Skip to Content

How to Care for a Nolana Plant

Beautiful small blue flowers of the nolana plant growing in fog

Genus Nolana

The more I learn about the nolana plant, the more incredible I realize that it is! These plants can grow in desolate places where others simply will not, they look like a morning glory but act like a succulent (with similar vegetative morphology), and they’re related to all of our favorite nightshade plant species like tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes.

The nolana plant is also commonly referred to as the Chilean bell flower, due to its natural growing range and the charming bell shape of its flower blossoms.

This plant can grow as an annual plant in cold places, or as a perennial plant in hot places. They’re used to living in a desert climate, and are the perfect specimen if you happen to have a garden that has been neglected for a while. They will grow in some seriously poor sites, and decorate your garden with long lasting flower blossoms.

Gardeners love this flowering plant because of its attractive trailing habit and its ability to be used in nearly any garden setting. They’re perfect for containers, hanging baskets, and rock gardens alike. Read on to learn all about nolana care and how to successfully introduce one to your green space!

What do Nolana Plants Look Like?

Amazing patch of light purple nolana flowers growing in the setting sun

Growth Habit

Folks like to call the nolana a herbaceous succulent annual plant, when in actuality it is more of a succulent-like plant (more on that just below). These are short but sturdy plants that only grow to be 6-12 inches tall.

Nolana plants have a tidy trailing habit, and can easily double their width to their height if they are allowed to. This makes them a perfect ground cover plant.

Leaves

Nolanas have succulent-like foliage. Their leaves are fleshy like succulent leaves usually are, which is what allows them to be such a drought tolerant plant. But they way that these plants actually collect water is a little bit different.

Nolana leaves have a strange underside. They are both covered in little hairs and they excrete their own salt! Why? Because salt traps moisture and the little hairs keep it in place. This is how these plants can survive such extended periods without rain.

This is very characteristic of plant species that are native to desert climates. They have adapted fascinating ways in order to survive those erratic periods of drought.

Single light purple nolana flower with a yellow throat growing in the garden

Flowers

Gardeners love nolana flowers because their blooming season is wonderfully long, and they are just happy looking, brightly colored flowers.

Each nolana flower is shaped like a trumpet, and are very similar to that of a morning glory flower. Flower color will vary from species and varieties, but they will range from intense shades of blue, to purple, to pink flowers.

A nolana flower patch will often bloom in the late spring and last all the way into the fall. They can even be pinched back to encourage a second bloom season as well!

Something else cool about the Chilean bellflower is that they have a special method of attracting pollinators. According to the Royal Society b of systematic botany, they have flower coloration proceedings where the flowers use a method called light influx, where they are able to attract the brightest colors in the UV spectrum which will in turn, turn them into a beacon for pollinators.

Where are some Nolana Species?

Lovely little patch of succulent leaves and small white flowers of the nolana plant

Nolana Paradoxa

Nolana paradoxa is one of the most popular garden cultivars in the selected species. This is a herbaceous succulent annual plant that is native to Chile and Peru.

The nolana paradoxa plant can be identified by its compact yet trailing growth habit, short and hairy flower stems, ovate shape fleshy leaves, and large, trumpet shaped blue flowers with a white centre and yellow throat.

Nolana Mollis

Nolana mollis is a lesser known nolana species. It is also a herbaceous succulent annual plant that is native to Chile and Peru. It grows at higher altitudes than other species.

Nolana mollis can be identified by its shrub-like growth habit, and some specimens are known to have reached nearly 3 feet in height! They have small, ovate, fleshy leaves and white trumpet flowers that bloom in the late summer.

Where is Nolana a Native Plant?

Incredible valley of wild nolana flowers growing in the desert

The nolana plant isn’t a very well known plant in certain places because its natural growing region is quite contained! They only grow naturally in Chile and coastal Peru, either in the high alpine, in lomas formations, or is desert valleys.

They are capable of growing successfully as garden plants in North America (specifically the southwestern United States), South America, the United Kingdom, and South Africa.

These plants can exist outdoors as perennial plants in USDA zones 9 and 10. In all other zones they can be kept outdoors during the summer months, but should be brought back inside once the cold weather comes back around.

What are the Growing Conditions of Nolana Plants?

