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A Focus on Heuchera

This month we have a focus on Heuchera, with its vibrant leaf colours and great ground coverage, Heuchera brings something to the garden all year round. They are fully hardy so can be planted out at any time including the winter! In the summer they produce tiny flowers that bring a little extra colour to our gardens.

Easy to care for they are a genus of 37 species in the saxifrage family Saxifragaceae and native to North America. Wild varieties are known as alumroots while more domesticated varieties are known as coral bells. 

The genus was named after Johann Heinrich von Heucher, an 18th-century German physician who participated in the founding of the Wittenberg Botanical Garden. 

The majority of Heuchera sold for gardens are hybrids of the Heuchera Americana and are small, under 2 ft high, evergreen perennials. Some have also been crossed with closely related tiarellas to produce heucherellas.

Over time gardeners and horticulturists have developed a number of hybrids between various species producing a variety of blossom sizes, shapes and colours. Their leaves are often in shades of green, pink, and bronze which can be marbled, veiny, scalloped or wavy, providing textural interest. They develop long stems that produce white, green, pink or red flowers through the spring and summer months.

As part of our, A Focus on Heuchera, we have included some frequently asked questions below.

Where can I grow Heuchera?

They are compact plants that thrive in partial or dappled shade and are great in small spaces or containers. Their foliage reaches around 20-30 cm in height and width and forms mounds. The darker the leaf the more they will tolerate the sun, take care if planting lighter leaf Heuchera as the sun can bleach and damage their leaves. 

Perfect under trees they are drought tolerant although they should not be forgotten and can bring much-needed colour to a shady spot in your garden.

Plant them in well-drained soil that won’t become soggy or waterlogged. If you are concerned the soil may be too wet it is a good idea to plant them in pots or containers. 

They don’t grow very high so can be planted in the front of borders or beds alongside other similar height plants. For impact plant a few varieties together, for example, the Heuchera Lime Marmalade, Heuchera Plum Pudding and the Heuchera Indian Summer Cranberry would look stunning together (They are also in our October sale with 30% off)

When should you plant Heuchera?

Ideally in the spring and autumn when the soil is warm and moist. Take advantage of planting in the autumn as it will give you a headstart in the spring. If they are in the ground they will start to grow as soon as the soil warms up in spring. 

Don’t forget they are fully hardy though so can be planted in the winter as long as the ground is not frozen. If you decide to plant in the summer the soil may be dry so make sure you water well to establish. 

How do you plant Heuchera?

As with all plants you should prepare your soil well so make sure you add some organic matter. We recommend Natural Grower products which we sell and can be added to your order. Make sure you add a little plant care to the soil around the plant as well as in the hole you have dug. This will encourage the roots to spread and grow. Be careful not to bury the crown of the Heuchera as it won’t like it and may rot. 

When should I water?

Water well during its first season in your garden as the plant needs to establish itself. Water near the base of the plant and try to avoid covering the leaves as this could encourage rotting. 

Once established they are pretty low maintenance, needing occasional watering unless there is a particularly dry spell when you may want to water more frequently. 

If you plant your Heuchera in pots it would be wise to factor them into your watering schedule for the spring and summer but remember not to overwater as they can quickly become waterlogged and then be prone to roots that rot. A liquid feed might also help as the compost  can run out of nutrients so it’s worth topping up to keep the plant healthy and looking good. 

Are there any problems associated with growing Heuchera?

As plants go they are pretty trouble-free although there has been a slight increase lately in Heuchera Rust, Leaf scorching can be another problem as mentioned earlier so make sure paler leaf colours are not planted in direct sunlight. You should also look out for vine weevils

If you have planted in heavy soil you may notice that the plant struggles to root properly and you may see roots running along the ground. This can be resolved by cutting away the surface roots and replanting but ensure that you dig in well-rotted compost or manure to allow the roots to establish themselves. 

To end our A Focus on Heuchera, here are a few quick questions gardeners often ask:

How do I stop them from getting leggy?

After a few years, they can clump and get leggy. Identify any woody stems and cut them back to just above the top of the crown where you should see buds of fresh growth.

Do slugs eat heucheras?

No, they are tough plants and slugs and snails don’t bother them.

What do you do with Heuchera in the winter?

Nothing, they are an evergreen perennial plant that keeps most of its leaves all year round. Come springtime you need only remove any dead leaves and check overall plant health. 

Is Heuchera poisonous to dogs?

All parts of this plant are non-toxic so you need not worry. 

Can you use them as cut flowers?

Yes but the flowers will only last a few days or so. 

Further Reading

Other plant-focused blogs that you may find useful include:

Plant of the Month – Heuchera

Planting Perennials

Drought Tolerant Plants, Tips and Advice