Heuchera (Coral Bells) - Species, Growing & Care Info

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by Max - last update on November 5, 2019, 11:08 pm
Heuchera plant with purple leaves in pot

Most varieties of heuchera are very drought-tolerant. They also make great border plants for year-round color.

If you are interested in adding some inviting & outstanding colors for your garden, heuchera plants (coral bells) are a perfect choice. If so, read our article till the end for proper growing & care tips.

Heuchera (Coral Bells) Overview

Quick Facts

OriginNorth America
Scientific NameHeuchera cultivars
FamilySaxifragaceae
TypeEvergreen flowering perennial
Common NamesCoral bells, Alumroot
HeightUp to 20 inches
ToxicityNontoxic
LightFull sun to partial shade
WateringModerate watering
PestsVine weevil

 

Varieties

These are some of the most commonly found and grown types of heuchera (coral bells) you can find in the garden.

‘Plum pudding’

Heuchera 'Plum Pudding'
Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' - Credit to David J. Stang

Deep purple foliage sets this variety apart, along with creamy patches on the leave, divided by purple veining. It will survive in any light condition and is compact in terms of height, growing to around 12 inches tall.

‘Palace purple’

Heuchera micrantha 'Palace Purple'
Heuchera micrantha 'Palace Purple' - Credit to Jerzy Opioła

The foliage of this variety is dark while being subtle. The leaves are reddish-green tinged with dark purple.

‘Caramel’

Caramel heuchera

The rich orange-yellow color of this plant's foliage is truly beautiful. It has a luxurious feel to it and looks especially good in fall displays. It prefers a shaded location and isn’t recommended for full sun.

‘Lime rickey’

Heuchera 'Lime Rickey'
Heuchera 'Lime Rickey' - Credit to David J. Stang

This variety of coral bells has brightly colored lime leaves that are almost neon. The texture of the foliage is also interesting, with a frilled edge.

‘Chocolate ruffles’

Heuchera 'Chocolate Ruffles'
Heuchera 'Chocolate Ruffles' - Credit to Acabashi

As the name suggests, the foliage of this plant is ruffled, and brown in color. The underside of the leaves is contrasting in deep purple.

‘Tiramisu’

Heuchera 'Tiramisu'
Heuchera 'Tiramisu' - Credit to Leonora (Ellie) Enking

The leaves of this plant change color throughout the year, varying from yellow to red.

‘Green spice’

Heuchera Green Spice

The foliage of this plant is green and silver with dark red veining. It is an exceptionally hardy variety (Royal Horticultural Society).

Caring for Your Heuchera

Planting

Coral bells prefer slightly acidic soil, but they will grow well in almost any well-draining soil. To ensure your soil is well-draining, mix in sand, grit or well-rotted organic compost to your soil before planting.

Coral bells can be planted in almost any position in your garden, but their blooms on tall spikes and mounding habit of the foliage make them especially well-suited to planting in garden beds and borders. They also work well in container gardens and are happy to grow amongst other plants. You may want to consider pairing the coral bells with other flowering plants to help set off certain colors. For example, the deep purple foliage of some coral bells will look especially good next to yellow flowers, helping to make the yellow stand out and appear more vibrant.

The roots of this plant tend to be shallow, so don’t dig their holes too deep when planting. The root balls of coral bells are quite sturdy, so you can handle them quite roughly without worrying about damage. This plant could easily lose half of its roots in the planting process without showing any problems once planted.

Watering

Heuchera watering

Coral bells thrive in consistently moist soil; however, once established, they are fairly drought-tolerant and can go several weeks without any water at all. Aim to maintain moist soil, but don’t worry if you are away for weeks at a time, and the plant doesn’t receive any rain, it will be perfectly fine when you return and rehydrate it with heavy watering.

Coral bells in full sun positions will need more water than those grown in the shade, and those kept in containers will need even more. Take care not to overwater this plant, especially if it is grown in partial shade. Wet shaded soil presents an ideal opportunity for fungal growth to occur, which can destroy the plant. The crown of the plant is also likely to rot if kept in soggy soil, so make an effort to ensure the plant isn’t overwatered and also ensure that it is grown in well-draining soil to help prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged in the event of too much rainfall.

