Last updated on February 27th, 2022
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Heuchera, also known as Coral Bells, is a traditional foliage plant and today it brings with it many different varieties, some of which come in the most amazing colours. Heuchera plants create round mounds and they have a woody crown at the base with bell-shaped flowers on the ends, which is where their common name of coral bells derives from. The leaves are evergreen in milder parts of the UK, 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. You can see the array of colours in the picture 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 also giving you the opportunity to make new plants.
|Common names||Coral Bells|
|Plant type||Evergreen perennial sometimes dropping their leaves in colder areas|
|Sun exposure||Full sun or partial shade|
|Soil type||Loamy or sandy soil, as well as 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|
Growing Conditions for Heuchera
Coral Bells are a wonderful plant to use for edging plants because 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 complement the colours of any nearby flowers. You can use the leaves to draw attention to other flowers, for example, combining the purple leaves of a Heuchera with a nearby plant that produces yellow flowers (such as Marigolds) to create an eye-catching display.
It is important to cut back the flower stalk once it has flowered so that the plants can utilise what energy it has into producing more leaves. Although the flowers can be attractive most Heucheras are actually grown for their striking foliage colours.
Once you plant Heucheras you should divide them every few years because they start to look tired, past their best and will start dying in the middle which makes them look unsightly. This can be done in spring between March and May, or in the autumn between September and November. If the weather is wet then it’s probably best to leave until spring.
If you have 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 them a little deeper.
Heucheras, luckily, don’t suffer from a wide variety of problems, but one pest that can come along is vine weevil. They can bore their way into the crowns of your Coral Bells and into the roots after which point, the plant will begin to wilt and droop. This is because 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, however, they are very difficult to treat if grown in the ground. In pots, you can use a pesticide that kills the grubs.
Heucheras are generally disease-free but they can suffer from 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.
Caring for your Heuchera
Heuchera will thrive in full sun or partial shade. If you live in a particularly hot area partial shade is preferred, however, 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 from too much heat. In general, darker coloured varieties do better in full fun because the lighter colours can scorch.
If you choose to grow yours in full sun, simply make sure to provide it with extra water to combat this. Be aware of the fact that Coral Bells do not thrive in damp, shaded areas and are susceptible to fungus. If you notice that your Heuchera is beginning to experience problems with fungus and diseases you might want to consider moving them to a dryer or a sunnier location.
Coral Bells prefer neutral to slightly acidic soil levels, between 6 and 7. You should also take care to provide good drainage in the soil. Drainage is critical to their survival, especially if you have planted them in a shaded location. 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 don’t survive.
Heucheras require medium amounts of water and prefer consistently moist soil that is well-drained. They will tolerate a few weeks without water once fully 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 upwards 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 Heuchera (if possible) or further cover it with mulch.
You should provide about 30mm of compost or slow-release fertiliser in the spring. This plant has very limited feeding requirements so you should avoid a quick-release fertiliser or a heavy application of fertiliser because this will inhibit the production of flowers. They do not require a lot of feed, so a little in spring along with organic mulch in autumn is usually enough to last all year.
Planting Heucheras and Sowing Seeds
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 seeds you should sprinkle the seeds onto the surface of the soil at the end of autumn or the beginning of spring. Don’t cover the seeds because they need light to germinate. You can also choose to germinate indoors a few months before transplanting them outside and this process is usually more successful.
Regardless of the seeds, it will take between two and eight weeks to germinate. If you are transplanting from inside make sure you wait until all the danger of frost has passed because it will kill younger plants as they are incredibly tender.
If you are growing container plants you can do so anytime after the risk of frost has passed and make sure that you keep them well watered for the first year. After that, it shouldn’t require as much water except for periods of no rain.
Varieties of Heuchera
Below are a few of our favourite varieties:
|Autumn Leaves||This one changes colours throughout the course of the seasons, moving from red to caramel to ruby.|
|Chocolate Ruffles||This has a rich chocolate colour on top of the leaves with a burgundy colour on the bottom of the leaves.|
|Green Spice||This variety has green leaves with deep maroon veins.|
|Marmalade||This variety has leaves where the colour ranges from amber to burnt sienna.|
|Tiramisu||This plant has beautiful leaves that are tinged with red, the colours of which will change throughout the season.|
Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.