Bluebell Creeper (Sollya, Billadiera heterophylla) is an extremely invasive weed able to grow in most situations, soil types and most bushland areas. The vigorous climber smothers native plants, out-competing them for sunlight, nutrients and moisture and strangling them with their twining stems. Bluebell creeper also contains toxins that can irritate the skin and cause nausea.
GWLAP and the Prospect Hill Bushland Group have been working to tackle this dangerous weed in the Prospect Hill area for close to a decade. Both groups see this weed as a real threat to the important vegetation communities and threatened species that live in the area and the wider region.
Bluebell Creeper is a twisting, evergreen shrub or climber growing to a height of 3-5 m. The leaves are 3-5 cm long, shiny and oval shaped. Flowers form small clusters of mainly blue bell shaped florets but sometimes can be pink or white. Fruit is small and fleshy, oval-shaped and up to 2cm long. They begin green and ripen to blue-purple in summer and autumn. Each fruit contains more than 50 seeds. Roots are wide spreading and shallow.
The creeper tolerates partial shade and full sun. It can also survive extended dry periods. Seeds are dispersed by birds, foxes, water and insects.
It is important to properly identify bluebell creeper before controlling this weed as it can be confused with a number of local native species including Billadiera cymosa (Sweet Apple-berry), Billadiera uniflora (One-flower Apple-berry) and Billardiera versicolor (Yello-flower Apple-berry) Once identified, the weed can be controlled through:
- Pulling or digging out seedlings and saplings, ideally when the soil is moist.
- Cutting/scraping stem and swabbing with recommended herbicide.
- Spraying with a broad-leaf or non-selective herbicide where the risk of off-target damage to native plants is low.
For information and advice on Bluebell Creeper contact GWLAP on 8536 5600, [email protected] or visit the Strathalbyn Natural Resource Centre on the corner of Donald and Catherine Streets in Strathalbyn.
Wee Bluebell Creeper – Sollya (below):
Native Sweet Apple-berry (below):
Kangaroo Island Natural Resources Management Board – ‘Repel the Invaders’ fact sheet – Bluebell Creeper (Sollya) https://www.naturalresources.sa.gov.au/kangarooisland/home
- Sollya heterophylla Sollya heterophylla Photo: Erle Nickel
Sollya heterophylla (Australian Bluebell Creeper) – A climbing, evergreen shrub that will grow 3 feet as a shrub, but with support it will reach 6 feet tall or higher. The nodding bright blue bell-shaped flowers bloom in the summer. Plant in sun (along coast) or part shade and water occasionally – it is drought tolerant once established but looks best with regular irrigation. Older plants hardy below 25° F but young plants are more frost tender. Shows promise in first exposure beach plantings and grows well under Eucalyptus trees but is intolerant of overly wet slow draining soils and can reseed in the garden. This species is native to the southwestern corner of Western Australia where it grows in open forests and woodlands. The name Sollya honors Richard Solly a 18-19th century British botanist and the specific epithet is from the latin word ‘hetero’ meaning “other” or “different” and ‘phylla’ meanin “leaf” in reference to the plant having differently shaped leaves. Recent treatment has now placed it in the genus Billardiera, named for the French botanist Jacques-Julien Houton de Labillardière but we continue to list it as Sollya until such time as this name gets wider general acceptance. This species received the coveted Royal Horticultural Societies Award of Garden Merit in 1993 and we have been growing this great landscape plant since 1981. The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery’s garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Sollya heterophylla.
Bluebell creeper spreads its charms
Photo: Erle Nickel Image 1 of / 1
Image 1 of 1 Sollya heterophylla Sollya heterophylla Photo: Erle Nickel Bluebell creeper spreads its charms 1 / 1 Back to Gallery
To bastardize that fashion-world quote, in the gardening world “blue is the new blue.” Nothing drives lovers of true blue flowers crazier than discovering that a new find described as blue, or photographed to seem as such, turns out to be purple – if you’re lucky. No worries, mate, when it comes to the charming Australian evergreen shrub nicknamed bluebell creeper.
This loose, spreading shrub features glossy green, ovate to narrowly oblong leaves to 2 inches in length. Left unstaked, it will form a mounding bush 3 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide. Grown as a vining shrub, it can reach 8 feet at maturity. You’d want this attractive shrub in your garden for its bright, emerald-green foliage, but it certainly earns its common name come early summer. Slowly, little bell-shaped blue flowers begin to dot the green landscape, like kernels of popping corn bursting open.
And these tiny, nodding blooms, half an inch across, are unmistakably blue. Wondrously and truly sky blue. Within a month, the shrub is populated with hundreds of tiny blue bells. These long-lasting flowers are followed in autumn by small berries, popular with birds, that ripen from pale green to deep blue ending in pearl-pink.
Sollya is a versatile shrub, with many uses in a variety of gardens. It’s tough enough to use in a low-water garden once established, but its lush growth lets it feel at home in a semitropical or woodland garden. Though the flowers are small and don’t dominate the shrub, this western Australian charmer has enough pizzazz to hold its own as a focal point in your garden. It’s also ideal to train on a trellis or over a pergola.
