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Monday, July 9, 2012

Ah-Ah-Ah-Chooooooo-Heuchera!!

Gesundheit!

Oh, I'm sorry.  You were talking about coral bells?  :-)

This is an article I wrote in a local "Dear Iris" gardening column lately.

'Tiramasu'

 By KATHY TOLLENAERE, Master Gardener | Jun 21, 2012

The genus Heuchera (pronounced hoo-ker-a) of the family Saxifragacea contains at least 50 native species. These are an herbaceous perennial native to North America commonly called coral bells or alumroot. Plants you find in nurseries will most predictably be modern cultivars. Depending upon the individual variety, coral bells will thrive in zones 3 through 9.
Since the mid-1990s an “explosion” of sorts has occurred with regard to the development of new hybrid varieties. You can find hybrids with varying leaf size, shape, and color as well as flower stems varying in heights (up to 2.5 inches) and blossom color of white, pink, salmon, coral, or red bell-shaped flowers. You might enjoy a trip to an area nursery as well as a search on-line to view the variety of hybrids available. Most plants would be best suited to either the front of the garden or just behind it.

Generally, coral bells do best in light shade or dappled shade, at least during the hottest part of the day. Planting in full sun runs the risk that the foliage may discolor by scorching or die back during very hot spells in the summer. Most of my coral bells receive direct sunlight for up to four hours in the afternoon with dappled shade at other times. I have placed other plants in conditions receiving only dappled shade with very little direct sunlight. As a contrast, however, I’ve given “Green Spice” an especially large challenge, as once the deciduous oak tree leaves appear, it never sees sunlight. It doesn’t flourish as it would under better conditions, but it has continued to do fairly well during the past eight years, and it offers a nice contrast in foliage to the surrounding plants.
"Green Spice"

For the most part, Heuchera desire well-drained, neutral to rich soil. They do, however, tolerate many soil types. Plants in rich soil will be quite different looking – taller, and lusher, than they would in leaner soil. Under ideal and/or good conditions, these plants have few disease or pest problems. A problem I have experienced is “frost heave,” resulting in a plant that has been forced out of the soil when spring arrives. My answer to that problem seems to have been resolved by either of two solutions: 1) Adding additional soil and leaf mulch in the autumn, or 2) Adding additional soil and replanting in early spring.
Remove the old, unattractive leaves in the spring to encourage new growth. Deadheading (removing) spent flowers and their stalks encourages re-blooming over the course of the summer. Re-blooming is always a pleasant bonus!
Heuchera are truly quite complimentary plants. I do recommend your research and purchase. They don’t take much room! For “richness” in appearance, a gardening approach might be to plant several plants together. I would also suggest not only planting several of one variety, but also to plant different varieties together as a contrast in both leaf and flower. If planted as an “edger,” that is, a row of them at the front edge of your flowerbed, they are quite effective.
Heuchera is not the sound of a sneeze, but I’d accept your “Gesundheit!” any day!

4 comments:

Muffy's Marks said...

Your garden is so lovely, thanks for sharing!

Rosemary said...

Love these plants , good info!

Shady Gardener said...

Thank you Muffy and Rosemary. :-) Thanks for your visit and comments!

Kimberley at Cosmos and Cleome said...

I love my coral bells, but lately they haven't been blooming well. Lots of healthy leaves, but only a couple of flower spikes this spring. Maybe they get too much sun? Do you know of any common reasons for non-blooming?