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Coral Bells No Longer Sums Up the Heuchera Varieties You Can Grow

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Heuchera 'Green Spice'

Heuchera 'Green Spice', with its large green leaves veined in red, is one of the toughest Heuchera plants for the garden.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti
Coral Bell Flowers

You can see why they're called Coral Bells. Dainty Coral Bell flowers attract hummingbirds to the garden.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti
Purple and Silver Heuchera

Many of the purple and silver leaved Heuchera plants change color throughout the season.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Latin Name:

Heuchera cultivars

Common Name:

Coral Bells, Alumroot

Overview:

Heuchera are native American plants that can be found, in some form, throughout the continent. There are tiny alpines (Heuchera nivalis ) and tall heat lovers (Heuchera maxima). The garden Heuchera that we know as Coral Bells (Heuchera sanguinea) has been in a hybridizing frenzy with other species, since the introduction of 'Palace Purple', and the traditional green-leaved Coral Bells can now be found in shades of purple, rose, lime green, gold and variegations in between.

Description:

Heuchera form round mounds. They have a woody root stock or crown at their base.

  • Leaves: Leaves vary greatly with variety. Most are somewhat rounded, lobed and hairy.
     
  • Flowers: Small bell-shaped flowers are borne on tall stalks. The flowers can be petalless. The stems have an airy appearance and make nice cut flowers.

Hardiness Zones:

USDA Hardiness Zones 4 - 8, depending on variety.

Exposure

Full sun to Partial shade.. The color can wash out in full sun and too much heat and light can cause the leaves to scorch.

Mature Size:

12 - 18" (h) x 12 - 18" (w)

Bloom Period

Late spring / Early summer. Heuchera are grown for their foliage, but the flowers are very popular with hummingbirds, so let them stay.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Heuchera 'Autumn Leaves' - Changes color through the seasons, from red to caramel to ruby.

  • Heuchera 'Chocolate Ruffles' - Ruffled leaves have rich choclately color on the top and deep burgundy on the bottom.

  • Heuchera 'Green Spice' - Large green leaves are veined in maroon. Very hardy.

  • Heuchera 'Marmalade' - Frilly leaves in shades from umber to deep sienna.

  • Heuchera 'Tiramisu' - Chartreuse leaves, tinged with red. Changes color throughout the season.

  • Heuchera 'Silver Scrolls' - Shiny silver leaves with dark veins and pinkish-white flowers.

 

Design Suggestions:

It's hard to think of a place Heuchera won't fit in. They're at home in woodlands, rock gardens, containers, borders and as ground covers. The leaves are evergreen, even when covered in snow.

Heuchera make wonderful edging plants and really put on a show when planted in groups. The foliage color is great for playing up the colors of nearby flowers. Darker purple leaves can make yellow flowers, like coreopsis, glow. Butterscotch colored leaves even bring out the tones of simple green leaves.

Pair Heuchera with lacy-leaved plants, like fringed-leaf bleeding heart or thread-leaf coreopsis, to high-light their form.

Growing Tips:

Soil: Heuchera like a neutral to slightly acid soil pH, somewhere between 6.0 and 7.0. Good drainage is a must, especially in shaded areas.

Planting Heuchera: You can start species Heuchera from seed, but the hybrids will need to come from divisions, if you want plants that look like the parent. When starting seed, sprinkle it on the surface of the soil in late fall or early spring. Don't cover the seed, they need light to germinate. You could also start the seeds indoors, a couple of months before you plan to transplant. Seeds take between 2 to 8 weeks to germinate. Transplant outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.

Plant container grown Heuchera any time after frost. Keep them well watered their first year. Other than that, they shouldn't require more than some relief from extreme heat and a rich, well-draining soil.

Maintenance:

Cut back the entire flower stalk after flowering, to put the plants energy into growing more leaves.

Divide Heuchera plants every 3-5 years, to keep them from dying out in the center.

In cold areas, Heuchera crowns can heave above the soil line, in the winter. Mulching after the ground freezes hard, will prevent the freezing and thawing that pushes the plants up. Check periodically to make sure the roots are not exposed. Replant, if possible.

Pests & Problems:

Diseases: Heuchera planted in damp shade can be prone to fungus diseases. If so, it's best to simply move the plants to a drier or sunnier site.

Pests: The larvae of the Black Vine Weevil can bore into the crowns and roots of Heuchera. The larvae are usually present in late summer/early fall. Affected plants will wilt and droop. You should be able to see the larvae and remove and destroy them.

Unfortunately Heuchera are also popular with 4-legged pests, like deer and groundhogs.

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