Heuchera, also known by the common names Coral Bells or Alumroot, is a sensational shade plant that is very easy to grow. These plants are generally pest-free and require little care once established. This shade loving perennial is grown almost exclusively for its vibrant colorful foliage and they are gorgeous! Check out these colors:
Heuchera are a herbaceous perennial plant that is native to North America and it’s root is known to have medicinal qualities which is where the common name alumroot comes from.
Heuchera have been placed in the Saxifragaceae plant family which also includes perennial favorites like astilbe, bergenia, and tiarella (foam flowers). In fact, the tiarella has been crossed with the heuchera to create the heucherella!
The heuchera is a relatively small perennial at between 10 and 20 inches tall with flower stems that reach 1 to 2 feet above the colorful foliage. The size of the leaves vary by variety. They can quite petite or as large as your hand!
Foliage and Flowers
The foliage of the heuchera is the main attraction to this plant. With so many colors of foliage to choose from, there is just the right heuchera to light up a shady corner in any landscape.
Heuchera does produce lovely delicate flowers on long 1 to 2 foot stems in early to mid summer. The flowers are less showy than the foliage but they do add subtle beauty. The flowers also attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. The flowers make a beautiful filler for any cut flower arrangement.
Growing Requirements and Care
Heuchera will grow as a perennial in zones 3-8, depending on the variety. These plants grow best in part sun, although different varieties tolerate different conditions. In general, darker colored varieties are able to withstand more sunlight than lighter colored varieties.
Heuchera grow best in neutral to slightly acidic moist well-drained soil. Good drainage is a must in order to avoid root rot situations. Add a good amount of compost to the soil when you plant your heuchera to improve soil structure and add nutrients to the soil. Once your newly planted heuchera begins to sprout new leaves, add a slow release fertilizer to the soil to give the plant an extra boost. Every spring add a good helping of compost and some slow release fertilizer to your heuchera plant to keep it happy and healthy all season long.
Heuchera should be watered deeply once or twice a week depending on temperature and soil conditions. Heuchera grow best when the ground is mulched to keep it moist but keep mulch one to two inches away from the stem to avoid stem rot issues.
Heuchera can be a beautiful addition to rock gardens, especially on slopes where the drainage is good. Additionally, it’s easily grown as a potted plant to provide just the right punch of color for a mixed planter!
- Powdery Mildew is a fungus that looks like baby powder on the leaf of the plant. It may also infect the stems, fruits, and flowers. During hot wet weather, use a preventative fungicide before symptoms appear. Natural neem oil is effective at preventing and treating powdery mildew. As always, carefully read and follow the directions on any garden chemicals before use.
- Powdery mildew fungi will overwinter in plant material so any plant debris (like fallen leaves) affected by this fungi should be thrown away. Do not place infected plant material in the compost or it will spread the disease.
- Spores spread on the wind and will take up residence on wet plant leaves so water using soaker hose or drip irrigation system to keep root moist and plants dry.
- Downy Mildew is caused by a parasitic organism that is not a true fungus but has some fungal qualities. Downy mildew tends to appear in spring during cool damp weather. It appears as a fuzzy white, grey, purple, or brown growth on the underside of the leaf. Yellow or brown spots may be seen on the top of the infected leaf. There are few chemical controls available to the home gardener for this disease but Bonide makes a product called “Liquid Copper Fungicide” that can be used to help control downy mildew.
- Remove infected plant material as soon as possible and as Downy Mildew survives the winter on dead plant material, clean up dead plant material in the fall. Discard it in the trash. Don’t place it in the compost pile or the disease will spread.
- This disease is spread through water so use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to water plants.
- Stem Rot can be caused by a number of issues from injuries to fungal issues related to overwatering and wet conditions. To avoid stem injury, keep all mulch several inches away from the stem. This will also help with wet conditions. Make sure to water deeply once or twice a week and avoid quick frequent waterings, especially water on the leaves and stem. It’s best to water the ground around the heuchera and avoid getting the plant wet. Stem rot can also be caused by a fungus so care in watering is very important.
- Once stem rot has occurred, a fungal spray may help but most often the plant will need to be removed.
- Aphids are a common pest among garden plants but they are relatively easy to control. I use a soap and water mixture as a natural remedy to control aphids. You can also encourage carnivorous insects like ladybugs and lacewings to take up residence in your garden to help control unwanted insects like aphids. Manufactured sprays containing pyrethrins can also be used to control aphids but some of these sprays will kill beneficial insects like butterflies and bees so use with caution.
- Weevils may cause damage to the leaves and roots of the heuchera. In the larval stage, weevils look like worms or grubs in the ground. In the adult stage, these bugs look like black beatle-type insects. To control root weevils, parasitic nematodes are added to the soil to kill the larvae and a shallow bowl of water will attract the adult beetles. The adults will crawl into the water and drown. Synthetic pesticides can also be used to control weevils as well. Read and follow the directions on all manufactured pesticides before use.
Heuchera is an exquisite garden perennial with colors that will light up any shade garden. They are extremely easy to grow and are versitile enough to grow in planters as well as a rock garden. Add a few to your garden to add a shock of color!
Quote of the Day
“Happiness radiates like the fragrance from a flower and draws all good things towards you.”
– Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Indian Philosopher