Sunday, January 30, 2011

H for Heuchera

Heuchera sounds like we should hire a mariachi band!  But Heucheras are hot even in the north!
You may know Heuchera by the common name:  Coral Bells. 

Coral Bells - pretty name, pretty flower, hardy and shade tolerant.  Whew babe, bring her on! 

With our woods covering two-thirds of our property, I'm always on the lookout for shade tolerant plants.  Not only shade tolerant, but they must be flexible between times where it's wet and times where they are bone dry.  Not an easy assignment for any plant.  
This is Lime Rickey Heuchera (mine was a Monrovia.)

Native shade growing plants are easiest and I've slowly introduced other shade lovers starting in partial shade and moving towards more dense covering.  Naturally, hostas and ferns play a big roll in my landscape.  I am still on the look-out for shade lovers that want to bloom their little hearts out and have bright foliage - Coral Bells fills that category easily.

Coral Bell flowers are held above the foliage, on very thin stems and the flowers are dainty little bells.  Most bloom in the spring.  I think the flowers quite lovely and they attract hummingbirds, bees and other nectar loving insects.  

They are hardy Zone 4-8, at least.  On average the foliage is about a foot high.  They can stand part sun but prefer part shade.  New hybrids are pushing the boundaries (some genetically produced as in the Heucherella aka foamflower).  Read the labels before you buy to make sure it suits your gardens. They are a native of many regions in the US and that means they have varying attributes and needs.  Amazingly, these plants are also known as alumroot (yes the alum in the previous article).  The roots were basically used for those same purposes by Native Americans. 

Foliage are shades of green, chartreuse, gold, maroon, bronze-purple, orange, silver, ruby red,  mottled, inlaid, and more.  They are evergreen and the foliage stays nice in the winter (if not covered by snow all the time.) They do best in well drained average soil and can benefit from manure or 5-10-5 chemical application.  They have few pests or disease problems.  

Clean-up:  You may deadhead or cut back the stems when it's finished blooming.  Gently rake out any dead leaves in the spring.  If it has mildew, it needs to be moved to a dryer location.  Do not plant if you have Walnut trees.  And that's the story of my efforts to have Coral Bells - I have walnuts.  Coral Bells are so sensitive to walnut toxin they have never made it through the first summer.  For the rest of you - enjoy this beauty.  

Coral Bells are found at every local nursery I've ever visited and certainly large selections by catalog or on line.   Distinctive Gardens of Dixon has over 25 varieties, Sunnyfield of Kewanee over 25 varieties, and Red Barn Nursery of Sheffield will have varieties.  Look at your favorite summer garden shops as they often offer some very choice selections if you get there early enough.  I prefer the local stock for Coral Bells because they are always larger plants and acclimated to our zone.  (I base much of this on the years prior to our living in the Twilight Walnut Zone.) 

Now, about that new garden hat . . . 

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