How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Phacelia

Any pollinator backyard is incomplete with out the marvelous fiddlehead swirls of phacelia flowers. This native California wildflower was initially cultivated as a honey plant as a result of its blooms magnetize bees and butterflies. As we speak, phacelia is a cornerstone pollinator flower, a vegetable companion plant, and a weed-smothering cowl crop. 

The feathery foliage and beautiful purple blooms are simply as stunning as they’re purposeful. Higher but, phacelia is drought tolerant, deer resistant, and really easy to domesticate that it virtually grows itself. This warm-weather flower eagerly produces nectar-rich blossoms all summer season, drawing each bee within the neighborhood to your backyard patch. 

Let’s dig into every part it is advisable learn about rising phacelia as a flowering decorative, pollinator patch, cowl crop, and companion plant.


Phacelia Overview

Plant Household

Boraginaceae (Borage Household)

Plant Species


Hardiness Zone

Varies by species, 3-10

Planting Season

Spring or fall

Bloom Time

June to October


Winter kills at 20°F

Companion Vegetation

Nasturtium, marigold, alyssum, calendula, greens

Soil Sort

Effectively-drained, loamy


California, Southwest, and Mexico

Plant Spacing

12-18 inches

Historical past and Cultivation

Close up of a bumble bee landing on a spiky purple flower.
If it’s not in full bloom attracting pollinators from throughout, it doubles as mulch when it dies off in winter.

Should you thought bee balm and salvia made the pollinators go wild, simply wait till you see a patch of phacelia abuzz with exercise. This lesser-known annual flower is a vital companion plant for any vegetable backyard or wildflower planting. It attracts useful bugs close to and much, making a thriving ecosystem of bees, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps. Furthermore, it winter-kills after the primary frost, abandoning a luscious fluffy mulch of foliage excellent for weed suppression. 

Whereas the Phacelia genus accommodates over 200 species of annual and perennial herbaceous crops, this text will deal with the preferred cowl crop and insectary plant, P. tanacetifolia, most generally obtainable in backyard shops and seed catalogs. 

What’s Phacelia?

Field full of tall, purple, spiky flower stalks with the sun setting in the faded background.
Phacelia has wealthy nectar for pollinators and lengthy flowering instances.

Phacelia tanacetifolia, also called lacy phacelia or scorpionweed, is a wildflower native to the Southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. It grows to 1-3 ft tall and extensive and blooms all through the summer season. It’s utilized in gardens, vineyards, and agricultural fields as a canopy crop and useful insectary plant. Its beautiful coiling clusters of nectar-rich blooms, lengthy flowering interval, and putting lavender coloration have additionally garnered curiosity as a preferred decorative. 

The phrase phacelia comes from the Greek phakelos, that means “bundle,” referring to the flower spikes bundled in terminal fiddlehead-shaped clusters. The nectar-rich blooms open in sequence, creating an look of unfurling. The flowers are purplish-blue and bell-shaped, with 5 petals and 5 lengthy stamens protruding past the bunch. The feathery leaves resemble tansy foliage and are lined in stiff, brief hairs. 

This putting member of the Boraginaceae (borage) household was lately reclassified as a member of the Hydrophyllaceae (waterleaf) household because of new molecular knowledge, though some botanists take into account the waterleaf crops as a subfamily of Boraginaceae. All complicated taxonomy apart, phacelia has some relation to borage, forget-me-nots, and comfrey.

Why Develop Phacelia?

Close up of flowers lining a curled stem that are purplish-blue and bell-shaped, with five petals and five long stamens that stick out beyond the bunch. The feathery leaves resemble tansy foliage and are covered in stiff, short hairs. 
Apart from their pollination advantages, these crops will assist suppress weeds in the summertime and winter.

Phacelia is hottest for its insectary advantages. The nectar-rich flowers are tremendously useful for a variety of useful bugs, from bees to predatory wasps to hoverflies. It additionally makes an incredible cowl crop as a result of the dense foliage shortly outcompetes weeds and dies again on the first frost, making a thick layer of straw-like mulch. 

