Coral Bells: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties

Coralbells sport airy flower spikes on wiry stems above low-growing, often dramatic foliage. Varieties with variegated or dark purple leaves make stunning ground covers, and the delicate flower spikes won’t obscure the plants behind them, making them a good choice for the front of the border. Another common name is alum root.

Heuchera Propagation by Leaf Cuttings
Heuchera from leaf cuttings.
Note: Some plants are patented. Please check to see that the variety of plant you are taking cuttings from is not covered by these patents. This information can be obtained from USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office)
If it is a newer heuchera introduction, it is probably patented. Some of these varieties will hit the patent websites in a matter of a few weeks or can take a couple of years.
1. Cuttings can be taken any time of year, however they do better in the Spring when it is cooler. This gives both the mother plant and the new baby plant time to recover and become established before Winter.
2. When removing the leaf cuttings from the mother plant, make sure you find the stem/petiole of the heuchera. It is critical to include this part in your cutting.
3. Remove leaf cuttings with a sharp knife, ensuring part of the stem is included in the cuttings.
4. Dip leaf cutting into a rooting hormone, tapping off any excess.
5. Plant leaf cuttings into a moistened mix of 50/50 perlite and peat moss. ‘Tent’ a clear plastic bag over the cutting, using wooden skewers to keep the plastic off the leaf cutting. Place pot and bag in a shaded area, ensuring cutting receives light, but not direct sunlight.
6. Check cuttings daily to make sure they do not dry out or mold and stay moist. In about 6-8 weeks, roots should start to form. A gentle tug on the cuttings will let you know when roots have started to form.
7. To ensure there are enough roots on the cuttings, wait several weeks after roots have started to form prior to starting process for hardening off cuttings. When completely hardened off, plant out in garden.
I had some discussions with Terra Nova Nurseries regarding this topic. They informed me that the new plants from this type of propagation will not grow very large as this type of propagation does not include any leaf buds. This makes these new smaller plants ideal for containers or to tuck into a small spot in your garden.

About coral bells
Most coralbells sport clouds of tiny, bell-shaped pink, coral, red, or white flowers in late spring or early summer. However, varieties grown primarily for their foliage may have insignificant blooms. Foliage colors include red, purple, silver, as well as green, and some varieties sport marbled or patterned leaves. Foliage height ranges from 6 to 18 inches; flower spikes can reach 24 inches tall.

Special features of coral bells
Easy care/low maintenance
Unusual foliage
Good for cut flowers
Attracts hummingbirds

Ongoing Care
Remove dead foliage in early spring, then apply a thin layer of compost, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Cut back flower stalks after blooms fade. Divide plants in early spring every three or four years or when the stems become woody or the plant falls open at the center. Lift plants, divide the rootball into clumps, and replant.

Choosing a site to grow coral bells
Select a site with full sun to light shade and well-drained soil. In areas with hot summers, light shade is preferred.

Planting Instructions
Plant in spring or fall, spacing plants 1 to 2 feet apart depending on the variety. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the plant’s container. Carefully remove the plant from its pot and place it in the hole so the top of the rootball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the rootball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly.

Coral Bells

Years ago when life and gardens were simpler, there was a dependable plant often found growing in partially shaded perennial borders. It had a pleasant mounding form, green, lobed leaves, and sprays of tiny bell-shaped flowers held high on slender stems. The flowers were coral, and the plant was called coral bells.

Decades and dozens of hybrids later, Heuchera spp. is as well known for the striking colors of its foliage as it is for its long lasting flowers. Thanks in part to the aggressive breeding, tissue culture propagation, and plant introduction program of Dan Heims’ Terra Nova Nurseries in Oregon, there are new coral bells cultivars offered annually. The once green-only foliage is now bronze, copper, olive, or purple with silvery tracings etched on the upper leaf surfaces. The underside of those leaves is often solid burgundy. Lobed, wavy, or even ruffled leaves can emerge one color, only to mature to another shade. Flowers range from greenish white to magenta red. Imagine the possibilities with names like ‘Amber Waves’, ‘Cathedral Windows’, ‘Champagne Bubbles’, Plum Pudding’, and ‘Amethyst Myst’. But, no matter how tempting the name, can this plant perform in Chicago gardens?

HEUCHERA EVALUATION

Richard Hawke, manager of Plant Evaluation Programs at the Chicago Botanic Garden, conducted a four-year study of more than 60 different coral bells, available in Plant Evaluation Notes #21. The plants were evaluated in partial shade in clay soil enriched with organic matter to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Coral bells prefer an even, never soggy, supply of moisture in rich, organic, well-drained soil. If planted in full sun, extra moisture must be supplied to prevent drying out. Since they are shallow rooted and prone to frost heaving, add 2 to 3 inches of mulch once the ground has frozen as extra winter protection. Some plants will become large and woody over time and will benefit from spring division to renew their mounding habit.

