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What is Phacelia?

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  • Written By: Vasanth S.
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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Phacelia is a genus of plant that is part of the Hydrophyllaceae, or waterleaf, plant family. It contains about 200 species of herbs that are native to North and South America. Many feature clusters of bell-shaped flowers that typically bloom in the early spring. Landscapers usually use this plant in flower beds or borders. Plants within the genus Phacelia are adaptable to a variety of soil types.

The genus name is derived from the Greek word phakelos, which translates to "bundles." This refers to the cluster of flowers that emerge from the plant. Several species within the genus are known by common names. For example, P. sericea is also called the alpine phacelia, silky phacelia, or purple fringe. P. congesta is commonly referred to as blue curls or fiddleneck.

Most of the species are native to the U.S. and Mexico. P. congesta, for example, is distributed throughout New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. It is also found in northern Mexico. P. integrifolia populates the landscapes of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and northern Mexico.

The alpine phacelia grows in Oregon, California, Nevada, and Utah, and generally thrives in mountainous terrain up to 10,000 feet. Blue curls in contrast grows on prairies, meadows, and at the edge of woodlands. A vast majority of the species can survive in different types of soil.

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It is recommended to grow these plants in well-draining soil. Most of the plants can thrive in loamy, sandy, or chalky material. The plants can also grow in soils that are acidic or alkaline in pH.

Generally, these plants do well in areas that are exposed to full sunlight. The area can also be exposed to the elements or can be sheltered from the wind. The flowers which bloom aren't affected either way.

Typically, Phacelia grows 12-24 inches (30-60 cm) in height and spreads about 12 inches (30 cm). The leaves are lobed and are covered with hairs. As the stem grows, the foliage at the top becomes smaller than at the bottom. Each stem is attached to a taproot, which is a root that grows straight down. Secondary roots branch off from the taproot.

At the ends of the stems are bunches of lavender flowers. The alpine phacelia produces white, violet, or blue flowers. Its shape resembles either a bell or a bowl. Some stems can have up to 100 flowers in a cluster, or as little as 10.

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