Tidy Up Heucheras

heucheraHeucheras, or coral bells, has risen markedly over the past 10 or so years, thanks to increased appreciation of foliage plants. In years past, these perennials were grown for their wands of nodding red flowers, which gave them the name coral bells. However nowadays many gardeners are drawn in by their colorful and highly textured leaves—made ever more diverse by breeders such as Terra Nova Nurseries, an Oregon-based company known for developing popular varieties including ‘Amber Waves’, ‘Amethyst Myst’, ‘Marmalade’, ‘Peach Flambe’ and more, including heat- and humidity-tolerant selections.

In many areas heuchera leaves persist over the winter, while the plant is dormant. Cold weather intensifies the attractive veining on certain varieties. New growth begins in spring, from the center of the plant. The old leaves can become ragged over the winter, particularly in windy sites.

In spring, tidy up heucheras to neaten their appearance and make room for healthy new growth. Cut back any damaged top growth. Pull out the oldest leaves and old flower stems. The plant will renew itself from the center.

Shown: ‘Peppermint Spice’. Photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

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12 thoughts on “Tidy Up Heucheras

  1. Heucheras are the next best thing to add splashes of color to your landscape.

    When other flowers are fading, heucheras keep their color and also can change throughout the season.

    One of my favorite perennial plants.

  2. In my garden I have a decent patch of plain old ‘jill of the rock’ green heuchera. They are volunteers as these plants are natives here (SF). They’re in a moderate shaded area, towered over by a very large beech and closer still by a patch of volunteer western sword fern. Perhaps it’s the coastal climate (10b) but the plants have no problem with their leaves over winter — in fact they look better due to the rain (avg 24″) and their stalks are woody and quite long (>1′) and they show no signs of decline. In fact when they bloomed this year, they grew about 8″ and are very happy campers.

  3. I recently entered “Sashay” and “Melting Fire” in the Southeastern Flower Show in Atlanta. The “Sashay” received a red ribbon and the “Melting Fire”, a yellow ribbon; with the comment that the leaves were immature. I had removed the winter damaged leaves and it was very full. This particular hybrid doesn’t have very big leaves. I guess they are not very familiar with heuchuras. I am learning every year how to exhibit.
    To anyone who has not entered plants in a flower show, give it a try. There is so much to learn. Jane McLean, Atlanta, GA

  4. I have wanted to get some of the newer varieties, especially Amethyst Mist, but didn’t get around to and now we are selling the house in order to move where it is colder. We will be leaving a zone 4 location and moving to border line zone 3. The new location will be tricky. My experience with some 10 year old plus purple leafed varieties is two-fold. 1) I found that they actually were fuller and had better color with sunnier placement rather than siteing them with bleeding heart and primulas – morning sun and afternoon shade. 2) The shadier site caused them to have a tendency to die out in the center which required my digging them up every few years and splitting the living parts of the crown off to be replanted. This is what lead me to discover the improvement with more sun. I ended up with some bits in pots that unintentionally were placed in almost full sun. Every summer the huechera would fill the pot with leaves that had the red/purple color they were supposed to have and I did not have the crown die-out that I had in the shadier location. However, I might suggest, although unproven, that being in the pots creating an elevation above the surrounding ground created a drier environment and thus may be a factor in the crowns being healthier. The shadier site may have been too wet at the time of spring thaw and contributed to crown rot.

    • I have another theory for you… although not seeing your plants & location, I’m sure you are the best authority on what works best in your area. I notice that my Heuchera that are in pots do better too… but less because of sun location and more because of the loose, fertilized potting mix they thrive on while potted. My in-ground Heuchera grow less vigorously and I have chalked it up to less poreous/loamy soil it’s planted in and competition for water with other greedy plants. Just a thought.

      • My potted heuchera have been in their pots for many years without being re-potted and have become heavily root bound. Any theory of their having better soil is unlikely. Also, the original planting in the ground was in an area heavily amended for the purpose of improving the drainage. The original soil was heavy clay which I dug out to a depth of 18 inches and filled in with a mixture of sand, compost and good soil. The potted heucheras get far less water than the in soil ones. The in soil ones get rain water run-off from the roof. It is such that the bleeding heart does not go dormant throughout the summer. The bed remains damp all summer.

    • My theory says, the more sun the better.. some varieties can take almost full sun, and the colors are much brighter. Certain varietes will have to be rescued before they burn up, but full shade usually results in very poor color.

  5. Seems like many heaucheras need periodic replanting. They grow taller, almost with small trunks.. getting a bit woody. Without this therapy, they weaken and wither away. I dig the whole clump, replant it lower so the growth crowns are right at soil-level.. I assume the buried stems will send out new roots. If you can tolerate a set-back, this is a good time to separate the crowns, even though some will end up without roots.

    • I had a potted Heuchera that the whole top of the plant fell off. On closer inspection I found larvae in the stem/root segments. I dug out the little buggers and potted up each of the stalks and behold, after a while I had several new healthy plants. This shows that a tired plant can be rejuvenated by breaking off the overgrown stem/stalk, stripping off the dead foliage and simply planting them in a pot with good soil.

      • I’m coming to think it’s a matter of good drainage. If th soil holds moisture too long, the crowns grow up and away, or grow weak and infected. Maybe this is why they sometimes do better in pots… especially in clay, they usually get better drainage.

        • I have another thought on clay soil & drainage. Clay soil that is in shade does not dry out readily. I have some areas in my yard that receives little to no sun. The soil there is always damp. Some shade plant varieties – ie. hosta – seem to thrive there and others do not – huechera for one.

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