Looking for an easy-care plant that adds lots of color and texture to your garden all season long? Learn how to grow and care for the heuchera plant with these simple tips.
Through the years, I’ve come to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of these versatile plants.
Have you grown coral bells before?
Not only is their foliage bold and colorful, but heucheras bloom with these pretty dainty bell-shaped flowers too.
Incorporating heuchera into your garden is a fantastic way to add color and texture while keeping your maintenance workload low.
Learn how to grow heucheras with these simple tips.
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About Heuchera Plant
Heuchera, also known as coral bells, is a member of the Saxifragaceae family and native to North America.
The common name, coral bells, refers to the plant’s bell-shaped flowers, while another common name, alumroot, refers to its medicinal properties.
This group of herbaceous evergreen perennial plants is most known for its striking foliage as the color ranges from shades of green to deep purples, bronzes, silvers, and oranges. And some varieties have multicolored or variegated leaves, adding to their visual appeal.
Coral bells produce delicate, bell-shaped flowers on tall stems but the plants generally range in size from small to medium depending on the specific cultivar and growing conditions. Their mature size could be about 12-18 inches tall and wide.
Coral Bells are known to grow well in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 9. They may benefit from some winter protection, such as mulch or a layer of leaves in colder regions of these zones.
How to Grow Heucheras
Coral Bells have specific preferences when it comes to soil and sunlight conditions. Here’s what you need to know.
- Well-Draining Soil: Heuchera plants prefer well-draining soil that is not waterlogged. Amend heavy clay soils with organic matter, like compost and leaf mold, can help improve drainage.
- Neutral to Slightly Acidic pH: Coral Bells generally thrive in soil with a pH level that is slightly acidic. Test your soil’s pH and adjust it if necessary.
- Sun-to-Part Shade: Coral Bells prefer a sun-to-part-shade location. I’ve got a few in some shadier spots and they do well as long as the soil drains. In my zone 6a garden, they do best in part-shade.
- Variety-Specific Preferences: Some Huechera cultivars may tolerate more sun than others, so it’s a good idea to check the grower’s recommendations for the variety you’re planting.
Planting Coral Bells
If this is your first time planting coral bells, there are a few things to keep in mind. In general, space heucheras about about 12-18 inches apart to allow for proper air circulation.
Then, dig a hole the same depth as the root ball and twice as wide. Place the plant in the hole and backfill it with garden soil. Water well and keep it hydrated until it establishes.
Caring for Huechera
Once your Heuchera is in the ground, here’s how to keep it healthy and happy.
- Watering: Water regularly to keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. During dry spells, provide extra water if necessary.
- Mulch: Apply a 2-4 inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
- Pruning: Trim any dead or damaged leaves in spring to encourage new growth.
- Fertilizing: Coral bells do not need to be fertilized. Instead, focus on soil quality by amending it yearly with organic matter.
Common Pest and Disease Problems
Coral Bells are often considered to be deer-resistant, but it’s important to note that even deer-resistant plants can still be damaged by deer if they are hungry enough.
Heuchera’s resistance to deer is due to its textured and somewhat fuzzy foliage, which deer tend to find less appealing compared to other, more susceptible plants.
While heucheras are generally hardy and low-maintenance, they sometimes experience problems with mealy bugs, powdery mildew, leaf spot, and rust.
5 Reasons You Should Grow Coral Bells
There are plenty of reasons to consider adding heuchera plants to your garden:
- Low Maintenance: Coral Bells is one of those “set it and forget it” plants. Once established, they require minimal care.
- Year-Round Interest: These beauties are not just a one-season wonder. Their foliage stays vibrant throughout the year, making them perfect for all seasons.
- Versatile Colors: Huechera comes in a wide range of leaf colors, from deep purples and greens to silvers and bronzes, ensuring you can find the perfect hue for your garden.
- Attracts Pollinators: Huechera’s delicate flowers are irresistible to pollinators like bees and butterflies, contributing to a healthy ecosystem.
- Great Alternative to Chrysanthemums in Fall: While chrysanthemums are a go-to fall plant, you can get more longevity out of coral bells both in and out of the garden.
Why Heucheras Are Better Than Chrysanthemums in the Fall
Heucheras are a fantastic alternative to the traditional fall favorite chrysanthemums. Here’s why.
They are generally easier to grow, are more resilient, and can handle warmer climates. Unlike mums, which require meticulous deadheading and regular maintenance to thrive, heucheras are best known for their low-maintenance nature.
These perennial beauties are more forgiving, offering gardeners a hassle-free option for fall color because you can plant them when you are ready to decorate for fall and they will last without the extra work.
I mean, have you ever bought chrysanthemums in late August or early September only to have them succumb because they dried out super fast in the heat?