Did you know?Some say that bluebell creeper flowers are shaped like the skirt of a crinoline ball gown, with a minute calyx and five broad, overlapping petals. Each petal can reportedly be peeled into two layers, like a two-ply tissue. The species is named after the British plant physiologist Richard Horsman Solly. Cultivation Sollya prefers fertile, moist but well-drained soil. Situate in a sunny location but give relief from midday heat in hotter climates. It will be happy in a filtered sun location. It likes low to average water but won’t like being constantly moist. Cut back on the water during the winter. Provide support if training as a vine. Apply top-dress mulch as shrub is frost tender. My specimen has had no problems with Oakland winters. Propagate from softwood cuttings. Pruning group 12. Hardy to 28 degrees. Said to be deer tolerant. Pests and diseases Scale may be an occasional problem, but generally sollya is a vigorous shrub. Availability Bluebell creeper is available nearly year-round at most full nurseries, usually in gallon containers. Available from Plant Safari, plantsafari.com.
Bluebell Creeper Info: Growing Bluebell Creeper Plants In The Garden
Bluebell creeper (Billardiera heterophylla formerly Sollya heterophylla) is a familiar plant in Western Australia. It is climbing, twining, evergreen plant that has the capacity to become invasive in other warm regions. If carefully managed, the plant makes a nice addition as an understory plant with good frost tolerance once established. Warmer regions can try growing bluebell creeper plants for their bell-shaped flowers and blue to purple fruits. Read on for more bluebell creeper info, including management, site conditions and care.
What is Bluebell Creeper?
Semi-hardy warm season plants that grow rapidly and create a screen or ground cover are hard to find. Bluebell creeper is a native to parts of Australia but has become invasive in southern Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and certain other tropical to semi-tropical areas. However, it won the Royal Horticultural Series Award of Merit as an outstanding landscape specimen. Australian bluebell care is very minimal once established and it has the ability to withstand drought once mature.
The former genus name Sollya honors Richard Solly, a late 18th century botanist, while the designation,
heterophylla, is from the Latin words ‘hetero,’ meaning other, and ‘phylla,’ meaning leaf. This refers to the differently shaped leaves which are oval to lance shaped and glossy. The leaves may grow just under 2-3 inches (5-7 cm.) in length.
The entire plant can achieve 3-5 feet (.92 to 1.5 m.) in height with a similar spread. One of the more important aspects of bluebell creeper info is its preference for cool sun to partial shade locations, making it perfect for low light situations that are notoriously difficult to plant. Flowers are borne in auxiliary clusters, individually nodding and deeply blue.
How to Grow Bluebell Creeper
Try growing bluebell creeper plants in a lightly sheltered location, such as against a wall. These plants need some support as they establish but will gradually twine stems and self-support over time.
Propagation is by seed or softwood cuttings. Soil should be well draining, humus rich and kept evenly moist for best appearance. Bluebell creeper plants are hardy where temperatures can drop to 20 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 to -4 C.). In cooler regions, try growing the plant in a container in winter and move outdoors in spring and summer when all danger of frost has passed.
Plants bloom spring through summer and develop small, oval fruits that ripen in early autumn. Each fruit contains up to 50 seeds and plants self-sow freely. For management, it is best to remove fruits before they drop. Prune in late winter to early spring.
Australian Bluebell Care
Keep plants lightly moist but not boggy. Apply mulch around the root base in winter to protect established plants from any light freezes. Young plants should be grown in a greenhouse or under glass to protect tender new roots from cold snaps.
This plant is generally disease free but may occasionally be attacked by red spider mites. Use a horticultural oil to combat these tiny predators of plants.
During the high growing season, use a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly.
SOLLYA heterophylla Alba
Although seed can be sown most of the year in Australia it is usually best sown in spring or autumn, avoid the coldest and hottest months of the year. The optimum germination temperature for germination of this genus is around 18-24°C
Pre-treatment of smoke is recommended for this species.
Although germination will often occur without smoke treatment it has proved to be beneficial in reducing the number of days to germination and increasing germination rates in this species.
Smoke treatments are simple and can be undertaken either by soaking the seed overnight or by applying to the surface after sowing, both provide good results. Smoke treatments available by clicking here.
- Sow on surface cover lightly, do not bury the seed deeply.
- Keep moist but not too wet as the seed may rot.
- Do not let the growing mix completely dry out.
- Germination should occur in 21-42 days depending on the temperature and conditions.
General note: Seeds of many natives are dormant and require specific conditions or pre-treatment for germination.
Do not be too hasty to discard seed that does not germinate, seeds will often lay dormant until the conditions are similar to their natural requirements for germination to occur. Containers put to one side will often surprise long after they were discarded.
Bluebell creeper (Sollya heterophylla)
Bluebell creeper (Sollya heterophylla )
Status: still widely promoted as a garden plant by nurseries.
A low tangled shrub or climber, which can smother other shrubs. Young stems are a reddish-brown, leaves are narrow oval and glossy. The small bell-shaped flowers hang in clusters of 2-5 on long stalks. They are usually blue, but may be pale pink or white. Fruits are cylindrical berries, 2-3cm long, ripening from green to blue-black.
Preferred habitat and impacts:
Found on forest edges close to towns. This plant is a native of West Australia, but has been widely planted in gardens since native plants became popular. It has become weedy in eastern Australia, particularly in Victoria. It can form a dense smothering mat over native shrubs.
Seed is spread by birds, or in dumped garden refuse. Dumping may also spread the plant vegetatively.
The local native apple berry (Billardiera scandens) is a closely related twining plant with yellow-green tubular flowers and a very similar cylindrical berry which ripens from green to yellow or brownish.. Apple berry is usually quite a sparse climbing plant, never a shrub.
Spraying is likely to be the easiest method of control. The plant branches from close to ground level, and these branches form roots where they touch the soil. The clump can therefore spread vegetatively to become several metres wide. Suckering from the roots will occur if the parent plant is disturbed. However, small plants may be dug out.
The plant contains toxins which can cause nausea and skin irritation, so wear gloves if handling it.