Mr. Hawke’s evaluation comes at a time when garden centers are flooded with new plants. As he notes, “A good garden center plant is not necessarily a good garden plant.” There can be losses with coral bells; and as the new introductions are relatively expensive, it makes sense to know which ones are more likely to become lasting members of your garden. Plant hardiness is not as much a factor of the cold as it is a result of the soil. “We pay so much attention to weather in this part of the country. Most of the time, that’s not the real issue. It’s the soil we should focus on,” he commented.

TOP PERFORMERS

Mr. Hawke offers a glimpse of the top five performers:

1. Heuchera ‘Molly Bush’ grows 30 inches tall (including flower stems) and features dark purple foliage that turns green as the plant matures. Greenish white flowers bloom from mid-July to early October, covering 80 percent of the plant. This is a darker improvement over the very popular ‘Palace Purple’.

Second place is shared by two plants:

2. Heuchera sanguinea ‘White Cloud’ is shorter at 26 inches, with light green foliage and white flowers that appear earlier in June through late July, covering 80 percent of the plant.

2. Heuchera ‘Montrose Ruby’ grows to 3 feet with purple green leaves with a silver cast, and white flowers that bloom from mid-June to early August, covering 50 percent of the plant.

3. Heuchera americana var. diversifolia ‘Bressingham Bronze’ grows to 26 inches with dark bronze green leaves and white flowers that bloom from early August to mid-October, covering 50 percent of the plant.

Fourth place is shared by three plants:

4. Heuchera ‘Cappuchino’ is a 30-inch light bronze plant with pink flowers that appear in early June to early August, covering 50 percent of the plant.

4. Heuchera ‘Red Prince’ grows to 26 inches with green foliage and red flowers that bloom from early June to mid-August, covering 90 percent of the plant. Red-flowered coral bells are known to attract hummingbirds.
4. Heuchera micrantha var. diversifolia ‘Palace Purple’ is one of the most popular purple-foliaged coral bells in gardens today. It grows to 32 inches with bronze purple leaves and the greenish white flowers bloom from mid-July to early October, covering 70 percent of the plant.

5. Heuchera ‘Coral Cloud’ at 28 inches features light green leaves with silver overtones and purple pink flowers that bloom from early June to late July, covering 50 percent of the plant.

HEUCHERAS and HEUCHERELLAS

Article by David Marks
Twenty years ago heucheras (also known as Coral Bells) were grown principally for their wispy flowers which grow on long stalks held high above their foliage. Recently, plant breeders have twisted the emphasis around to the foliage. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours now and provide interest over a much longer period.

Once established, and that takes only six months, Heucheras will grow in a large variety of positions and almost all soil types. Vine weevil apart, they are very healthy plants and will look after themselves if you give them a once a year 10 minute clean up in spring.

Heuchera ‘Silver Frosting’

Their one downside is that after three or four years they will almost certainly start to look a bit bedraggled as their stems turn woody and spread over the soil surface. But see later down this article to learn how to reinvigorate the plants and very easily take cuttings.

Heucherellas are a cross between a Heuchera and the closely related Tiarella. The plant breeders have created a plant which can be treated exactly as a Heuchera but the range of colours and leaf shapes has been increased enormously. Heucheras are native to North America

Use the checklist below to decide if Heucheras are suited to your preferences and garden conditions:

  • They grow to roughly 20cm to 50cm high (8in to 20in) with a spread of 60cm / 2ft plus.
  • In the very warmest parts of the UK, foliage will remain all year round. In most other areas, the foliage will appear in March time through to November.
  • Flowers appear above the foliage normally from early June onwards although this does vary slightly depending on the variety. They tend to produce masses of flowers for the first month or so but continue with slightly less vigour for three months after that.
  • Heucheras grow in alkaline to acid soil (they have a minor preference for slightly acidic soil). They will suffer if the soil is water-logged so add grit and well-rotted organic matter to clay soils before planting. They do well in all well-drained soils, from chalk to clay.
  • Most prefer semi-shade. As a rule of thumb the darker coloured Heucheras withstand full sun better than the lighter coloured ones.
  • They will tolerate dry soils but only when established – normally six months after planting.
  • They make good cut flowers but only last three days or so.
  • They can successfully be grown in containers.
  • They are fully hardy in all parts of the UK.

WHERE TO BUY HEUCHERA / HEUCHERELLA

Heucheras and heucherellas are widely available at garden centres in the UK but the widest range is to be found online.

Crocus sell an excellent range of these plants and in our experience the prices and quality are top class. Heucheras can be found here and heucherellas can be found here.

Another obvious choice for buying Heucheras and Heucherellas is Heucheraholics although we have no personal experience of buying online from this company.