Now that we know all of the base information of nolana plants and where they come from, it’s time to learn just how easy it is to care for them! They can easily be fit into your regular garden plant care routine, and they will reward you with incredible flower blossoms.

When it comes to the nolana plant, just remember that it is from the desert! Even nature neglects this plant, so this is clear indication that it really won’t need much from you.

Tiny blue nolana flowers growing in the sandy desert

Soil Type

Gardeners tend to love this plant because it can grow in that neglected corner of your property with terrible soil quality. Just make sure that that soil is well drained, that is single requirement that the nolana plant demands.

This soil type can be sandy soil, gravelly soil, but it must be well draining! Nolana plants also prefer to live in poor soil. Poor soil means that it has a low nutrient content (which is typical for desert landscapes).

Water Level

This desert plant won’t need much in way of watering. They will need to be kept slightly moist as they are getting established, but once they have their footing, they can handle seriously long periods of drought.

This drought tolerance comes from those unique fleshy leaves that secrete. They can basically harvest their own water from attracting the little moisture in the air that there is in the desert.

This means that you basically won’t have to water your nolana plant — the natural precipitation should completely suffice. If there happens to be a very very extended period of drought, give them a light watering. Just remember, dry soil is better than wet soil.

Sun Exposure

Characteristic of desert plants, the nolana is a sun loving creature. This means that it prefers to receive a bare minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.

If they are planted in partial shade or full shade, they will survive, but their soil won’t dry out as quickly and this makes them susceptible to insect infestations and fungal diseases.

Wild blue nolana flowers growing after a desert rain

Temperature

Folks will often label the nolana plant as a half hardy annual. They absolutely thrive when they are able to exist in temperatures that average between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

That being said, they’ll do just fine at temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. After all, it does get pretty cold on those desert nights!

Fertilizer

Knowing that nolana plants prefer to live in poor soil, this should tell you that they absolutely do not need to be fertilized. In fact, if they are given fertilizer, they tend to develop a leggy growth habit which ends up resulting in broken stems.

Pruning

Another super low maintenance aspect of nolana care is pruning! They don’t need any pruning (other than when there is a damaged or diseased stem) unless you’re looking to change the shape of the plant.

Once your plant reaches 3-4 inches in height, feel free to pinch away the tips of the plant. This will force it to start growing outwards rather than upwards, and it helps along that spreading growth habit and a bushier shape.

How do you Propagate a Nolana Plant?

Beautiful image of growing white nolana flowers

Since nolana plants are so uncommon, it is quite rare to find one in a nursery. For this reason, it is usually best to start them from seed. Here are a few very simple steps to starting your own nolana patch (you’ll have those blue flowers blooming in no time!):

1. Wait until the early spring to plant your nolana seeds. It is important that the last threat of frost has passed, as they are not at all tolerant to frost.

2. Seeds can either be sown directly outdoors, or they can be started 5-6 weeks before the last frost of the early spring. Pick a sunny spot with well drained soil!

3. Simply sprinkle your nolana seed directly onto the soil (or in peat pots if you’re starting them indoors). Lightly cover the seeds with soil but not too much, as they need sunlight for proper germination.

4. Once the seedlings are 2-3 inches tall, thin them out. The individual seedlings should have 4-8 inches of space between them so that they don’t get crowded.

5. Make sure that the soil is slightly moist at this stage, as they will need moisture to get established. Once they are well established, they are completely drought tolerant.

And there you have it! Planting a nolana patch is remarkably easy, and their after care is basically complete neglect. You truly couldn’t ask for a more low maintenance plant.

How are Nolana Plants Used?

Beautiful bundle of small blue nolana flowers growing in a garden

Ornamental Plant

There really isn’t much that the nolana plant can’t do for your garden. Their naturally tidy ground cover growth habit makes them perfect for rock garden applications, but they’re perfect for hanging basket arrangements, window boxes, and they’re the perfect ground cover plant for those problem areas in your garden.

FAQs

Are nolana plants deer resistant?

Like most succulent species, the nolana plant is resistant to grazing from larger pests like deer, squirrels, and rabbits.

What are the damaging agents for the Chilean bellflower?

