Coral Bells, Alumroot

Coral bells is a low-maintenance plant that blooms from spring to summer.

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Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
Botanical name: Heuchera
Hardiness: USDA Zones (3)4 to 8(9), depending on species

Coral bells is a superb low maintenance perennial valued more for its foliage than for its delicate flowers. Multi-colored foliage is mostly basal and comes in a variety of colors, from silvery purple to lime green to peach. May be evergreen or semi-evergreen. Airy flower spikes (panicles) rise above foliage and come in pink, red and white. Flowers appear in spring to summer. Plant size ranges from 12 to 36 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide.

How to use it: In masses, for edging, as a specimen plant and in containers. Use in a mixed perennial border or in a woodland shade garden. Combine with other shade-loving plants, including hosta and impatiens.

Culture: Prefers a rich, moist but well-draining site. Some species, like H. sanguinea, don't tolerate clayey or acidic soils. Plant in full sun (North) or partial shade (South). Deadhead flowers to prolong bloom time. Provide a generous layer of mulch to help see it through winter and prevent heaving. Propagated through seed, cuttings or division. No serious pest or disease problems.

Special notes: Several growers have hybridized and selected many cultivars featuring different foliage and bloom colors. Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nursery has done significant work with tissue culture in crossing Heuchera with Tiarella to create Heucherella. Attracts hummingbirds.

Selected cultivars and species

  • H. micrantha 'Palace Purple'. Excellent, durable plant. Features burgundy to dark purple foliage. May be listed under different names, including H. americana. 1991 Perennial Plant of the Year. USDA Zones 4 to 8.

  • Coral bells (H. sanguinea). Native to Arizona and New Mexico. Plant size ranges from 12 to 20 inches tall and 12 inches wide. Attracts hummingbirds. Cutflower. Zones 3 to 8.

  • American alumroot (H. americana). Valued for its foliage interest and durability in the landscape. Plant size is 12 to 24 inches tall with flower spikes to 36 inches tall. Zones 4 to 9.

  • Cultivars include 'Amber Waves', 'Amethyst Myst', 'Cathedral Windows', 'Chocolate Ruffles' and 'Velvet Night'.

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