Coral Bells: Heuchera
Coral Bells, aka Heuchera
There are so many flowers and plants that no one article (or even ten articles) could cover them all. Each variety has its own varieties, leading to hundreds more. However, one of the easiest to grow and most interesting in the garden is coral bells.Their botanical name is Heuchera and since they they grow well in my garden, I wrote this article.
To start with, coral bells are perennials and will come back year after year. They will also multiply on their own and after three or four years may need to be thinned out, but what a joy to have a plant that grows so well you have to "weed it out" every so many years! So if you're asking do coral bells spread, the answer is yes.
Easy to Grow
I was introduced to this plant by my daughter. When she bought her house, there were coral bells growing in her yard. I had never seen them before and thought they were fascinating. About the same time my mother-in-law asked me if I wanted some plants from her garden and lo and behold the purple coral bell was one of them! I immediately said yes and planted just one in my garden.
Having sand for soil it is not always easy to find plants that do well, but the good old coral bell grows well in just about any soil. I now have many coral bells divided off the original as well as a few I have purchased to compliment my collection.
They like sun or shade though in the north sun helps bring out their color. In the south they need to be planted in shade because the hot sun will burn their leaves and cause leaf scorching making the plant unhealthy and unattractive.
Different Uses - Different Varieties
Once upon a time, coral bells were grown for their dainty flowers, which by the way, attract hummingbirds and butterflies. As with so many plants and flowers, crossbreeding and special cultivations have made their leaves as attractive, if not more, to the gardener.
They can also be considered for ground cover. Remember I said they spread on their own? They can fill in any open area with their colorful leaves (and dainty flowers). They can grow up to three feet tall and just as wide under the right conditions.
Different varieties have different requirements though most like humus rich soil that is well drained. While I'm talking about different varieties, you might like to know that different varieties can also have different colored flowers, they are by no means all white. As I mentioned earlier they will tolerate full shade. If you are thinking of purchasing coral bells, just make sure the variety is suited to your gardening conditions. The best time to plant them is in the early spring and if planting more than one space a minimum of fourteen inches apart.
Different varieties come in different colors and sometimes the same color has a different variety...different leaf shapes, purple on top or purple on the bottom, some leaves have ruffled edges, some have smooth, straight edges.
Pruning Coral Bells
Since they may be evergreen in your area, it is always good to prune back the dead leaves in the spring. As with many flowering plants deadheading is a good practice. If plants are deadheaded you will get repeat blooms that could last through August!
You can prune during the summer as well. Use a sharp knife or clipper and cut any dead or diseased leaves anywhere on the plant. Remember to cut dead flowers off as well. While you're pruning you can cut off the older, outer leaves and trim the plant back to give it a neater appearance. Most people try to keep the shape nice and round so it is necessary to trim on all sides.
Dividing Coral Bells
The best time to divide is in the fall. Coral bells are fibrous roots and easy to divide. Some of the roots actually grow on top of the soil so it makes it very easy to tell where to cut the root off. If the roots aren't visible gently lift the plant out of the dirt to expose the root. Cut the roots into separate clumps about four inches wide and plant each clump separately. If there are smaller root clumps, cut them off and plant them separately as well. Remember to dig the hole twice as wide as your 'new clump' and deep enough to cover the root ball. Hold the foliage out of the hole as you back fill. After covering up the new plants, tamp the dirt around each new plant.
Give the new plants a good watering at transplant time. Thereafter, keep the soil moist but not soggy until the plants seem to have taken hold. Put some mulch around each plant remembering not to let the mulch touch the base of the plant.
I keep talking about the varieties of coral bells so I thought I'd give you a short list of their names:
No, those aren't foods, they are coral bells. To see more or order some of the above you can find tons of sites on the Internet.
I hope I've introduced you to this fun plant and you'll be adding it to your garden! Feel free to comment on this article and flower, I'd love to hear from you.
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