Advantages to Your Backyard

  • Pollinator Attraction: The nectar-filled purple flowers of phacelia are irresistible to pollinators, particularly bees. In peak summer season, a patch of phacelia will likely be so stuffed with buzzing exercise which you can hear the get together from a number of yards away. The honey from bees who forage on phacelia can be recognized to have superior mineral content material.
  • Weed Suppression: This fast-growing annual offers wonderful weed suppression by shading out opponents with dense stands and smothering winter weed seeds with its mulch.
  • Soil Enchancment: The roots of P. tanacetifolia are very fibrous and attain as much as 30 inches under the soil. The plant is called a bioaccumulator as a result of it “catches” extra nitrogen and different vitamins to forestall leaching or loss in groundwater. While you compost or mow down the patch, the vitamins are recycled into your soil, including fertility and natural matter.
  • Pest Management: Syrphid flies (hoverflies) and parasitic wasps are notably keen on phacelia flowers. These pure enemies will feed on the blossoms after which fly to close by vegetable crops to assist management aphids and mites.
  • Low Upkeep: Phacelia requires little to no upkeep in addition to a bit of water throughout excessive drought. No fertilization or weeding is important.
  • Companion Planting: Rising phacelia close to greens can enhance yields by boosting pollination and lowering pest stress. It’s nice for planting close to tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and different summer season veggies in backyard margins.
  • Decorative Worth: The brilliant bell-shaped flowers in stunning swirls are contrasted by feathery, lacy foliage that creates the right backdrop to low-growing flowers like white alyssum or marigolds. Phacelia is greatest for cottage gardens and fewer manicured wildflower patches, particularly in open fields or borders the place it could possibly freely re-seed.

Is Phacelia Invasive? 

Bright green foliage with tall, fuzzy, green flower stalks that have spiky,  light purple flowers in top.
Phacelia can simply be mowed down within the winter when blooms are spent.

Phacelia is a prolific self-seeder, however it’s unlikely to develop into invasive in your backyard. Solely in some elements of the Northwest and Northeast can phacelia develop into a difficulty if frost doesn’t kill it. In case you are involved with phacelia changing into a backyard weed, mow it down or lower it again after the flowers bloom. Common deadheading will forestall seed formation. 


Close up of a small honey bee about to land on a spiky, purple flower.
Phacelia seeds are extremely tiny and require darkish situations to germinate.

Sow phacelia from early spring onward in frost-free climate. The ultra-tiny seeds get pleasure from cool climate and want darkness to germinate. Whereas you can begin phacelia in cell trays indoors, direct sowing is most typical. 

You may seed phacelia in naked vegetable beds for cowl cropping in late summer season. The plant could not present as a lot insectary profit earlier than fall frosts, however it’ll nonetheless accumulate sufficient biomass to supply efficient weed suppression and fluffy mulch.


A pair of gloves and a shovel sit in a prepped garden bed filled with fresh soil.
Prepping the realm the place you want to sow seed is a vital step to a profitable crop.

Put together a seedbed round your final frost date by incorporating compost and raking clean. The seeds want cool soil to germinate.

Direct seed thinly in rows of about six seeds per foot. Sow ⅛” to ¼” deep, however make sure the seed is evenly lined so the daylight doesn’t dry it out. It wants darkness to germinate. For canopy crops and wildflower mass plantings, broadcast about 3 ounces of seed each 1,000 sq. ft after which high with a skinny layer of soil or compost. 

Hold the floor moist till seedlings emerge in 7 to 14 days. For steady blooms, sow 2 to three successions each two weeks by means of spring.

Phacelia does greatest when grown in mass plantings the place massive plant populations can shade out weeds and supply a protected haven for pollinators, however you too can toss a handful of seeds round backyard borders and the perimeters of vegetable beds. The crops get pleasure from rising in clumps, however you too can skinny to single crops with 10-12” of house from their neighbors. Keep in mind that phacelia can attain 3-4 ft tall and shouldn’t be sown too near any greens that detest crowding.

Phacelia is usually built-in into wildflower mixes just like the Valuable Pollinators Flower Combine, however you too can sow the seeds on their very own for a dense patch of purple.


Mans hand holding a small biodegradable seedling cup with a tiny green seedling sprouting in it.
Transplanting your indoor-grown seedlings makes decorative landscaping simpler.

Whereas direct sowing is the most suitable choice for bee forage and insectaries, you’ll be able to transplant phacelia seedlings that you just begin indoors or buy from an area nursery. Transplanting is a good possibility for decorative landscapes and arranged plantings in your vegetable backyard.

Find out how to Transplant 

A gardener in blue gloves sits comfortably on green grass. With a green plastic trowel in hand, the gardener gently digs into the fertile soil, and in the other hand, the gardener holds a handful of nutrient-rich soil.
When transplanting phacelia, put together the realm beforehand by loosening the soil and including compost.

