil is preferred to overly damp conditions.

In an ideal climate (typically hardiness zones 10 and 11), this plant is a hardy perennial. However, it also grows well across a variety of climates as a lovely annual. If you’re willing to replant nolana each year, you can grow this plant in hardiness zones 2 through 9 as well. 

Fertilizer

There’s no real need to fertilize nolana. This plant does a lot with a little, is happiest to grow in well-drained soil, and isn’t particular about nutrient levels. If it's receiving sufficient sun, you can expect to enjoy beautiful blooms all summer long without any fertilizer. 

Propagating Nolana

Nolana is notoriously difficult to propagate by cuttings or division; it is generally best grown from seed.

Varieties of Nolana

  • Nolana paradoxa: The most popular variety of nolana, this plant features blue, trumpet-shaped blooms and grows best in hot weather.
  • Nolana humifusa ‘Little Bells’: Like other types of nolanas, this plant is known for its trailing nature. What makes it stand out, however, is its light blue blooms with distinctive purple veining in the flower throat. 
Nolana paradoxa
Nolana paradoxa. Emer1940 / Getty Images

Toxicity of Nolana

Nolana is not known to be toxic, though it is also not an edible plant species. While it poses no specific risk to dogs, cats, horses, or humans, it’s best not to be eaten.

Growing in Containers

The cascading nature of nolana plants makes this plant a good option in a container garden These plants will share space with other varieties while adding greenery and blooms that spill over the edge of the container, hanging planter, or rock wall. Because nolana requires very little water, be sure to plant it in combination with plants that have the same water and sunlight requirements

There is not much you need to do differently to grow nolana in containers—other than ensure that there is plenty of drainage. As mentioned earlier, these plants can easily suffer from rot if they’re in damp, soggy conditions. Use a layer of pebbles or gravel at the bottom of the container, or add compost to the soil mixture to improve drainage. 

Starting From Seeds

If you want to grow nolana in your garden, you’ll likely be starting from seeds because nolana transplants are not often available at nurseries. Fortunately, nolana is not overly difficult to start from seed.

To start nolana plants from seed, sow seeds in the spring—about 4 to 6 weeks before the last expected frost. Place the seeds in starter trays and cover them with a thin layer of soil or sand. Keep the medium moist until germination occurs.

When the plants have achieved a few inches of growth, thin seedlings 4 to 8 inches apart to give the root systems room to grow. Provide as much light as possible to avoid the seedlings becoming leggy. After the last frost, transplant to your desired outdoor location.

Landscape Uses

The easy-growing nature of nolana makes it a good choice for a variety of landscaping uses. It especially shines as a flowering plant for use in water-wise landscapes, called xeriscaping. Because nolana doesn’t require much attention or water, it's a great addition to a low-maintenance garden.

Because it has a creeping nature and grows where other plants won’t, nolana is also a popular choice as a groundcover. Even if your landscape environment has rocky or sandy soil, nolana does exceptionally well.