Growing Heuchera – planting & care guide
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Heuchera, also known as Coral bells are a traditional foliage plant but today brings with it many different varieties which come in the most amazing colours of any plants. Heuchera Plants create round mounds and they have a woody crown at the base with bell-shaped flowers on the ends, hence their colloquial name of coral bells. The leaves are evergreen in milder parts of the UK and round even if they get covered in snow. In colder areas, they may lose their leaves before appearing again in spring. In addition to the traditional varieties, you can also find new varieties whose leaves take on shades of lime green, gold, purple or rose as pictured below.
If you give them a bit of a tidy up in spring, removing dead or damaged leaves they will generally take care of themselves just needing to be divided every few years to keep them looking good and making new plants.
|Common names||Coral Bells|
|Plant type||Evergreen perennial sometimes dropping their leaves in colder areas|
|Mature size||30-45 cm|
|Sun exposure||Full sun or partial shade|
|Soil type||Loamy or sandy soil, in clay, if improved with organic matter and grit.|
|Soil ph||Will grow in most ph but seem to grow the best in slightly acidic soil.|
|Bloom time||Spring and summer|
|Flower color||Red, pink, coral, white and variegated colours|
Heuchera growing conditions
Coral bells are a wonderful plant to use as edging as they are fairly low growing and can spread out filling in gaps. They are particularly beautiful if you plant them in large groups. The foliage colours help to highlight colours of any nearby flowers. You can use the leaves to draw attention to other flowers such as combining the purple leaves with a nearby plant that produces yellow flowers such as marigolds to create a beautiful eye-catching display.
It is important to cut back the flower stalk once it has flowered so that the plants can utilize what energy it has into producing more leaves. Although the flowers can be attractive most Heucheras are grown for the striking foliage colours.
Once you plant Coral Bells you should divide them every few years as they start to look tired and past there best as they will start dying in the middle which makes them look unsightly. This can be done in spring between March and May, or in Autumn between September and November. If the weather is wet then its probably best to leave until spring.
If you noticed that the leaves have taken on a ragged appearance, particularly after winter, you can cut them back and allowed new growth to fill in. After some winters, you may also notice the woody root stems have come to the surface of the soil, if this happens simply mulch to cover them up or lift the plants and replant a little deeper.
Heuchera plant problems
Heuchera doesn’t suffer from many problems but one pest that can come along is vine weevil. They can bore its way into the crowns of your Coral Bells and into the roots after which point the plant will start to wilt and droop as the grubs in spring start to eat the roots causing the plant to slowly die. You should be able to see the larvae and remove them but they are very difficult to treat if grown in the ground ground. In pots, you can use a pesticide drench that kills the grubs.
Heucheras are generally disease free but they can suffer from fungus such as powdery mildew. Fungal infection is combated with improved airflow, good drainage, and in some cases simply transplanting your Coral Bells to an area with better sunlight.
If you have potted plants you can move the pots around throughout the day to provide better airflow and to prevent your potted plants from intruding upon one another.
Coral Bells will thrive in full sun or partial shade. If you live in a particularly hot area partial shade is preferred but if you live in a slightly colder area full sun is perfectly fine. If it is a particularly hot region or season, the colour might wash out under direct sun exposure and your leaves could be scorched with too much heat. In general, darker coloured varieties do better in full fun as lighter colours can scorch.
If you choose to grow yours in full sun simply make sure to give it extra water to combat this. Be cognizant of the fact that Coral Bells do not thrive in damp, shaded areas and are susceptible to fungus. If you noticed that your coral bells are starting to have problems with fungus and diseases you might consider moving them to a dryer or a sunny or location.
Coral Bells prefer neutral to slightly acidic soil levels, between 6.0 and 7.0. You should also take care to provide good drainage in the soil. Drainage is critical to their survival especially if you have placed them in a shaded region. If the plant is allowed to sit in damp soil the crown will start to rot so this is best avoided, they also do not grow well in shade and often do not survive.
Coral Bells require medium amounts of water and prefer consistently moist soil but well-drained. They will tolerate a few weeks without water once established but it is always best to provide them with water when the soil becomes dry to keep them happy.
Winter care, mulching and dealing with lifted roots
Coral Bells should be given winter mulching in autumn to protect them from frost, this also helps keep the soil fertile. In some cases, the freezing and thawing will periodically push your plant upward so you need to check on it regularly throughout the winter to make sure the roots are not exposed and if they are, replant the Coral Bells if possible or further cover it with mulch as we have already explained earlier.
You should provide about 30 mm of compost or slow-release fertilizer in the springtime. This plant has very limited feeding requirements so you should avoid a quick release fertilizer or a heavy application of fertilizer as this will inhibit the production of flowers. They do not require a lot if feed so a little in spring along with organic mulch in autumn is usually enough to last all year.
Planting heucheras & sowing seed
When you are planting your Coral Bells you can start your species from seed but the hybrids will come in the form of a plant that is already grown. If you are starting with the seed you should sprinkle the seed onto the surface of the soil at the end of autumn or the beginning of Spring. Don’t cover the seed as it needs light to germinate. You can also choose to germinate indoors a few months before you choose to transplant outside which is usually more successful. Regardless the seeds will take between two and eight weeks to germinate. If you are transplanting from inside make sure you wait until all danger of frost has passed as it will kill young plants if they are tender.
If you are growing container plants you can do so anytime after frost and make sure that you keep it well watered for the first year. After that, it shouldn’t require as much water except for periods of no rain.
Varieties of Heuchera
Some of our favourite varieties
|Autumn Leaves||This one changes colors throughout the course of the seasons, moving from red to caramel to ruby.|
|Chocolate Ruffles||This has a rich chocolate color on top of the leaves with a burgundy color on the bottom of the leaves.|
|Green spice||This variety has green leaves with deep maroon veins.|
|Marmalade||This variety has filly leaves the color for which ranges from number to Burnt Sienna.|
|Tiramisu||This plant has beautiful leaves that are tinged with red the colors of which will change throughout the season.|
Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.