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There are approximately 50 native Heuchera (hew-ker-ah) species, all from North America. Common names include alumroot and coral bells. Coral bells because of the terra cotta colored, tiny bell-shaped flowers that appeared on tall wiry stems rising above the basal foliage. . With a wide array of today's available leaf colors, including amber, burgundy, butterscotch, bronze, green, gold, purple, silver and yellow, plus many variegated patterns, Heuchera offers a subtle, refined beauty option for any garden. Leaf coloration of some varieties may even change their environment and /or the season.
Heucheras are easy perennials to grow and fit nicely in the front of any border, rock garden, or container. They grow most vigorously and have the strongest colors when grown in partial shade (preferably afternoon shade). They can also be grown in full shade but their growth rate will be very slow. Some varieties can withstand full sun in northern climates if they have consistent moisture, but their colors tend to fade with the intensity of the sun. The soil should be amended with organic matter prior to planting. It should also have good drainage and a neutral pH.
Heucheras are evergreen in areas with mild winters. If properly sited out of the way of winter winds and with reliable snow cover, gardeners in northern regions may also find their heucheras acting as evergreens. If the plant looks tattered by early spring, shear off any damaged leaves to make room for the vibrant new foliage which will fill in quickly.
Heucheras are also salt tolerant. They are useful in northern zones along pathways which are salted in winter or for people gardening in coastal regions. Occasionally in northern regions, heucheras have a tendency to heave out of the ground because of the freeze/thaw cycle. To combat heaving, add an extra layer of compost around the plant's roots in the fall. In the spring, if the plants have heaved, the new roots will grow into the fresh new layer of compost.
Heucheras will perform best in organically rich, humus, medium wet, well-drained soil with a neutral pH. Performs well in full sun in the north, but prefers some afternoon shade in the south. If grown in full sun, consistent moisture is particularly important. They grow most vigorously and have the stongest colors when grown in partial shade (preferably afternoon shade). They can also be grown in full shade but their growth rate will be very slow.
Coral bells are easy to grow and blend easily with most other perennials in the landscape. Because of their low, mounding habit, they are often used as edging along paths or in containers. Remove stems of faded flowers to encourage additional bloom. Foliage is essentially evergreen in warm winter climates, but the amount of retained foliage color in cold winter climates depends upon the temperatures. In cold winter climates, winter mulch applied after the ground freezes will help prevent root heaving. Clumps may be divided in the spring every 3 to 4 years
Attributes: Border plants, Container, Cut flower or foliage, Edging, Mass planting, Salt Tolerant, Specimen or focal point plant, Deer resistant, Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
PLANTING: Space plants 12 inches apart. Choose a sunny (in northern zones) or lightly shaded, sheltered location where the soil is rich and well-drained.
MAINTENANCE: Water during periods of drought. Apply protective winter mulch once the ground has frozen. Plants may, if necessary, be divided every 3 to 4 years.