HOW AND WHEN TO PLANT HEUCHERAS

Planting from pots is the most reliable method as described below

  • Choose a partial shade position. Heucheras will not tolerate water-logged conditions at all, the crown will rot. They are tolerant of dry conditions.
  • If the soil is heavy or is not free draining add lots of well rotted compost and / or grit to the area and dig it in well.
  • It can be planted all year long if the soil is not frozen and you can water well when conditions are dry. Mid March to April and mid September to October are the best times to plant Heucheras.
  • Dig a hole twice the width of the root ball. Sprinkle in a handful of blood, fish and bone and work into the ground.
  • Place the plant into the hole, filling in with soil so that it is at the same depth (or just slightly higher)as it was in the pot. If the crown (top centre of the root ball) is planted below the soil surface you will run the risk of it rotting in autumn and winter
  • Fill around the root ball and firm the soil down gently but firmly. Water well to settle the surrounding ground around the root ball.

DIFFERENT VARIETIES OF HEUCHERA

Because Heucheras have undergone a very significant breeding program over the last 15 to 20 years, many, many more varieties are now available. The RHS trials of Heucherasheld in 1999 to 2001 is now hopelessly out of date and the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) only includes varieties which were available in 1998 when planning for the trials commenced.

As far as general health is concerned there is very little difference between Heuchera varieties. There are however significant differences in foliage shape and colour, how well foliage performs in winter, flowering abilities, how well the variety performs in shade or full sun.

Read descriptions on the internet or plant labels in the garden centre and make your choice based on where in your garden you want a heuchera to grow and what specific features you require. On another page of this article ( to go there now) we list many of the commonly available varieties along with their key characteristics.

CARE OF HEUCHERAS

The key care tasks for heucheras are listed below. More information about each care item can be found below the list.

  1. Dead head the flowers throughout the year
  2. Mulch in spring with well rotted organic matter
  3. Feed with blood, fish and bone fertiliser in spring.
  4. Clear away dead and damaged foliage in spring.
  5. In spring check that the plant hasn’t lifted during winter
  6. Divide every three or four years and replant

DEAD HEAD FLOWERS

Most heucheras produce flowers, typically beginning in late spring or early summer. To help prolong the flowering period, snip off the flower stems just below foliage level when the flowers die.

This will also prevent the dead flowers and stalks falling into the plant which would reduce air circulation leading to fungal diseases.

FEED

Heucheras are not heavy feeders and need little fertiliser to grow well. The combination of mulching and a handful of fish, blood and bone in spring will provide them with all the nutrients they need.

Avoid feeding them with nitrogen rich fertilisers such as Growmore or other general fertilisers. This will simply encourage fleshy foliage which is prone to rotting.

SPRING CLEAN

Spring is the best time to refresh your heuchera. Remove and dead or damaged leaves from the foliage.

Separate the foliage carefully with your fingers to look for any woody stems. Often these will be longer than recent growth and will have little new growth along them. Cut these out with a pair of sharp secateurs.

At the same time check that temperature changes haven’t caused the plant to lift out of the soil. If this has occurred, fill in any gaps with crumbly soil or dig up the plant and replant at the correct depth.

MULCH

Applying a mulch in spring will help conserve moisture throughout the dry summer months. It will also provide a low level of nutrients as the mulch decays. The best mulch is well rotted organic matter, your compost heap is a good source of this.

During freezing weather in winter, heucheras can sometimes lift out of the soil leaving gaps around the shallow roots. A spring mulch will not only help to prevent this but it will fill in any gaps around the crown. Do not mulch the centre of the plant, this could cause the crown to rot.

HOW TO DIVIDE HEUCHERAS

After about three years, certainly after four years, your heuchera will begin to look bedraggled and the foliage will no longer be standing proud and upright. That is the time to divide it and grow as many new plants as you require. Late May to early July are good times to do this because the new plantlets will root quickly.

Lift up the foliage and you will see that stems are lying horizontal along the ground. You can easily pull these stems away from the plant. What you then have is the horizontal stem which is not rooted and at the far end of it will be foliage which has turned upwards.

Remove all the stems which are not growing in tufts. You will then be able pull off tufts of stems at the point they join the main horizontal stem. Each stem will likely provide you with four or five healthy plantlets ready to be planted in a pot of multi-purpose compost.

Remove any dead or unhealthy leaves from the plantlet so that you end of with a small stem that has four or five good quality leaves. The smaller leaves are the best ones because they are less likely to be infected with rust or other diseases.

Fill a small pot with good quality multi-purpose compost, make a small hole in the surface and insert the plantlet so that the crown (the point of the stem where the leaves are growing from) is level with surface of soil and firm it in well.

Water well and place the plants in a shaded position out of the wind for six weeks until the plant has rooted. It can then be planted in the ground or or in its final pot. Make sure it is kept moist at this early stage of its life.

GROWING HEUCHERAS IN CONTAINERS

Heucheras grow very well in containers (ensure they have drain holes) and as far as care goes they can be treated as described above. The main concern will be keeping the soil moist. Be sure to water well in summer months but at the same time don’t let autumn and winter rain water log the plants. Keeping the pot on stands a couple of centimeters high will help greatly.

A mulch in spring is also essential although don’t cover the crown of the plant. A mulch will provide low level nutrients and reduce the need for watering considerably.

A 30 cm wide pot is about the smallest possible but 50cm is probably better. The roots of heucheras are very shallow so pot depth is not crucial. But deep pots are less likely to dry out and they will reduce the need for watering.

