There are some plants that come under my list of must-haves, and Lewisia is definitely among them. A plant destined for rock garden or container, it is relatively a no-muss-no-fuss plant once happily in its niche; a mostly sunny site, quick-draining soil and being kept sufficiently dry in winter pretty much all that’s really required.
Native Lewisias all have the fleshy leaves of their dry country succulent brethren; some have that lightning bolt of intense color typical of the plants of the desert, others more pale and delicate appearing. Each is uniquely lovely and will add a special cheer to your garden with a limited amount of care.
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L. cotyledon - Originating from the Siskiyou Mountains in southwestern Oregon and south into the north coast ranges of California, it makes up the vast majority of Lewisias available for sale, its hardiness and ease of cultivation and hybridization make it a favorite of plant enthusiasts of all sorts, and this Lewisia can be an easily successful specimen in gardens well beyond its native range. Though its appearance would make one think it wanted to bask in full sun, L. cotyledon actually prefers a little shade during the day.
Its flower color can vary from plant to plant as well as among the many blossoms of a single plant. The flowers can be white to yellow to fiery orange to electric pink as well as in a variety of combinations of these, often with the exuberant color reminiscent to that of cacti. Wide, fleshy evergreen leaves form a basal rosette with the small multi-petaled flowers rising above numerously atop thin stems.
Photo credits: Peggy Acott, Gary A. Monroe, Trond Steen and Paul Slichter.
Common Name: Bitterroot
Origin: High, rocky areas in the western half of the United States and Canada
Culture: mostly sun, but thrives when there is also a little shade; light to regular water but with sharp drainage, dry in winter.
Maintenance: deadhead to encourage new flowering.
Pests/Diseases: root rot due to too much retained moisture; susceptible to hail damage to succulent evergreen leaves; occasional slug damage but virtually pest free.