Beginning phacelia indoors may give you a headstart on floriferous bee blooms earlier within the spring in areas with a brief rising season. Sow the seeds in cell trays or pots in a cool indoor rising space about 4 weeks earlier than the anticipated final frost. Bear in mind, they want darkness to germinate, so make certain the seeds are nicely lined. Place the pots in a darkish space till they sprout, then transfer them to a sunny location with loads of vivid mild. 

When transplants have crammed out their pots and are able to enter the backyard (about 4-6 weeks after seeding indoors), amend the realm with compost and loosen the soil as wanted. Harden off the crops on a protected patio for a couple of nights earlier than planting. Make sure they’ve no less than two units of true leaves and sturdy root methods.

Transplant phacelia seedlings as you’d any vegetable begin. Gently loosen the plant roots from the pots, holding it from its stem base. Use a hori hori or trowel to dig a gap a bit of larger than the basis ball and place the seedling within the gap. Backfill so the soil degree stays the identical. Keep away from burying the leaves.

Totally water in phacelia crops for the primary week or two to allow them to get established. In chilly northern areas, it’s possible you’ll wish to place a row cowl over them to forestall transplant shock.


Rows of light purple, phacelia flowers in a field.
Phacelia must have correct spacing to achieve its full potential.

Area the seedlings 12-18” aside, giving them loads of house to develop and flower in full glory. Phacelia transplants look nice when lining walkway edges or interplanted amongst densely flowering insectaries like alyssum, calendula, and yarrow. If transplanting in a vegetable mattress, make certain the phacelia has loads of house to drape over the sting with out crowding your crops.

Find out how to Develop

Tall reddish flower stalk with small, blue,  bell shaped flowers on it and a beautiful mountain range faded in the background.
Phacelias are recognized for his or her fuss-free, low-maintenance qualities.

Like most wildflower species, this stunning lacy flower gives a variety of superb magnificence and advantages but requires nearly no care. Should you can develop borage or forget-me-nots, you’ll be able to simply develop this fuss-free relative!


Beautiful, purple flower in a field with the sun setting in the background.
Phacelia will thrive in full solar situations; an excessive amount of shade reduces flowering.

Phacelia thrives in full solar to partial shade, making it appropriate for nearly anyplace in your backyard. So long as it has a minimal of 6 hours of daylight, it’ll flower prolifically. Afternoon shade is nice for areas with intense warmth, however an excessive amount of shade can cut back the bloom manufacturing.


Close up of a drip system watering a small plant in a garden.
Correct water and drainage will maintain these flowers trying their greatest all summer season.

Constantly moist soil is important throughout germination and preliminary progress, however the plant can face up to average drought as soon as it’s established. If situations get too dry, the foliage could flip brown, and flowers could wither. I like to recommend sustaining average moisture to maintain phacelia trying its greatest all summer season. 

Drip irrigation is right as a result of it delivers water straight to the bottom with out soaking the leaves. If rising in clay soils, make certain the basis zone isn’t soggy. Drainage is essential for stopping root rot.


A mans hands cupping a handful of soil over the ground, covered in the same dark soil.
Select a wealthy soil mix with a pH between 6.0 and seven.5 in your phacelia.

Your normal loamy backyard soil is ideal for this feathery, frilly plant. It may possibly adapt to many soil sorts, however compost-rich blends are perfect for optimum efficiency. A pH between 6.0 and seven.5 is simply positive. The plant shouldn’t be tremendous finicky however places on the prettiest show in wealthy loam.

Local weather and Temperature

Hands with black gloves holding a handful of straw mulch getting ready to lay it in a garden bed.
Within the winter, useless phacelia turns into a straw-like materials that can be utilized as mulch.

Reasonable temperatures between 60-75°F are perfect for this plant, however it could possibly tolerate temperatures as excessive as 90°F and as little as 20°F. Flowers could dry and battle in excessive warmth. On the finish of the season, phacelia conveniently winter-kills with the primary main frosts. 

The chilly sensitivity is nice for canopy cropping and mulching your fall beds as a result of the plant particles acts like a weed-smothering straw. It breaks down pretty simply, contributing to soil natural matter ranges all through the winter and infrequently decomposing earlier than spring. I like to help the method by chopping phacelia with loppers on the base or mowing it right down to shred it into finer items. 