If you are going away for a summer holiday, move the container to a shady position if possible and then move it back when you return. A couple of weeks in the shade will do no damage but will significantly reduce the need for water.

PESTS AND DISEASES OF HEUCHERAS

The two main problems with heucheras are rust and vine weevils.

VINE WEEVILS

The first symptoms of vine weevils are little notches in the edge of the leaves caused by the vine weevil eating them at night. The second symptom is a plant which appears to be failing through lack of water. In fact the vine weevil grubs have eaten most of the roots by the time you notice the problem

We have created a detailed page on vine weevil identification, treatment and their life cycle. It can be found here.

HEUCHERA RUST

Heuchera Rust can be identified by small rust coloured raised areas on the underside of leaves. We have written a special page about this increasingly common problem. It will help you positively identify it and describe the various treatment options available. The page can be found here.

HEUCHERA SUMMARY

Below we list the key strengths and weaknesses of Heucheras.

HARDY (to -22°C / -11°F)
CLAY SOIL Yes but will need improvement
SANDY SOIL Yes
DRY SOIL No
SHADE Yes, partial
EVERGREEN Very nearly!
EASY CARE
SMALL GARDENS Yes
POT / CONTAINER Yes
FLOWERING
FLOWER TIME Late May onwards depending on variety

PICTURE GALLERY OF HEUCHERA VARIETIES

There are literally hundreds of varieties of heucheras, our picture gallery shows some of the ones we recommend. to see the heuchera picture gallery.

How to grow: Heuchera ‘Eco Magnififolia’

The 1999-2001 trial held at RHS Wisley tested 201 heucheras from America, Belgium, the Netherlands and Britain. Habit, vigour, colour of foliage and flowers, the length of the flowering season and winter interest were examined. The committee rescinded many of the awards previously given to plants such as ‘Palace Purple’ but recognised many fine, newly bred and improved introductions.

In all, 14 heucheras received an AGM. The darker-leaved forms mentioned for good winter foliage included two heucheras bred by Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nursery in Oregon. ‘Chocolate Veil’ has dark-greenish leaves with brown tones and silver mottling and pink-cream flowers. ‘Purple Petticoats’ has heavily ruffled dark-purple foliage and cream flowers. Another fine AGM winner is ‘Quilter’s Joy’, which has a silvery-purple leaf with creamy-pink flowers. All three are available here.

Two award-winning, paler-leaved forms were also recommended for winter foliage. ‘Raspberry Regal’ is a red-flowered form with slight silver marbling on the green leaves and ‘Regina’ has grey-purple foliage marbled in silver.

‘Mint Frost’, though not given an award, has handsome green leaves mottled in silver with hints of red. As with other heucheras, their intricate leaves are at their very best in winter.

Growing tips

Heucheras cannot be left in the garden year after year as they become woody, lose vigour and die, so divide the clumps every third year or so in late summer or spring. Dig the whole plant up and choose the firmest pieces – discarding the roots and the older stems. Add organic matter to the soil, water the site well and replant the new pieces straight into the soil or in pots and replant later.

Heucheras are prone to vine weevil attack, which makes the leaves go limp. Lift infected plants and kill any grubs you find. Always check newly bought plants by upending them. The tell-tale sign is a visible gap, about an inch wide, in the root system.

Heucheras hate poorly drained heavy soil but thrive in well-drained soil which has been organically enriched. They tolerate acid, neutral and alkaline soils and prefer part-shade and part-sun.

Good companions

Heucheras make good plants for winter containers. The purple-leaved forms mix well with white or yellow flowers – crocus, cyclamen, tulips, snowdrops, narcissi and primula. The paler forms mix well with tulips and hyacinths.

Heucheras are best planted in groups. The white or pale-flowered heucheras thrive on the edges of woodland borders and can be mixed with ferns, autumn crocus, spring bulbs, pulmonarias and dicentras.

The red-flowering forms (with more H. sanguinea blood) can perform in sunnier places and these can be grown in mixed herbaceous borders with roses, iris and hardy geraniums such as ‘Johnson’s Blue’ – provided they are away from the midday sun.

Where to buy

Four Seasons, Forncett St Mary, Norwich, Norfolk NR16 1JT (01508 488344). Mail order only, catalogue free.

Cotswold Garden Flowers, Sands Lane, Badsey, Evesham, Worcestershire WR11 5EZ (01386 422829). Catalogue free, mail order available.

For your garden to look neat, organized and attractive, you need to prune your plants regularly. This applies to perennial species in particular, such as hostas and heucheras. This involves use of tools such as hand clippers, shovel and gardening trowel.

Coral Bells border planting

Here are some guidelines for pruning heucheras:

• Use hand clippers to cut off unattractive, infected or dead flower stems and foliage. Cut these parts down to the base without disturbing the crown of the plant.

It is better to prune coral bells during early spring or late winter when they start growing again. Cut off any foliage that dies during this growth phase.

