Island Alum Root
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.
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.
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