Light

Coral bells grow well in any light from full sun to partial shade. They are technically a shade-loving plant and are recommended for planting in partial shade with a maximum of 6 hours of sun each day. They grow natively in woodland areas where they are partially shaded by an overhead canopy of trees, so to recreate these conditions in your garden, you will need to provide some shade from nearby shrubs or fencing. However, these plants typically will thrive in any lighting location, and you don’t need to worry too much about their planting position.

The ideal position for planting will depend on the variety because generally, the coral bells with darker colored leaves are happier to tolerate full sun than those with paler foliage. In very hot areas, the foliage may experience some discoloration, which looks like bleaching from the sun, but generally, most coral bells will adapt well to full sun locations. As with most plants, it is a good idea to keep coral bells out of the direct sun in the afternoon in particularly hot climates. Afternoon shade will offer them some protection against the hottest temperature of the day.

Temperature

Coral bells thrive in US hardiness zones 5 to 7, though many varieties will grow in USDA zones 3 to 11. In frost-prone areas, the crown of the plant may rise out of the ground. This happens when the soil underneath freezes and thaws and pushes the plant upward. Mulching your plant may help to protect it against the problem, offering a layer of insulation. If the crown does become prominent from the soil, the best course of action is to replant it (University of Vermont Extension).

Flowers

Heuchera Flowers

Bell-shaped flowers bloom on tall spikes that sit high above the foliage of this plant, in rosey shades, which is how this plant got its common name of ‘coral bells.’ This plant was once cultivated purely for its pretty flowers, but more often, it is now grown for its interesting foliage, which gives it interest all year round in some areas.

The flowers typically bloom in June, though late-blooming varieties are available. They bloom profusely for the first four weeks, then continue blooming for a further eight weeks at a much slower rate. The flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and other pollinators and make pretty cut flower bouquets, though once cut, they only have a lifespan of around three days.

Pruning

Once established, this plant requires very little maintenance, aside from occasional watering. Once the flowers are spent, you should cut back the spikes to ground level, as the flowers on these will not re-bloom. The removal of the spikes will encourage the plant's energy to be diverted towards foliage growth. You can also deadhead the flowers during the growing season to maintain a well-kept look and prevent fallen flowers from covering the foliage, which might result in fungal growth.

Each spring, you can prune the foliage of your coral bells plant to keep it looking neat, as it can become a little disheveled looking as it ages, though this isn’t completely necessary. Cut out any dead or damaged foliage, and then look for woody stems that have no new growth on them. These can be pruned out to give the plant a fresh look and also aid in air circulation to promote the health of the plant.

Propagation

Coral bells can be propagated from seed, stem cuttings, and through division. To grow from seed, you can sow them indoors in seed trays or directly in the ground outside. Growing indoors will give you a head start on the season, as you can sow them anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks before the final frost is expected.

To sow the seeds, scatter them sparsely over moist potting soil. Each seedpod contains many seeds, so they shouldn’t be too close together. Don’t cover the seeds over as they need light to germinate. Mist them with water periodically to maintain slightly moist soil. The seeds typically germinate in 2 to 8 weeks. Their roots develop quickly, so you will need to thin them out quite quickly once they have several leaves to prevent the seedling from becoming too tangled.

Their roots are quite robust, and the plants can survive with even heavy damage to the roots, so don’t worry if you have to break a few roots in order to separate the seedlings. Move the seedlings to larger pots or plant them directly outside if the last frost has passed.

You can also sow the seeds outdoors with the same method, but you will need to wait until any frost risk has passed. Propagating from seed works well for coral bells, but it may not produce a plant identical to the parent. If you want the plant to be a copy of the parent, you will need to propagate from stem cuttings or division.

 Coral bells are typically ripe for division around 3 or 4 years into their lives. They can become overgrown and messy, so dividing them helps to rejuvenate them and also gives you more plants for the rest of your garden. To divide the plant, carefully dig up the roots and tease them apart with your hands, then use a sharp tool to cut the remaining tangled roots and the crown of the plant. It is wise to take as much care as possible not to damage the plant when dividing, but it will be able to sustain a reasonable amount of damage and still be able to grow well when re-planted.

What’s your favorite variety of heuchera? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to share this page with other gardeners!

Heuchera (Coral Bells) - Species, Growing & Caring Info

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