Many of the more ornately leafed varieties of heuchera can have rather tiny flowers, being prized for their foliage rather than flower. By contrast H. sanguinea are all about the flowers. While the foliage is secondary to its appeal, the maply-lobed green basal leaves are nevertheless extremely pleasant and almost evergreen.
Blooms on loose panicles which are at their best from May through July. Later flowers can also be relied upon, especially with deadheading. All in all, a rather special strain with large panicles of vermilion red flowers that has the added advantage of being fragrant and an excellent cut flower.
‘Firefly’ (registered in Europe as ‘Leuchkafer’) was selectively bred to increase the vermillion intensity of its flowers, the colour having a particular appeal to hummingbirds!
(Hmmm..…wish we had hummingbirds …we only seem to have slugs in my garden! ).
The National Garden Bureau (NGB) chose the Heuchera as its perennial of the year for 2012.
Sowing: Sow either in late summer/autumn or late winter/late spring
Sow either in late summer to autumn or late winter to late spring at 18 to 22°C (65 to 70°F). Sow on the surface of pots or trays containing a good seed compost mix. (John Innes or similar). Water from the base of the tray to moisten the compost and then drain.
Germination can be a little erratic, and can be as quick as 10 days, but may be up to 60 days. Keep the compost moist but not wet at all times.
Prick out each seedling once it has its first set of “true” leaves, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots and grow them on in frost free conditions until large enough to plant outside. When they are well grown and all risk of frost has passed, acclimatise them to outdoor conditions over 7 to 10 days before planting them outdoors.
Heuchera plants dislike soils which are particularly dry or have a tendency to water logging. Plant them in moist, fertile, well drained soil, adding plenty of compost or well rotted manure to amend heavy clay or sandy soils. Choose a position towards the front of the border in full sun or semi shade.
Heuchera grow most vigorously and have the strongest colours when grown in partial shade (preferably afternoon shade). They can also be grown in full shade but their growth rate will be slower.
Feed and water coral flower plants regularly until they are fully established. Apply a mulch of well rotted manure around the mature crown of each plant each spring to keep the mature crown in contact with the soil. They must have good drainage over the winter, so don’t over-do the overwintering mulching. The plant will also benefit from dead-heading.
Heuchera produces tall panicles of little bell-flowers on wirey stems for May and June, then if dead-headed, reblooms for August and September. Each wirey stem of blooms can be quite long-lasting in the garden. They’ll last up to a week in indoor bouquets
Lift and divide clumps of Heuchera every three years to maintain vigorous, healthy growth. Plants can be divided successfully at almost any time if kept well-watered afterwards. However, division is usually most successful while plants aren’t in active growth in autumn.
Dig around clumps about 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in) deep and gently lift the clump out of the ground. Brush off the soil and examine their roots. Separate the plants by tugging on the roots to divide them. You can also use a sharp knife to divide the roots. Each section should have healthy roots and a healthy section of the plant. The centre, woody part of the clump should be discarded. Replant immediately.
Cottage/Informal Gardens or Flowers Borders and Beds. Shade and Woodland Gardens, Ground cover under deciduous trees. Avoid dry soil with full sun
Heuchera sanguinea is native to the south-western states of United States. It maintains its often-bright blooms through extreme drought and heat. Most do well in shady rock gardens or along woodland paths.
‘Firefly’ is a “brizoides hybrid.” All brizoides hybrids have the southwest Rockies’ sanguinea as the main part of their heritage. It was selectively bred and hybridised to increase the vermillion intensity of its flowers, the colour having a particular appeal to hummingbirds.
Heuchera are an all-American plant, different species hail from the islands off the California coast to the highest mountains in the Rockies to the Gulf of Mexico. There are nearly 50 species. Inhabiting woodlands, prairies, and mountainous regions, further south they can be seen growing amidst cactus in Mexico. The most common species used in today’s hybrids are H. sanguinea, H. americana, H. micrantha, H. villosa, and H cylindrica. A further group of hybrids arose from crossing Heuchera with Tiarella, to form Heucherella.
Botanical illustrations have shown Heuchera in different European collections of American plants which date back to 1601. The first American seed catalogue was produced by a man known as Bernard McMahon in 1804. Heuchera americana, an east-coast native, was offered in this catalogue.
It wasn’t until 1980 when Brian Halliwell released Heuchera villosa ‘Palace Purple’ that these plants were accepted as foliage plants. At about the same time, Dale Hendricks of Northcreek Nurseries released a strain of Heuchera americana called ‘Dale’s Strain’. These two plants were hybridised to form the first foliage varieties, and the rest, they say, is history.
Bernard McMahon (also known as M’Mahon) was an Irish-American horticulturist. He is credited with printing the first extensive gardener’s seed catalogue in 1804. Just two years later, in 1806, he would publish the first-ever book on gardening in the US.
The America Gardener’s Calendar is the most comprehensive gardening book published in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century. The seed catalogue was attached as an appendix and circulated with his Calendar.
After M’Mahons death in 1818 the Yorkshire botanist Thomas Nuttall named Mahonia in his honour.
The America Gardener’s Calendar is still a very useful guide to planting, caring for and harvesting one’s garden and can be read in its entirety online.
Johann Heinrich von Heucher (1677-1746) was an Austrian-born medical botanist and professor of medicine at Wittenberg, later Dresden in Germany. He was a friend of Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy. Linnaeus would often name plants in honour of his friends and in 1738 he did so with von Heucher. Being Austrian, his name was pronounced “Hoyker,” and, you guessed it, the plant should be pronounced “Hoy-ker-uh”.
The species name sanguinea means ‘blood red’ referring to the colour of the flowers.
The genus includes at least 50 species of plants in the family Saxifragaceae.
Aside from the common name of coral bells, it was also called alum root due to its medicinal qualities. Native Americans used them to stop wounds from bleeding. The stems can be used in a pinch if you cut yourself in the garden.
Heuchera sanguinea ‘Firefly’ is also registered in Europe as ‘Leuchkafer’
Melting Fire Coral Bells
A whole new group for your garden. Coral Bells, or the Heuchera are a group of small perennials commonly found as native plants in North American woodlands, and they’ve been ignored until recently. During the 1990s, some enterprising US nurserymen realized the Coral Bells were diamonds in the rough, and went to work. Their efforts have created a mini-sensation in the world of perennials, as more and more gardeners discover these great plants.
Some of the natives are alpines from the Rockies, others are dwellers in lowland southeastern forests. But all have several wonderful things in common. They have beautiful foliage, with large leaves in several colors that remind many of grape leaves, and the foliage lasts through the winter. With hybridization, some of the foliage colors have become truly spectacular, with rich shades and fascinating bi-colors.
Now there are new Heuchera hybrids almost every year, and the group gains popularity all the time. They take full sun or partial shade. And while most of these are grown for their handsome foliage, many also have lovely flowers, some spectacular. Best of all, the plants bloom for weeks and weeks. The flowers rise from a clump of leaves on elegant, thin stems which are lined with the small bell-like blooms.
Plant – 3″ Pot
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Full Sun, Half Sun / Half Shade
Late spring to early summer
Crown of plant should rest just at or above the soil surface after watering in.
Emerging bright red leaves deepen to maroon with very curly edges.
Sandy Soil, Loamy Soil
Average, Well Draining
Easy To Grow, Attract Hummingbirds, Deer Resistant, Native, Good For Cut Flowers, Good For Containers, Evergreen, Plants For Small Spaces
Spring / Summer, Fall
Yes – Learn More