HEUCHERA: Coral Bells
With so many great colors to choose from–purple to orange to lime green, many with interesting variegation and texture–there’s a Heuchera for every garden. They look good in mass plantings or as border edges, and make fantastic container plants. Bright, nearly–evergreen foliage and ease of care make them invaluable as a shade plant. There are a myriad of cultivars to choose from that will grow in almost any garden situation. Most varieties will grow in full sun in the Pacific Northwest, except those with white (frosted) or yellow–toned leaves which can bleach and burn in the sun.
Conversely, Heucheras will become leggy, pale in color and less floriferous in full shade. Varieties which perform best in dense shade include the lime cultivars such as ‘Eletric Lime’ and ‘Lime Marmalade’, the color changing ‘Electra’, glowing red ‘Fire Chief’, classic green and burgundy ‘Green Spice’ and the green and white ‘Snow Angel’.
Heucheras are usually grown for their strikingly colorful rounded or fringed leaves, but more attention is being paid to the flowers in recent breeding efforts. Flower stalks rise from about 12” to 24” above the plant mound with sprays of small bell–shaped flowers in white, peach, pink, or even bright red. They make a very nice addition to floral arrangements.
Some lovely flowering varieties include Firefly, Lipstick, Ginger Ale and Cherry Cola.
Locally here in Oregon, Dan Hines of Terra Nova Nurseries is known for introducing new cultivars of Heuchera. To view the dazzeling array of colors and textures visit Terra Nova’s website. The new cultivars coming out are hybrids of the species native to North America. One species that is being used in to increase the heat and humidity tolerance of Heuchera is H. villosa.
If you see a cultivar that has a parent that is a villosa, it will have large leaves, do better in the sun and heat, and die back more than others in the winter.
Heuchera micrantha ‘Purple Palace’
This is a popular cultivar of the native Heuchera here in Oregon (H. micrantha) with deep purple–red leaves and stems and sprays of small white flowers. It is one of the older Heuchera cultivars and has proven itself a solid garden plant. Plant it in full to part sun where is will form a clump about 12 inches tall and wide with flowers stalks between 15 and 24 inches.
Heuchera ‘Green Spice’
Silver leaves with dark edging and bright red veining make this shade-lover really stand out! A bonus is the lovely fall color, in shades of peach and orange. 16” wide by 9” tall, with 2 foot flower stalks.
Heuchera ‘Lime Marmalade’
Need a punch of color in your shady spot? This chartreuse Heuchera will really pop! Part shade to shade. 24”” wide by 10” tall, with 16” white flower stalks.
An elegant smooth leaves like ‘Obsidian’ with a red color. The compact habit makes it an excellent choice for containers. Grow in sun to part shade. 8” tall, flowers 14” tall, 16”wide.
Wavy, amber-peach foliage with bright fuchsia undersides adorn this vigorous Heuchera. Performs well in sun or shade. 18” wide mounds are 10” tall with 16” flower stalks.
Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’
Gorgeous purple leaves with dark-pink speckles adorn this Heuchera variety. Pink speckles appear in spring and get larger as the season progresses, perhaps eventually fading to a cream color. ‘Midnight Rose’ thrives in the full sun and forms a clump 16 inches wide by 10” tall with a 24” flower stalk. This is a sport of the popular H. ‘Obsidian.’
Black colored plants have become extremely popular lately, and this variety has been a valuable addition to that trend. Purpley-black leaves hold their color in shade or sun. 16” wide mounds reach about 10” tall, with flower stalks to 24” tall.
Heuchera ‘Peach Flambe’
One of our all time favorites (although Ginger Peach may be one to rival) with its eye-popping, smooth peach and burgundy leaves. Great in full sun to part shade. 7” tall, flowers to 16”, 14” wide.
Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’
A popular variety, ‘Plum Pudding’ has purple-bronze leaves with green overtones and nice veining. Does best with a little sun exposure. To 16” wide and 9” tall, with flower stalks to 2’.
Heuchera ‘Rave On’
Flowers! This Heuchera is one of the heaviest spring blooming heucheras with hot pink flowers above beautiful silver–purple leaves. This one is hot! Takes full to part sun, 14 inches wide by 8 inches tall with flower stalks up to 20 inches.
Ruffled, deeply cut dark green leaves with surprising burgundy contrast on the underside of the leaves. ‘Sashay’ brings presence and interest to the garden or container. A great selection for heat and sun tolerance forming a mound 16 inches wide by 8 inches tall.
Heuchera ‘Snow Angel’
Unique white and green mottled leaves. Lovely sprays of light pink flowers. Grows in part sun to full shade. 8” tall flowers to 12” 12” wide.
Photos courtesy of Skagit Gardens
Genus: Heuchera (HEW-ker-ah)
Common Name: Coral Bells, Alum Root
Origin: About 55 species from North America and Mexico
Culture: Heuchera are hardy in the Northwest (zones 4-9), mostly evergreen, and usually like afternoon shade with well-drained soil.
Heuchera bloom early spring to late summer in shades from red to pink to white and make great cut flowers. Once established they can be drought-tolerant, but they enjoy regular water. Some of the purple and green leaved cultivars will handle full sun. The top four ways to kill a Heuchera are burying the crown, improper watering, planting in very heavy soil and growing in too low light.
Pests and Diseases: Root weevils can be problematic by feeding on the roots. This can be treated with nematodes at the correct soil temperatures. Mealy-bugs can also be a pest.
Maintenance: Heuchera are easy to care for and low maintenance. Dead-heading flowers (removing the spent blossoms) prolongs the bloom time.
Also, if the plants get a dry period in the summer, it might be necessary to cut off some the outer leaves if they start to look bad. During the winter, the plant may shrink to a smaller rosette and the dead outer leaves should be removed. If your heuchera forms a taller crown, it is time to divide it.
Propagation: Heuchera need to be divided every three to four years and are easily propagated from young rootstock. Just dig it up, take the young, vigorous roots and discard the old woody rootstock and replant. The best time to do this is in the spring.