Trees & Shrubs
Year of the Heuchera 2012
Blooming perennials is a gardeners delight, but as being perennials they grow, they bloom as short of a time as one week or as long as 3 months. Mainly perennials will bloom during a certain of the growing season, and then the bloom will be done and the plant will grow for the next season’s blooming time.
Deadheading is part of the perennial care. If you like the blooms on for the birds in the winter, then leave them. But rule of thumb is deadheading will make the plant get stronger as the plant will not be putting energy into the growing of seeds. As in planting annuals, perennials need certain amount of light so knowing the light in the area you are planting is important. Before you buy the plant you need to read the label to see if the plant will grow with the amount of light you have in that flower bed.
The amount of water the plant needs also is important for success of growing that perennial. IF you wonder, we are in zone 4 which is for determining how much cold the plant can tolerant and still come back the next year. Some zone 5 plants will survive here so don’t be afraid to plant the plants for that zone also. In the next article I talk about the newest perennials for our grower out of Gilman Iowa, Swifts Greenhouse. Enjoy and have fun planting in the garden!!!!!!
Heucheras are all-American. Literally. Different species hail from the islands off the California coast to the highest mountains in the Rockies to the Gulf of Mexico. With this diverse range of habitat, these plants are able to find a niche in everyone's garden. Breeders in America and Europe have taken a well-aimed swipe of a paintbrush between these species, and have assembled a plethora of plants with amazing flower and foliage forms that didn’t exist a scant ten years ago.
Not only are these plants aesthetically pleasing, but they have become stronger, fuller, and more disease resistant. With few pests, great adaptability to containers and a seemingly unending number of forms, heuchera should be in everyone's garden!
Aside from the common name of coral bells, it was also called alum root due to its medicinal qualities. Native Americans used them to stop wounds from bleeding. The stems can be used in a pinch if you cut yourself in the garden.
Culture and Garden Preferences
Heuchera require well-drained soil. If you’ve had problems with coral bells in the past, most likely you’ve tried to plant them in soil that’s too wet or full of clay. To solve that, plant your heucheras in raised beds, on a berm, or in containers. Even mounding the soil slightly where you plant them will help. A premium organic planting compost will provide excellent drainage with enough moisture.
Other than keeping the soil well-drained and mulched, coral bells have very few other maintenance needs. Let them dry between watering, refrain from using excess fertilizer, and give them neutral or slightly acidic soil (the perfect ph is 5.8 to 6.3, but most aren’t too fussy).
Many coral bells do well in part sun, but stay away from hot afternoon rays—foliage will often fade, wilt, or scorch under intense sunlight. Instead, provide shade during the hottest times of the day, or plant where your heuchera will get consistent full or filtered shade.
Heuchera are remarkable for needing little care. When flowers fade, they can be spun off with a flick of the wrist. If stems get too long they can be cut off with the resulting stub resprouting and the piece in your hand replanted to form a new plant. This helps keep your heuchera compact.
When using “heuchs” in the landscape, they are best triangulated with most varieties planted 24 inches on center. You will have to look at the spread on the label to determine the best spacing. Three words are essential: drainage, drainage, drainage. Most varieties are drought-tolerant as well.
Note that as coral bells grow, their crowns rise up and out of the soil slightly. Either mulch to protect the crown, or lift, divide and replant. It’s best to divide them every two to three years, with the spring being the best time to do this work.
If necessary, cut back winter-damaged foliage in early spring to make way for new growth. And if you live in a cold climate (Z4), mulch your coral bells in winter, leaving the crowns unburied. Oak leaves are ideal.
Coral Bells as Cut Flowers or Cut Foliage
Surprisingly, heuchera leaves also offer extremely long-lasting foliage for fresh-cut arrangements. Add them to your floral bouquets by cutting the leaves so each one has a fairly long stem and then stick them immediately in water with the flowers of your choosing. Change the water weekly and heuchera leaves can live up to two years in a vase. (They’ll even start rooting eventually!)
Try pairing the deep purple leaves of ‘Dark Secret’, ‘Plum Royale’ or ‘Berry Smoothie’ with a spray of yellow coreopsis or a few choice lilies. Marry the chartreuse of ‘Lime Marmalade’ with blue bachelor’s buttons and orange California poppies. Or, arrange the bold orange leaves of ‘Peach Flambé’ or ‘Tara’ with green hydrangeas, zinnias or purple salvia. To play up the color silver, combine a silver-toned coral bell like ‘Rave On’ or ‘Silver Scrolls’ with white daisies, roses or lilies. Tulip flowers in dusky purples and black work quite nicely with dark leaved “heuchs”. European florists are rolling the leaves around roses for a cool effect. We have seen leaves used in wedding bouquets accented with Hypericum berries.
Continuous bloom is something every gardener strives for. You can plan a garden that blooms all season long. First start by choosing perennials that bloom the longest and create a nonstop garden by adding the complimentary plants that will extend the season of interest from March to November and even into winter. The second key to achieving continuous bloom is to know the perennial palette how they look, how they perform and where they grow best.
Things to look for and think about to get the continuous blooms. Zone USDA Zone map for cold hardiness. They recently changed us from zone 4 to zone 5, but stay with caution with choosing zone 5 over 4. Stay with zone 4 for sure and then try some of the zone 5 to see if they will winter over. Flowers you need to think about each flower’s color bloom, shape, habit and fragrance. Another area to think about the plant is foliage. You have the habit is it clump forming, cascading, spreading and the texture it is lacy, bold and glossy. The importance of foliage cannot be emphasized enough in arranging and combining plants in the garden. Foliage acts as a foil or blender to the flower colors and provides important color and texture in the garden when flowers are not in bloom.
The height and spacing of plants are essential to the placement of perennials in the garden. Plants much have adequate space to mature. Placement will also affect how effectively plants are displayed. The best lighting conditions to achieve optimal plant growth for each perennial, knowing this will avoid the problems caused by too little or too much sun or shade, scorched leaves, straggly rather than compact growth and fewer blooms.
Soil type impacts plant performance. Brief descriptions of different soils are given, and like light conditions, the gardener will soon know if the plant has the best growing medium. You can use perennials in myriad ways, formal versus informal, perennial or mixed border, wildflower or prairie, woodland, naturalistic, herb, cottage, and scent or color themes. Additional sophisticated uses are long bloomers, background, architectural accent, structure, filler, edger, weaver or blender, groundcover, screening, fragrance, foliage color and winter interest.
Remembering that practice and experience are the best teachers, don’t be afraid to experiment with the perennial palette. You will learn from your mistakes and be rewarded with your successes. Perennials are very forgiving and can be moved around until you get it just right. So begin by finding those perennials that have the longest bloom times and have a wonderful time creating you own continuous bloom garden.