Heuchera Hybrids (Coral Bells)
For years, heucheras that grew natively in woodland and mountain areas of the Americas served gardens mainly as dependable ground covers and neat perennial borders. Hummingbirds as well as gardeners have long loved the blossoms.
Species and Hybrids
Many naturally occurring Heuchera species have undergone a number of changes. Both appearance and performance of numerous hybrids now bring dazzling foliage even more alluring than their blossoms to numerous garden sites.
- The species Heuchera sanguinea—native to the American southwest and commonly called coral bells or alum root—was the first to come into prominence. Its airy, red, white, or pink bell-shaped flowers line slender stems above compact, evergreen foliage mounds.
- California natives Heuchera maxima and Heuchera micrantha have been crossed with other species and are parents of many easy-to-grow hybrids.
- ‘Old La Rochette’ produces 2 ft. tall stems with crowds of long-lasting pink blossoms in spring above clumps of green foliage that slowly spread, creating colonies in shade or partial shade. Flowering often repeats in summer.
- ‘Opal’ blooms in white but flowers turn pink as they age.
- ‘Palace Purple’ is renowned for its deep purple, maple-like foliage in sun or part shade, tolerant of both coastal conditions and clay, needing only moderate water.
- ‘Santa Ana Cardinal’ and similar ‘Susanna’ are deep red.
- Plant breeders have produced heucheras with foliage in a wide array of colors other than green: burgundy, brown, peach, chartreuse, violet, mahogany, and even silver and black.
- Blends of red and violet, red and orange, orange and yellow, yellow and green are among the most alluring.
- Many, as they mature, may change slightly in coloration and even display one hue on top of their leaves and another beneath.
- Some heucherashave large and highly colored flowers that bloom from early spring into the fall. Others may feature crinkled or ruffled leaves that make attractive fillers in containers and garden beds, especially when contrasted with taller plants.
Design and Care
From a design perspective, heucheras look most attractive when the same or similar foliage colors are massed together rather than in a mix of several different leaf forms and hues.
- In early spring, remove any dead or ragged leaves and any offshoots that detract from the main clump, but remove spent flower stems after each bloom period.
- Sufficient light is needed for reliable blossoming, but full sun is usually not tolerated inland. In areas with hot summers, plants—especially those with yellow-green tones—should be positioned in partial shade with filtered light or in a northern exposure.
- Many new selections take full morning sun, especially when grown in cooler areas of Sonoma County.
- In any site, hybrid heucheras require regular water in moist, well-drained soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. Mature plants may require less water in shaded sites.
- Apply mulch around the base after planting. Renew as needed.
- Plants may be divided every 3-4 years when the centers become crowded with short, thick woody stalks.
- To rejuvenate, lift an entire clump, cut away older gnarled root stalks, and replant the youngest growth.