P. tanacetifolia is a real warm-weather annual that won’t survive winter. It’s not hardy in any temperate local weather with frosts. Many individuals mistake it as a perennial as a result of it prolifically self-seeds. The seeds that fall on the finish of the season will return when spring climate warms. Nevertheless, family members of lacy phacelia, akin to P. sericea (silky phacelia), are long-lived perennials typically grown in southwestern rock gardens. 


Man in a blue jumper sprinkling a handful of fertilizer in his garden.
Phacelia flowers don’t must be fertilized.

There isn’t a have to fertilize this wildflower. It is vitally profitable at scavenging for spare vitamins within the soil.

Don’t plant phacelia in beds with a variety of nitrates, or it could accumulate a bunch of greenery on the expense of flowering. Whereas the lacy foliage is fairly, a phacelia patch with out flowers could be an actual bummer for the bees.


Small wood shed surrounded by a field of tiny purple flowers on tall green stalks.
Phacelia can create a fantastic, whimsical, easy backyard.

You don’t have to do a lot to keep up this plant. In a wild cottage-like backyard, you’ll be able to let it move by means of its pure lifecycle. In a manicured backyard, it’s possible you’ll want to deadhead spent flowers to keep up a tidier look and encourage continued blooming. Some florists get pleasure from phacelia stems in flower preparations.

Should you don’t need phacelia to self-sow and unfold, you have to reduce the flowers earlier than they type seedheads. The tip of summer season is a good time to chop the plant again to the bottom, stroll over it, or mow excessive.


A cluster of tall flower stalks with small, purple, spiky flowers lining the tops of each stem, surrounded by tiny yellow flowers growing low to the ground.
There are over 200 species within the phacelia household.

Phacelia is a various genus with over 200 species of flowering herbs. It was as soon as categorized within the Boraginaceae (borage) household, given its fuzzy hairs and coiled flowers.

Nevertheless, botanists debate whether or not it belongs within the waterleaf household (Hydrophyllaceae) or a merging of the borage and waterleaf household. Both approach, the bodily traits of phacelia flowers are notably associated, but there are distinctive varieties for practically any local weather or utilization.

Lacy Phacelia (P. tanacetifolia

Close up of a light purple, spiky flower.
Lacy phacelia is likely one of the hottest varieties.

That is the most typical species for gardens, wildflower plantings, and farm intercropping. You could find lacy phacelia in most seed catalogs or blended into wildflower seed packets.

It could even be labeled as scorpionweed, fiddleneck, or purple tansy. A real annual, this plant goes by means of its whole lifecycle in a single season and dies on the first frost. The flowers produce the heaviest quantities of nectar and develop in enticing cyme shapes.

Desert Bluebells (P. campanularia)

Low growing blue, bell shaped flowers surrounded by rounded, dark green leaves with a ruffled edge.
Desert bluebells will thrive in sandy, gravelly soils and may face up to excessive temperatures.

This cool-season annual flower is native to the Mojave and Sonoran deserts and is commonly cultivated as a decorative all through California and Arizona. It has furry erect stems and oval, toothed leaves that look very completely different from the frilly fern-like foliage of lacy phacelia. It has a mounding behavior and produces acquainted coiling clusters of bell-shaped flowers in vibrant blue.

The bloom season is in winter or spring in its native desert habitat. This plant loves sandy or gravelly soil and works nice in desert plantings with creosote, ocotillo, and desert lavender.

Silky Phacelia (P. sericea)

Close up of tall purple flowers made up of clusters of tiny, spiky, purple flowers.
Silky phacelia appears to be like similar to the bottlebrush flower.

This showy perennial phacelia is native to North America, rising at subalpine to alpine elevations even above the treeline. It has silky positive hairs protecting its stems and leaves, the latter of that are finely toothed in a pinnate sample. 

The person bell-shaped flowers look much like these of lacy phacelia, however they’re clustered in huge panicles on the finish of the stem like a bottlebrush. The deep purple to darkish blue petals are a putting backdrop to the brilliant yellow and orange anthers. This can be a nice possibility for northern growers.

Rock Phacelia (P. californica)

Close up of a flower with several smaller, curled up stems, branching off of the main stem. Each smaller curled stem is lined with tiny, light purple flowers.
Rock phacelia is thought to develop in coastal areas, primarily within the northern California and Oregon areas.

Also referred to as California phacelia or scorpionweed, this wildflower grows on coastal bluffs and grasslands of northern California and Oregon. It has tough hairs and lengthy, branching stems that develop near the bottom. The furry flower cluster may be very dense and formed within the acquainted coiling cyme association.

