Discover a Western coral bells known for its ability to lure hummingbirds.
Grow coral bells for cut flowers? You bet, when the coral bells is Heuchera sanguinea. This North American native wildflower is also known as coral bells or alum root. Its range is the Desert Southwest—New Mexico and Arizona. This coral bells is the go-to plant for high heat. The green leaves stand up to heat with ease.
Since Heuchera sanguinea is native to the high heat of the desert, it tends to perform well in dry heat. This is not the coral bells to choose for Southern gardens, where heat comes with high humidity. Heuchera sanguinea also grows well in places like Colorado and Oregon, where it is frequently planted with Heuchera americana (American alum root).
What Heuchera sanguinea brings to the coral bells party is heat tolerance and outstanding flowers. Many modern coral bells are grown for their eye-catching leaves. While flowers appear, they are tiny and easily overlooked—and upstaged—by the wildly colorful foliage. That is not the case with Heuchera sanguinea. This Western native opens bright vermilion red flowers from late spring to summer.
As with other coral bells, Heuchera sanguinea blossoms have a bell shape and dangle from thin, dark stalks. In the garden, these bright red bells seem to float in mid-air. This is a heavy-duty hummingbird magnet, and gardeners count on this coral bells to bring hummers in by the dozen. Butterflies and other pollinators also visit blooms.
Gather flowers to use in bouquets. This is the best coral bells for including in a cutting garden. Snip flower stalks when blossoms fade, and you’ll be rewarded with a second flush of flower buds later in the growing season.
Heuchera sanguinea is hardy in Zones 3 to 9. The plants typically grow 12 to 18 inches tall and 9 to 12 inches wide. Leaves are solid green, with the traditional, scalloped coral bells shape—resembling a maple leaf. Leaf color is steady through the growing season, and plants remain evergreen in warmer regions.
‘Firefly’ is a selection of this native coral bells with even more fiery red in the blossom color. In Europe, ‘Firefly’ is registered as ‘Leuchkafer’. The cultivar ‘Ruby Bells’ opens blood-red flowers for a solid six to eight weeks starting in late spring. More blossoms appear in autumn if you snip spent flower stalks after blooms fade.
Like other coral bells, it’s important to dig and divide plants every three to four years. This helps to extend the life of the plant. Heuchera sanguinea is less likely to experience frost heave than modern coral bell hybrids, but in colder regions, it’s a good idea to tuck some compost around plants before winter.
Gardeners report great success with Heuchera sanguinea in heavy clay soil (think Alabama red clay), as well as in clay soil amended with organic matter. Like other coral bells, Heuchera sanguinea won’t stand wet soil in winter. In colder regions, make sure soil drains well to keep your plants alive.