• Mix one part of bleach with three parts of water to make a clear solution. Alternatively, you can use a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol having equal quantities of both.

Dampen a clean rag with this solution. Sterilize your hand clippers by cleaning its blades with this rag. Do the same with other tools such as garden trowel and shovel.

• Any heuchera flowers that start fading need to be pinched or cut off. This pruning technique is referred to as deadheading. It facilitates better growth of flowers in coral bell plants.

• After pruning your heucheras, make sure you don’t leave any clippings around the plants. This can attract pests such as slugs and black vine weevils which chew on the foliage of these plants, causing leaf damage.

These clippings may also include infected flower stems which may spread diseases among your plants if left lying around them. You can either keep these clippings in waste can or mix them with organic matter such as compost.

Precautions While Pruning Your Plants

Pruning is an important task in garden maintenance, regardless of whether you are planting hostas, heucheras or any other species. You need to take certain precautions while pruning your plants. Some of those have been mentioned below:

• You should know the right usage of your garden tools. Using them carelessly may even end up hurting you! It is also necessary to clean the tools after every use so that your plants stay free from diseases.
• If there are any electrical lines passing through your garden, stay away from those while pruning your plants.
• Wear gloves while doing any gardening work.

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How to Prune Coral Bells

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Coral bells, known botanically as Heuchera, is a genus of low growing perennial evergreen plants containing more than 50 species and untold numbers of hybrid cultivars. Coral bells are named for the form of their flowers, but the plants are equally prized for their foliage, which can vary in color and pattern but always grows in a large rosette form. Pruning requirements are minimal where the plant is winter hardy and slightly more involved in cooler climes where the top foliage dies back in winter. Light grooming and deadheading also keeps the plants looking their best and encourages repeat blooming.

Prune your coral bells in the early spring to remove both dead and living foliage growth and to improve the plant’s form. Prune throughout the prime growing season to deadhead spent flowers or fading foliage.

Trim away all dead and damaged leaves from the plant in the early spring, before new growth appears but after the last hard frost. Sever dead stalks down to the soil line but cut damaged leaves with live green stalks to just 2 inches above the soil line. Pick up and discard all cuttings so they do not decay in and around the base of the plant.

Cut away errant foliage to create a more symmetrical or pleasing shape to the rosette form, if desired. Take the unwanted stalk down to the base of the plant at the soil line.

Deadhead spent flower stalks by severing each stalk at its base just above the soil. Pull the spent stalk from the rosette and compost or discard it. Repeat this process throughout the blooming season to encourage new flower spike development.

Remove dead, badly damaged or discolored leaves throughout the growing season, if needed, to keep the plant looking fresh and healthy. Lack of moisture or excess sun can cause leaves to brown and shrivel, and they will not recover. Sever the leaf stalk at the soil line or up to 2 inches above the soil line and compost or discard the leaves.

Winterizing Heuchera Plants – Learn About Heuchera Winter Care

Heuchera are hardy plants that survive punishing winters as far north as USDA plant hardiness zone 4, but they need a little help from you when temperatures drop below the freezing mark. Although heuchera cold hardiness differs somewhat between varieties, proper care of heuchera in winter ensures that these colorful perennials are hale and hearty when spring rolls around. Let’s learn about winterizing heuchera.

Tips on Heuchera Winter Care

Although most heuchera plants are evergreen in mild climates, the top is likely to die down where winters are chilly. This is normal, and with a little TLC, you can be assured that the roots are protected and your heuchera will rebound in spring. Here’s how:

Ensure heuchera are planted in well-drained soil, as the plants are likely to freeze in wet conditions. If you haven’t planted heuchera yet and your soil tends to be soggy, work in a generous amount of organic material, such as compost or chopped leaves, first. If you’ve already planted, dig a little organic material into the top of the soil around the plant.

Cut the plant back to about 3 inches (7.6 cm.) in early winter if you live in a cold climate. If your area enjoys mild winters, you don’t need to cut the plant back. However, this is a good time to trim damaged growth and dead leaves.

Water heuchera in late fall, shortly before the arrival of winter (but remember, don’t water to the point of sogginess, especially if your soil doesn’t drain well). Well-hydrated plants are healthier and more likely to survive freezing temperatures. Also, a little moisture will help the soil retain heat.

Add at least 2 or 3 inches (5-7.6 cm.) of mulch such as compost, fine bark or dry leaves after the first frost. When it comes to winterizing heuchera, providing this protective covering is one of the most important things you can do, and will help prevent damage from repeated freezing and thaws that can push plants out of the ground.

Check your heuchera occasionally in early spring, as this is when soil heaving from freeze/thaw cycles is most likely to occur. If the roots are exposed, replant as soon as possible. Be sure to add a little fresh mulch if the weather is still cold.

Heuchera doesn’t like a lot of fertilizer and a fresh layer of compost in spring should provide all necessary nutrients. However, you can add a very light dose of fertilizer if you think it’s necessary.