The blooms vary from white to pale blue to lavender purple. This native flower is a vital meals supply for the Mission blue butterfly, an endangered species native to the San Francisco space. A necessary native plant addition to northern California gardens and related climates!

Helpful Plant Pairings

Field of colorful wild flowers ranging from purple, red, orange and white.
There are numerous crops that phacelia will develop nicely with if you wish to create a fantastic combined flower mattress.

Phacelia is a tremendous plant that improves pollination in your vegetable backyard and attracts useful predatory bugs for pure biocontrol. Develop it alongside different insectary flowers, akin to:

  • Nasturtiums
  • Marigolds
  • Calendula
  • White alyssum
  • Borage
  • Neglect-me-nots
  • Yarrow

If you would like probably the most profit in your veggies, I like to recommend seeding a mass planting of phacelia in a skinny strip close to your tomato or squash beds. Nevertheless, maintain phacelia contained in its personal mattress alongside the backyard margins to make sure it doesn’t compete along with your crops.

Pests and Ailments

Lastly, a plant that’s nearly pest-and-disease-free! Phacelia has only a few pests and even fewer pathogen dangers. It’s extremely resilient and extra possible to assist resolve pest issues than create them.


Close up of tiny red bugs covering a green flower stem.
Phacelia has its personal aphid species that may be eliminated with neem oil or a robust water spray.

As if there aren’t sufficient aphid species on the earth, Aphis phaceliae is its personal specialty species tailored to feeding on the stems of this plant. You’ll discover the little inexperienced bugs on the stems and undersides of leaves, probably attracting ants with their honeydew. You may take away them with a heavy spray of water within the morning or apply a diluted neem answer in excessive outbreaks. Nevertheless, restrict the usage of neem oil to instances when pollinators are usually not more likely to be on the plant, akin to at nightfall; enable it to dry in place in a single day, and keep away from spraying the flowers immediately in the event you can.

Happily, phacelia attracts many voracious aphid eaters like parasitic wasps, minute pirate bugs, and syrphid flies, whose larvae feed on lots of of aphids every day. 

Plant Makes use of

Close up of a white butterfly landing on a spiky, light purple flower made up of smaller flowers with long stamen.
Phacelia’s essential objective is to draw extra pollinators into gardens.

Phacelia is primarily grown as a pollinator, insectary, and useful accomplice plant. It’s a phenomenal nectar supply for honeybees, native bees, butterflies, and useful predatory bugs. Due to its frost-killed fluffy foliage, it makes an incredible cowl crop that may mulch your beds over winter. As an annual, phacelias putting purple fiddlehead-shaped flowers are stunning in annual flower beds and floral preparations.

Regularly Requested Questions

Lacy phacelia blooms from early summer season by means of fall, typically from June to October in temperate rising zones. Should you deadhead the flowers, it prolongs the bloom manufacturing. The sugary nectar is favored amongst pollinators, and plenty of growers sow a number of successions of phacelia each two weeks by means of the spring to make sure a steady provide of bee forage.

Phacelia is an more and more widespread summer season or fall-killed cowl crop on farms and in gardens. It produces a considerable amount of biomass shortly and is called a bioaccumulator if there are spare vitamins within the soil. The plant attracts useful bugs when in bloom, then dies again at frost, making a shortly biodegradable weed-suppressing mulch. Deadheading the flowers earlier than seed set is the important thing to profitable cowl cropping with this plant. It would self-sow in the event you don’t lower it again in time.

Phacelia is taken into account non-toxic to people and pets. It’s extremely decorative and poses no threat to pets. It’s typically utilized in forage blends for livestock. Nevertheless, some phacelia species have irritating hairs that may trigger a rash on delicate people.

Very like borage, deer keep away from the fuzzy, furry leaves of phacelia. This plant is deer-resistant and nice for panorama borders the place forest guests could munch enticing crops. The pleasant candy odor of phacelia can be a deterrent to many animals, but an attractant to pollinators.

Closing Ideas

A pollinator planting or vegetable companion planting is incomplete with out lacy phacelia! Direct seed this attractive wildflower within the spring after the chance of frost has handed, and sow a few successions to make sure a steady dazzling bloom. 

The crops don’t require far more than constant moisture within the early levels and heat climate. When phacelia dies again, don’t fret! It would self-sow and return subsequent yr. Should you don’t need it to self-seed, reduce the crops when the purple flowers start to fade.

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