The Chilean bellflower will experience the most damage if it is submitted to living in improper soil conditions. They will quickly get root rot if they are planted in soil that is overly saturated or packed. They can also become susceptible to insect infestations or fungal diseases if they do not receive enough sunlight.

Are nolana plants annuals or perennials?

A nolana plant will grow as an annual if it is living in colder climates where it won’t survive the winter. It will grow as a perennial plant if it lives within its USDA zones 9 and 10.

Can a nolana plant be grown indoors?

If you happen to live in a region that experiences harsh winters, it is actually better that your nolana plant is grown indoors! As long as they are potted in some very well draining soil and they are placed in a south facing window, they could be very happy as a houseplant.

Are nolana plants hardy?

Folks will often label the nolana plant as a half hardy annual. They absolutely thrive when they are able to exist in temperatures that average between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

That being said, they’ll do just fine at temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. After all, it does get pretty cold on those desert nights!

Can I grow a nolana plant in a pot?

A nolana plant can easily be kept in a pot as long as it has drainage holes at the bottom.

Can a nolana plant grow in shade?

Characteristic of desert plants, the nolana is a sun loving creature. This means that it prefers to receive a bare minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.

If they are planted in partial shade or full shade, they will survive, but their soil won’t dry out as quickly and this makes them susceptible to insect infestations and fungal diseases.

What color are Chilean bell flowers?

Each nolana flower is shaped like a trumpet, and are very similar to that of a morning glory flower. Flower color will vary from species and varieties, but they will range from intense shades of blue, to purple, to pink flowers.

A nolana flower patch will often bloom in the late spring and last all the way into the fall. They can even be pinched back to encourage a second bloom season as well!

Something else cool about the Chilean bellflower is that they have a special method of attracting pollinators. According to the Royal Society b of systematic botany, they have flower coloration proceedings where the flowers use a method called light influx where they are able to attract the brightest colors in the UV spectrum which will in turn, turn them into a beacon for pollinators.

How should nolana plants be pruned?

Another super low maintenance aspect of nolana care is pruning! They don’t need any pruning (other than when there is a damaged or diseased stem) unless you’re looking to change the shape of the plant.

Once your plant reaches 3-4 inches in height, feel free to pinch away the tips of the plant. This will force it to start growing outwards rather than upwards, and it helps along that spreading growth habit and a bushier shape.

When does a nolana flower bloom?

The nolana flower will usually bloom in the the early spring and can last all the way until the late summer and sometimes early fall. Gardeners love these plants for their super long blooming period!

How tall do nolana plants get?

Folks like to call the nolana a herbaceous succulent annual plant, when in actuality it is more of a succulent-like plant (more on that just below). These are short but sturdy plants that only grow to be 6-12 inches tall.

Nolana plants have a tidy trailing habit, and can easily double their width to their height if they are allowed to. This makes them a perfect ground cover plant.

Do nolanas need fertilizer?

Knowing that nolana plants prefer to live in poor soil, this should tell you that they absolutely do not need to be fertilized. In fact, if they are given fertilizer, they tend to develop a leggy growth habit which ends up resulting in broken stems.

What are some other common names for a nolana plant?

The nolana plant is also commonly referred to as the Chilean bell flower, due to its natural growing range and the charming bell shape of its flower blossoms.

How often should a nolana plant be watered?

This desert plant won’t need much in way of watering. They will need to be kept slightly moist as they are getting established, but once they have their footing, they can handle seriously long periods of drought.

This drought tolerance comes from those unique fleshy leaves that secrete. They can basically harvest their own water from attracting the little moisture in the air that there is in the desert.

This means that you basically won’t have to water your nolana plant — the natural precipitation should completely suffice. If there happens to be a very very extended period of drought, give them a light watering. Just remember, dry soil is better than wet soil.

What USDA growing zone can a nolana grow in?

The nolana plant isn’t a very well known plant in certain places because its natural growing region is quite contained! They only grow naturally in Chile and coastal Peru, either in the high alpine, in lomas formations, or is desert valleys.

They are capable of growing successfully as garden plants in North America (specifically the southwestern United States), South America, the United Kingdom, and South Africa.

These plants can exist outdoors as perennial plants in USDA zones 9 and 10. In all other zones they can be kept outdoors during the summer months, but should be brought back inside once the cold weather comes back around.