Heuchera: planting and care, growing

Written by Joan Clark Feb 7th, 2019 Posted in Garden

Heuchera, or alumroot, is a genus of rhizome herbaceous perennials in the family Saxifragaceae, cultural species and varieties of which are extremely in demand in modern landscape design. The plant received its name in honor of Johann Heinrich von Heucher, a German botanist and physician. Heuchera is native to the rocky regions of North America. It is a small shrub, up to 20 inches high, eye-catching with its luxurious, elegant foliage. Heuchera is a plant for gourmets, because during one period of vegetation it can change the color of the leaves, and even several times. No other plant is distinguished by such an array of shades and by so many variants of their combinations as heuchera, and especially its modern variegated varieties.

Heuchera flower – description

The dense bush of heuchera is formed by leathery jagged leaves on long petioles. There is a considerable variety in the foliage shape and color: almost black, bright red, maroon, amber, pink, purple, yellow, green and even silvery leaves in all kinds of patterns and veins, specks and spots. As to the texture, the leaves can be smooth, wavy and curly. Heuchera blooms all summer till the very frosts with small pink, white, cream or red bells, collected in panicles. The fruit of heuchera is a capsule that contains up to 25,000 poppy-sized seeds. Heuchera has been used in landscape design for a long time. Designers divide heuchera into two categories: ornamental-deciduous the ancestor of which was American alumroot, and decorative-blossoming, such as heuchera sanguinea, or coral bells.

Specific features of heuchera growing

There are no strict rules or difficulties in growing of heuchera, but this plant has certain features that you should be aware of. So:

  • if in autumn you do not plan to collect seeds of ornamental-deciduous varieties of heuchera, it is better to remove the flower spike as soon as it appears: they grow much higher than the bush and have unattractive look that spoils the ornamental qualities of the plant;
  • the peduncles of ornamental- flowering varieties should be removed immediately after heuchera has finished blooming;
  • the lower leaves on the bush gradually fall off making heuchera look untidy. It is necessary to dig out the plant before the beginning of flowering and transplant it together with the soil clod burying it deeper to hide the bald trunk;
  • at the beginning of growth, the young leaves are bright and translucent, like the petals of flowers, but eventually they grow thicker and darker;
  • the best companion plants of heuchera are primroses, daylilies, astilbe, bergenia and ornamental cereals.

Planting of heuchera

When to plant a heuchera

Heuchera is planted either in March or April. Heuchera is characterized by good shade tolerance, so the best place for it is the partial, dappled shade of other plants. The best spot is the eastern or western side with sunlight only in the morning or evening. If this is not possible, and you have to grow it in the full sun, you will have to provide the regular and more generous watering for heuchera. By the way, varieties with brightly colored leaves become even more striking and spectacular if they grow on sunny sites. Moreover, the varieties with red leaves should grow in the full sun since in the shade their leaves remain green.

Heuchera performs well in a wide range of soils, but it does not tolerate acid soil, the optimal pH level should be 5-6. This plant is not even afraid of ricky sites since in the wild, in its natural habitat, it covers the rocky shores of the Great Lakes. But the more fertile and lighter the soil is, the more attractive and gorgeous heuchera will be. The soil water capacity and, at the same time, a good drainage of the soil on the site are of great importance. Heuchera does not stand stagnation of water in the roots.

How to plant heuchera

There are two ways of planting: by seeds and seedlings. Heuchera seeds are simply sown in the loose prepared soil and covered with a soil layer. But you should know that seed reproduction is not the best way, because it does not preserve the species and varietal characteristics of the mother plant, and at best you will have a simple heuchera with green leaves.

The seedling method is more reliable. Seedlings are grown in a greenhouse container and then planted out in an open ground to a depth of 1.2-1.6 inches and 8 inches apart. The soil must be loose so that air can freely penetrate into the roots. Both heuchera seeds in the open ground and seedlings sprout in a month and a half.

Heuchera care

How to care for heuchera

It is easy to grow heuchera, and it is not tiresome to care for heuchera. By and large, it does not need any care. During the first year of vegetation, in the year of planting, the plant does not need feeding, in subsequent years decorative-flowering varieties should be fed with a fertilizer for flowering plants, and decorative-deciduous varieties prefer combined fertilizers for deciduous plants. The time for dressing is before and after flowering, and the amount of fertilizer should be reduced by half as compared to the recommended one on the package.

Watering of heuchera should be regular. As the soil dries up, water it every two days, and it’s better to forget to water heuchera than water it twice as excess moisture hurts it. But in hot, dry days it will be necessary to water heuchera twice a day – early in the morning and in the evening. Carefully pour water under the bush, so that the splashes of water do not fall on the leaves as it burns them.

If you do not want to have troubles with the weeds and loose the soil after watering, in spring you should mulch the soil around heuchera with peat.

