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Heuchera

Coral Bells, Alum Root
Saxifragaceae
Evergreen, Perennials

Compact evergreen clumps of roundish leaves with lobed or scalloped edges. A vast array are grown for their colorful foliage. Slender, wiry, 1–3-ft. stems bear loose clusters of nodding, bell-shaped flowers, typically 1/8 in. across or smaller. Dainty blossoms consist of colorful fused sepals and often lack petals; they are long lasting in cut arrangements. Color range includes shades of red to pink (attractive to hummingbirds) and less showy white or green. Bloom time varies by type from early spring to late summer; some kinds continue into fall.

Use in rock gardens or as groundcover, mass in borders or in front of shrubs, or use as edging for beds of taller perennials. They make good container plants, especially when combined with other perennials and even small shrubs.

Grow in well-drained, humus-rich soil. Will take full sun in cool climates, but in warmer regions they do best with afternoon shade or a northern exposure with open sky above. Divide clumps every 3 or 4 years in spring (or in fall in mild-winter climates). Use young, vigorous rooted divisions, or cut old woody stems to within an inch of the ground and let them regrow. Easy to propagate from cuttings started in sand in spring or from seed sown in spring. Strawberry root weevils chew on foliage, but these can be shaken off lifted plants. Mealybugs can damage base of plants; treat with insecticidal soap.

Heuchera hybrids

Most of these have as a parent H. americana, a species from the central U.S. that forms a mound 8 in. to 2 ft. high and wide, with leaves 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 in. across, marbled and veined. These varieties have been selected for their marvelously colored and sometimes ruffled foliage. Tiny summer flowers are held on thin stalks to 3 ft. high and are white to cream unless otherwise noted.

Heuchera maxima (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)
Heuchera maxima (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)

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Heuchera maxima

Native to the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. Foliage clumps grow to 1–2 ft. high, spreading 3–4 ft. or more in time. Lobed dark green leaves have a roundish heart shape. Hundreds of small whitish or pinkish blossoms appear on each narrowly branched 1 1/2–2 1/2-ft. stem in early spring. Good casual groundcover.

Heuchera micrantha (photo courtesy of Kimberley Navabpour)
Heuchera micrantha (photo courtesy of Kimberley Navabpour)

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Heuchera micrantha

Native to California, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Plant in a protected spot in coldest part of the range; in the desert, give full shade but good light. Long-stalked, roundish, gray-green leaves to 3 in. wide form attractive mounds. Late spring to early summer flowers are whitish or greenish, about 1–8 in. long, carried in loose clusters on leafy, 2–3-ft. stems. ‘Martha Roderick’ has bright green leaves and profuse rose-pink flowers. ‘Painted Lady’ has purple leaves marked with silvery gray. ‘Palace Purple’ has maplelike, rich brownish or purplish leaves that retain their color all year if given adequate sunlight. Leaves of ‘Ruffles’ are deeply lobed and ruffled around the edges.

Heuchera Rancho Santa Ana hybrids

These hybrids between H. sanguinea and H. maxima are vigorous and free flowering. Foliage clumps grow to 1–2 ft. high and 2–4 ft. wide, with leaves up to 4 in. across. Stems 2–3 ft. high carry a profusion of small flowers. Long bloom season, from late spring through summer, nearly all year in mild-winter areas. ‘Genevieve’ has green leaves marbled with gray; deep pink, white-centered flowers. ‘Opal’ has medium green leaves and white flowers that open from pink buds. ‘Santa Ana Cardinal’ sports shiny dark green leaves and rose-pink flowers. Leaves of ‘Wendy’ are light green, pretty in combination with its medium pink flowers.

Heuchera sanguinea ‘White Cloud’ (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)
Heuchera sanguinea ‘White Cloud’ (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)

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Heuchera sanguinea

Native to New Mexico and Arizona. Round, 1–2-in. leaves with scalloped edges form neat foliage tufts. From spring into summer, slender, wiry, 1–2-ft. stems bear open clusters of nodding, bell-shaped, red, white, or pink flowers.

‘Bella Blanca’

This is a miniature, mat-forming, under-oak groundcover that grows 2 in. tall and freely bears white flower spikes on stems that rise 4–8 in. above the foliage.

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