Last updated on April 22nd, 2022
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Heuchera, otherwise known as Coral Bells, produces large sprays of bell-shaped flowers that run lengthwise up their tall stems. They are well regarded for these flowers but more so the foliage, adding a lot of beauty and colour to any garden, sometimes all year round in milder areas. There are many varieties out there that offer an array of leaf and flower colours, so you can plant them throughout your garden to create a stunning show of colour.
They are quite versatile and able to grow in sunny areas with a bit of shade, with good airflow and moist soil, and can be propagated in many ways. However, if you have any Heuchera in your garden, you will need to ensure they are properly pruned to keep them healthy and looking tidy.
Why should you prune them?
These plants need to be pruned to remove the old growth and prepare the plant for new foliage. Plants have a finite amount of energy in them that can be allocated to growth in different areas of the plant. In order to make sure this reserve of energy gets allocated to newer development, you need to get rid of the older stems that would otherwise hog these scarce resources.
Many people like these plants because the foliage remains intact throughout the winter, giving you green leaves complemented by mountains of white snow, however, these green leaves that remain are part of the old foliage and eventually they will look a little bedraggled. This is when it’s time to prune. It is also worth noting that you can get all kinds of Heuchera, and these different varieties offer a wide range of leaf colours, from dark green to oranges, reds, yellows and even marbled effects.
When should you prune a Heuchera?
You should examine your plant every spring, at the start of the growing season. New growth will manifest from the middle of the crown and the faded growth gets pushed down, which is what creates that sort of drooping ring along the perimeter of your crown. This is the debris you want to get rid of.
How to prune Heuchera
Pruning is not nearly as difficult as you might think. Before you start, just make sure you have very sharp pruning shears or a good sharp pair of secateurs. If your tools are not sharp it might take multiple attempts to get your cut all the way through the plant and this leaves the crown susceptible to infection and diseases, as well as risking damaging the crown.
On that note, you can minimise the risk of infection by making sure the tools you use are sterilised before you start pruning. You can use different things to sterilise your tools, such as bleach and water mixtures, white vinegar or rubbing alcohol. This is particularly important if you are pruning multiple plants or you use the same gardening shears for all of your gardening tasks. It’s all too easy to accidentally transfer something from one plant in your garden to another simply because you skip this step.
- Pull out any of the dried flower stems from the previous summer or clip them off at the base.
- Snip off the old foliage at the base of your leaf stem, approximately 1cm above the soil. You want to hold back the new growth from the middle of your plants so that you have a clear line of sight and work your way around the plant until the only thing that remains is that newer growth.
- Take away all of the trimmings from this pruning process and throw them in your compost bin.
- When you are done, apply a fresh layer of mulch around the plant to keep the new stalks at the base from being exposed to the elements.
Remember, this is something you should do every spring and with a little effort once a year you can keep your plant happy and healthy.