Coral bells establish quickly, and with their diverse array of foliage colors, from deep burgundy to vibrant greens, you get not only the classic fall feel but also year-round visual interest.
Now, I’m not suggesting you don’t plant garden mums in fall. But to me, heucheras are a safer bet to get the fall feels earlier in the season.
You can plant them in the landscape when the season is over and they’ll return the following year with ease. Yes, mums can be perennial too, but I’ve found them to be 50/50 with returning the following season.
So to me, it’s better to plant perennials that will do the same kind of work without the additional effort.
Coral Bells FAQs
Does Huechera come back every year?
Yes, Huechera is a perennial plant, which means it comes back year after year. It is known for its ability to return and thrive in the garden for multiple growing seasons without the need for replanting.
And because they return yearly, you get that color in the garden from their beautiful foliage all season long.
How do I propagate heuchera?
Propagating coral cells is pretty easy to do and can be accomplished in a few ways.
Early spring or fall is the ideal time for dividing Heuchera. If you’ve never divided a perennial before, it is pretty easy to do and really benefits the plant.
Not to mention, you get more plants from doing it. Here’s how to divide coral bell plants.
- Prepare the Plant: Choose a mature heuchera plant that has been growing for a few years. Carefully dig up the entire plant, including the root ball, using a garden fork or spade shovel.
- Separate the Clumps: Separate the clumps of Heuchera into smaller sections. Each section should have healthy roots and several shoots or rosettes. You may be able to pull them apart with your hands, but I find it easier to split them with a spade shovel.
- Trim and Replant: Trim any damaged or overly long roots and remove any dead or unhealthy foliage. Then, replant the divided sections in well-prepared, well-draining soil at the same depth they were previously growing. Space them apart as needed based on the specific variety’s mature size.
- Water: Water the newly planted divisions thoroughly to help them establish.
Another method of propagation is via leaf cutting. I don’t usually do it this way as I prefer dividing them, but it is possible to do it this way.
Take leaf cuttings in late spring or early summer. Dip it in rooting hormone, and place it in sterile media like peat moss and perlite.
Cover with plastic wrap or a clear cover to keep it humid and place it in a bright, indirect light location.
Keep the rooting medium consistently moist but not waterlogged. After several weeks, roots should develop. Then transplant cuttings into individual pots or directly into the garden.
Seeding Heuchera Plants
In addition to division and leaf cuttings, seeds can be sown in late winter if you have access to a greenhouse or other indoor growing space.
I’d check with your local cooperative extension to see what they suggest for starting coral bells from seed as I’ve never done it before.
To me, different heuchera varieties are pretty easy to find, so why waste indoor growing space and efforts to start them from seed?
Propagation allows you to create new Coral Bell plants from an existing one, giving you more opportunities to enjoy these beautiful and low-maintenance perennials in your garden.
Can I grow Coral Bells in containers?
Growing Coral Bells in containers is an excellent way to enjoy these beautiful perennials even if you have limited garden space. Here’s how to grow Heuchera in containers successfully:
- Choose a container that is at least 12 inches in diameter and has drainage holes.
- Use a well-draining potting mix specifically designed for container gardening. You can also mix your own using a combination of potting soil with leaf mold perlite or vermiculite for improved drainage.
- Fill the container with the potting mix, leaving a few inches at the top.
- Remove the heuchera plant from its nursery pot, gently loosen the roots and plant it in the container. Make sure it sits at the same depth it was in the nursery pot.
- Water the plant thoroughly after planting.
- Place your container in a sunny to partial shade location.
- Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. However, containers can dry out quickly, so monitor them, especially during hot weather. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Use a drip irrigation system set on a timer to keep watering plants easier during the summer months.
- Feed potted Heucheras with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring and perhaps again in mid-summer if it shows signs of nutrient deficiency. Because nutrients wash out of the soil each time you water it may be necessary to feed them. If you prefer to be more organic about it, apply compost and leaf mold to containers or feed them with compost tea.
- Apply a layer of mulch on top of the potting mix to help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.
- Trim any dead or damaged leaves as needed to maintain the plant’s appearance and encourage new growth.
- In colder climates, Heuchera in containers may need some protection during the winter. Move the container to a sheltered location, provide mulch around the base of the plant, and cover it with a breathable material like burlap to prevent frost damage.
- Every few years, consider repotting your Heuchera into a slightly larger container if necessary with fresh potting mix, compost, and leaf mold to ensure healthy growth. When you repot, I suggest dividing it as well to keep the plant healthy.
Should Heuchera be cut back for winter?
Heuchera typically does not require extensive pruning or cutting back for winter, but there are some maintenance steps you can take to help your plants through the colder months:
- Remove Dead Foliage: As the Huechera plant goes dormant in the winter, it’s a good idea to remove any dead or decaying foliage.