Propagation of heuchera

When the plant turns 3-4 years old, its rosette can fall apart and you will see the bare middle. Hence, it is time to divide the bush, plant out its parts, and rejuvenate heuchera. The best time for this way of propagation is May or the beginning of autumn. Divide the bush with each section having 2-3 rosettes. Too long roots should be shortened, and rotten roots should be cleaned from rot and treated with coal powder. Sections of the divided bush are planted in 12×12 holes, slightly deeper than the mother plant was planted, at a distance of 10 inches from each other. After planting, it is desirable to water and mulch the site. Parts of the bush take root within a month. This method of heuchera propagation is called bush division.

There is another way of heuchera propagation – through cuttings. Heuchera cuttings are made in June or July: the cuttings are sliced from the mother’s bush as close to the ground surface as possible, but without fragments of the rhizome, divided into pieces of 1.6-2.4 inches long, the lower cuts are treated with a root hormone, partially removing the leaves, and immersed in a mixture of peat and sand in self-made greenhouses, placed in the partial shade. Do not forget to air the cuttings and moisten the soil in containers. Rooting occurs in 3-4 weeks.

Pests and diseases of heuchera

Heuchera is usually insusceptible to pests and diseases, but sometimes it can get affected by powdery mildew, rust, gray mold and leaf spot disease. The cause of these troubles is an excess of fertilizers or stagnant water in the roots of plants. Powdery mildew that covers the leaves with a whitish coating is controlled with a fungicide. And to get rid of leaf spots and rust, spray heuchera with a solution of the Bordeaux mixture twice a month.

As to pests, heuchera can be attacked by snails, slugs, weevils, caterpillars and leaf nematodes. They are controlled by special insecticides.

Heuchera after flowering

Usually heuchera starts blooming in early summer and it lasts two months, and sometimes even longer. When in the garden heuchera blooms, it does not require any special care. Cut off the flower stalks of the spent flowers, if you do not want the heuchera seeds to ripen.

Preparation of heuchera for winter

Heuchera overwinters in the garden. In no way cut off the wilted and yellowed leaves of heuchera in autumn: they help the plant keep the roots warm in winter. In winter heuchera requires the covering, and it is better to use oak leaves for this purpose. When spring comes, remove the covering and gently cut off the last year’s heuchera leaves with a secateur as close to the soil surface as possible.

Species and varieties of heuchera

The genus of heuchera has about 70 species. In their natural habitat, many of them grow in the forests and open woodlands of the mountainous regions of Mexico and the USA. Conventionally, heuchera is divided into mountain and forest species. We will describe the most popular species and varieties that are used in landscape design and for breeding of new varieties.

Heuchera sanguinea, coral bells

It belongs to mountain species. It has green leaves and bright red flowers. The Americans call it “coral bells”. The leaves of heuchera are round, toothed, blood-red, forming a rosette that is much denser than of other species. Some varieties of this species are distinguished by beautiful white or creamy spots on the leaves. The peduncles reach a height of 20 inches. This species is cold-resistant making it popular among the gardeners. The most famous varieties are Monet, Variegata, Hercules.

Heuchera villosa, hairy alumroot

It is characterized by large leaves with a velvety surface and pubescent peduncles and cuttings, that is why it received such a name. The variety Bronze Wave has the largest leaves, up to 8 inches in diameter, of bronze color. The variety Rachael has not only flowers, but also peduncles of tender pink color.

Heuchera cylindrica, or roundleaf alumroot

It is also a mountain species, it has not only eye-catching leaves, but also high flower stalks with a cloud of small flowers that seem to soar above the bush during flowering. This species is larger than the others, and this quality attracted breeders who obtained new varieties based on heuchera cylindrica. The peduncles reach a height of 3 ft, large flowers of white, pink, green and coral colors bloom on short pedicels. The leaves are cordate, round, green in color with a silvery pattern or veins of contrasting color. The varieties are Greenfinch with greenish-cream flowers, Hyperion (a low growing bush, the height of flower stalk is only 20 inches, the flowers are red and pink).

Heuchera micrantha, crevice alumroot

In the opinion of many florists, this is the most spectacular heuchera. Its leaf has the shape of a maple leaf, it is covered with silvery spots, and some of the specimens that grow in the wild are characterized by a purple shade of leaves. The peduncle is 2 ft in height, the paniculate inflorescence consists of small creamy pink flowers with orange anthers. The most famous varieties are Palace Purple with dark purple leaves that was designated a Perennial Plant of the Year for 1999, and Bressingham Bronze with bronze-brown leaves.

Heuchera americana, or American alumroot

It grows on the shores of the Great Lakes. In the USA it is called “rock geranium”. It has attractive leaves, forming a rosette about 8 inches high. The downside of the leaves is brown and purple. The leaves are heart-shaped, round, with long petioles. The peduncles are 20-24 inches high, the panicles consist of yellow-green flowers. Green Spice is one of the most beautiful varieties of American alumroot, it has green leaves and contrasting silvery spots on them. During the growing season the leaves change the green color from yellow to darker shades, silver stains increase in size and magenta tint appears around the veins.