- Mulch: Applying a layer of mulch around the base of your Heuchera plant can help protect the roots and keep the soil temperature more stable during winter. Be sure not to mound mulch against the crown of the plant, as this can lead to rot.
- Provide Winter Protection: In colder climates, especially if you’re growing Huechera in containers or if there’s a risk of severe winter weather, you may consider providing additional protection, such as covering them with burlap.
- Minimal Pruning: While you can do some light pruning to remove dead foliage, avoid heavy pruning in the fall because it may stimulate new growth that can be vulnerable to winter cold. Heuchera typically benefits from cleaning up in the spring when new growth begins.
When is the best time to prune Coral Bells?
The best time to prune Huechera is in the spring, preferably in early to mid-spring. Pruning at this time allows you to remove winter damage and promote new growth.
Here’s how to go about pruning Heuchera plants in the spring:
- Use clean, sharp pruning shears or scissors to snip off any dead or damaged leaves or stems at their base. Make clean cuts to avoid causing additional stress to the plant.
- While coral bells generally don’t require heavy pruning for shape, you can lightly trim or thin out the plant if it’s becoming overly dense or if you want to encourage better air circulation.
- Collect the trimmed foliage and dispose of it in your compost pile or yard waste bin.
Does Heuchera like the sun or shade?
Coral Bells generally prefer to grow in the sun to partial shade. I have a few in almost full sun, but most of my heuchera plants are in partial shade and seem to really love it there.
However, the ideal lighting conditions for Heuchera can vary depending on your local climate.
Can coral bells thrive in full shade?
Yes, Heuchera can thrive in full shade. In fact, many coral bell varieties are well-suited for growing in areas with limited or dappled sunlight.
While heucheras are grown for their striking foliage it can be a standout feature among other shade-tolerant plants.
In more shade, you may experience fewer or smaller blooms and less growth as compared to Huechera plants in partial shade.
While they can produce delicate, bell-shaped flowers, these are often not as prolific as the vibrant foliage.
But, at the end of the day, the variety matters because they may have different degrees of shade tolerance. Some may perform better in full shade than others, so it’s a good idea to select varieties that are well-suited for the light conditions you have.
What are some popular varieties of Coral Bells?
There are numerous varieties of Coral Bells, each offering unique foliage colors, textures, and characteristics. Here are some popular varieties known for their beauty and garden appeal.
- Dolce Peachberry Ice
- Dolce Apple Twist
- Dolce Appletini
- Primo Black Pearl
- Dolce Wildberry
- Dolce Cherry Truffles
- Dressed Up Evening Gown
- Palace Purple
- Lime Rickey
- Berry Smoothie
- Georgia Peach
- Midnight Rose
- Electric Lime
- Peppermint Spice
More About Growing Heuchera
Are you growing coral bells? If so, do you have a favorite variety? I would love to know more in the comments below.
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Garden Supplies I Use
I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. From pruners to deer repellents, here are some of my favorites in no particular order.
- I like to use a good-quality, potting soil, garden soil, compost, and perlite when planting. While I make my own compost, you can easily buy it ready-made for use.
- I have used this deer repellent with great success. But now, I’m all about this deer repellent that is systemic instead of topical. This means the plant takes it in as opposed to it just smelling bad.
- Hands down this is my favorite hand-weeding tool. You can use it to get underneath roots and loosen soil, and it cuts down on the weeding time because you work much faster.
- But I also love this long, stand-up weeding tool to really get around roses from afar.
- I use THIS ORGANIC FERTILIZER for roses because the blooms are more prolific and it’s organic.
- And I use this organic fertilizer for my vegetables and herbs in the potager garden.
- You’ll need a sharp set of pruners when working with plants and flowers. I buy a few so I can stash them around.
- I use these garden snips to deadhead and cut flowers from my gardens.
- Where pest and disease problems are concerned, if I need to, I generally use this insecticidal soap or neem oil to help control infestations depending on the issue. When using, only apply when pollinators are less active.
- This is my favorite set-and-forget slow-release fertilizer for houseplants, annuals, and container gardens.
- Whenever I stake my peonies or other plants, I generally use these grow-through garden supports because they work really well and keep the blooms upright.
Looking for Ways to Grow a Healthy Garden?
If you want to grow a garden that is beautiful, healthy, and full of plants and flowers, it starts with good healthy soil.
In addition to managing weeds, it is so important to improve your garden soil both when you start a new garden, as well as over time.
One of the best ways to improve your soil is to make compost. It’s very easy to do and I’ve got a great recipe for it.
Plus, it’s much less expensive to make your own than to purchase from the garden nursery.
In addition to making your own compost, gather all those leaves in fall and early spring to make leaf mold to improve the health of your garden soil too.
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I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years. With a deep passion for gardening, I enjoy helping others find their inner green thumb with all things plants and flowers, as well as find ways to bring the outdoors inside their homes too.
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