Hybrid alumroot

It includes interspecific hybrids of American alumroot, coral bells, and crevice alumroot. Flowers of this species resemble the flowers of coral bells, but they are somewhat larger, as well as the leaves with peduncles. Flowers of white, coral, red or pink colors bloom for more than two months. The color of the leaves is mostly green, but with contrasting veins and creamy spots. The only drawback of these hybrids is that the stems can get damaged by strong wind and rain. The varieties are Сan-сan, Cappuccino, Beauty Color, Ruby Veil and others.

Heuchera grossulariifolia, gooseberry-leaf alumroot

This plant is so cold-resistant that its leaves are not damaged even by the strongest frost. And this rare quality attracts both flower growers and breeders.

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Heuchera are famed for their superb range of spectacular foliage and attractive late spring/summer flowers. Uusually bought for their amazing coloured and veined foliage, the vibrancy of leaf colour alone makes these semi-evergreen perennials a must have.

When many plants in the garden are fading in October, the beautifully coloured and marked foliage of Heucheras really stand out and often become more vibrant.

We have a huge range of Heuchera and Heucherella available, our largest selection yet. These beautiful, colourful perennials will brighten up your garden with a vibrant range of colours and distinctive foliage. Try growing in pots on the patio or at the front of any border (even in shaded locations).

Planting and Care

Choose an area of partial shade for best results, but Heuchera are also versatile enough to cope in the full shade of tricky, hard to fill spots in the garden as well as full sun. They like nutrient rich, well-drained and slightly acidic soil, so be sure to give the space a bit of preparation. Heuchera prefer a site with good drainage so be sure not to over-water and stick to damp soil.

Given their low-growing, compact habit Heuchera are perfect for the front of a border but they will also grow well in pots and look stylish decorating the patio in containers.

Choice Varieties

Ideal for growing in border, rockeries or in patio containers, try mixing Heuchera together for a rainbow colour effect. The variation and range of colours available is unmatched by any other dwarf evergreen perennial. We have sourced the best varieties to offer, perfect for adding real style to your garden. Blackberry Jam produce rich purple and maroon foliage, with deep veins. Try growing in pots on the patio or at the front of any border (even in shaded locations). Height 30-40cm. Our luxury mixture is the perfect choice if you want to get started with Heuchera. A spectacular mixture of 10+ premium varieties, these plants are sure to brighten any border or patio container. When many plants begin to fade, this mixture will bring you remarkable colour all year round. Height 30-40cm. You can also shop our full range of Heuchera online here.

Coral Bells for Sunny Sites

Posted in Gardening Tips on August 23 2011, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is Gardener for Public Education.

Heuchera villosa ‘Tiramisu’

Last week we looked at coral bells and covered some of the dark leaved options that are grown in this garden and easy to find on the market. This week we are going to look at some spectacular options for sunny sites.

Coral bells were traditionally thought of as shade lovers. Heuchera villosa, however, is a species that is native to southeastern U.S. It is an adaptable species that thrives in full sun to part shade, grows happily in soils ranging from slightly wet to slightly dry and is unfazed by high humidity. Understandably, it is a popular plant for southern gardens.

Hybridizers have latched on to this species and it is now part of the parentage of many successful hybrids. The French hybridizer, Thierry Delabroye has taken the world of coral bells by storm by flooding the market with a number of mouthwatering cultivars that are designed to make you either hungry or thirsty. Delabroye’s offerings include cultivars such as ‘Carmel’, ‘Brownies’, ‘Mocha’, ‘Pistache’, ‘Tiramisu’, ‘Pinot Gris’, and ‘Beaujolais’. We have used a number of these cultivars in container displays. This year we are growing ‘Brownies’ in the Trial Bed Garden in the Home Gardening Center.

The reputation of Heuchera ‘Brownies’ as an attractive and adaptable coral bell is attested to by the fact that it is flourishing in the challenging environment of New York’s High Line park. Its foliage emerges brown and then transforms into a greenish brown with a rich purple-red underside. Like the majority of Heuchera villosa hybrids it features large foliage and has a fuzzy texture. It grows over a foot tall and forms a generous two foot clump.

The American hybridizer, Dan Heims, has a selection of Heuchera villosa hybrids that are also worth searching out. The names of his cultivars hark back to the species’ regional heritage with cultivars such as ‘Southern Comfort’ and ‘Georgia Peach’.

We are growing Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’ in the Trial Bed Garden. It starts the season with peachy, amber tones that morph into a coral color by autumn. This cultivar has proven to be indestructible; it over-wintered beautifully and exploded with a kaleidoscope of colors in the spring. It is also a large specimen reaching 15-inches tall with a spread of over two feet.

An important piece of gardener’s advice for my readers:

When you are growing these coral bells in sunny environments make sure that you are conscientious with your watering practices while they are getting established (this is a common practice with all of your plants). After that, remember to water them during extended dry spells. They will protest when subjected to excessive heat and drought by browning out on the leaves.

Do not pamper these coral bells by feeding them heavily with fertilizer. They are vigorous to start with and you will just encourage excessive growth that will collapse under challenging circumstances. Allow them “tough it out.”

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