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Coral Bells

Sarah Stehr Sarah Stehr

Coral bells (Heuchera) are a multi-faceted, evergreen shrub with pretty bell blossoms and colorful leaves. You can find tips about planting and caring for the different varieties here.

Origin

The Coral bell species (Heuchera) is part of the Saxifrage (Saxifragaceae) family. Coral bells are native in particular to the rock crevices and costal forests of North America. There are different varieties, mostly wintergreen to evergreen, clump-forming shrubs.

Appearance and Growth

Coral bells are highly attractive. Their tiny, cone-shaped bell blossoms appear in rich fullness on branched, long-stemmed panicles and appear to float like a cloud over the compact clump-form of leaves. They blossom from May to July and are white, pink, or red.

Coral bell blossoms

The fine blossoms of the Coral bell appear from May to July

Current breeds - generally crosses of Heuchera sanguinea and – feature the attractive, lobed foliage of Coral bell, the intrinsic decorative value of the plants. Numerous varieties are available commercially and new ones are added almost every season. These captivate with leaves in brilliant colors from soft to dark green, yellow-orange to dark red, silver, violet and bronze to tinged brown. Furthermore, the foliage is often pretty in form, their margins are elegantly crimped, strikingly lobed or ruched. The smallest Coral bells are 5.91 to 20 inches, the larger ones are easily 90 centimeters tall - measured respectively on the stems. The garden variety coral bells (Heuchera brizoides) developed from the wild American species.

Different foliage colors

Heucheras are available in the most varied foliage colors

Location and Soil

Heucheras require a semi-shady location or one with no direct sunlight. If they are kept moist enough, then they can also tolerate moderate sunlight. The prefer fresh to moist, loose, nutrient and humus rich soil which should be weakly acidic and not dry out too much in the summer.

Planting

Plant coral bells as deeply in the soil as possible, as over time, the root ball pushes upwards. If the rootstock protrudes out of the soil, cover it with bark humus or compost.

Care Tips

Immediately after flowering, cut the dead stems as close to the soil of the Heuchera as possible. Remove the dry leaves in the spring. If you want coral bells to develop a bushy growth, prune the plants before budding. This is best achieved by pruning down to about 3.94 inches as early as February.

‘Palace Purple’ Coral bells (Heuchera micrantha)

A deep brownish-red foliage and decorative, white flowers are the hallmarks of the ‘Palace Purple’ Coral bells (Heuchera micrantha)

In order to keep Coral bells vivacious, divide them every three to four years, after flowering in the summer or fall at the latest. This can be done by carefully digging up the plants, dividing the ball into equally sized clumps with a sharp spade and then re-planting these in the soil. The dug up clumps should be directly treated to mature .

Overwintering or Winter Protection

The more recent ornamental leaf varieties of the Coral bell in particular are sometimes somewhat frost-sensitive. However, in harsh areas and snow-free winters, they should be covered with brushwood. If the Heucheras are in plant pots, these should be brought close to the house wall and the containers protected with fleece. They should be watered now and again in frost-free periods; it is recommended to cover the plants on sunny and icy days in order to prevent drought damage.

Coral bells in a plant pot

Coral bells also do well in plant pots

Utilization

Coral bells look best in groups in the foreground of copses and in borders. They form a beautiful bed border with their closed, clump-forming growth. They produce a beautiful ensemble in a next to hostas, astilbe, geranium species, ferns and shade-loving grasses. If they are planted densely enough, Coral bells can also be used as . You can achieve this by planting at least six plants of the chosen variety (depending on size) per square yard. Coral bells are suitable for filling tubs and boxes on balconies which are not in direct sunlight, where they ensure a beautiful look even in the winter thanks to their colorful foliage. The Heuchera are also ideal for planting in beds which are not too dry and out of direct sunlight.

Important Species and Varieties

Recommended Heuchera varieties include ‘Gracillima’ (delecate salmon pink), ‘Red Spangles’ (scarlet) or ‘Silver Rain’ (white). The orange colored ‘Crème Brûlée’ or the purple ‘Blackberry Jam’ are examples with magnificently colored foliage. Two further species are available in addition to all these hybrids: The small-flowered coral bells (Heuchera micrantha) with reddish-brown, cordate or lobed foliage bloom white from June to August and grow up to 24 inches tall. It is generally commercially available as the highly recommended, dark-foliaged variety ‘Palace Purple’. The Heuchera sanguinea blooms from June to July and also reaches a growing height of 24 inches.

Heuchera ‘Crème Brûlée’ (left) and Heuchera ‘Blackberry Jam’ (right)

The foamy bells (Heucherella tiarelloides) resulted from crossing a Coral bell with a Foamy bell (Tiarella).

Propagation

Coral bells are most easy to propagate by division after blooming in the summer or fall. However, they can also be propagated as head cuttings of mature shoots in the spring. These should be around 5.91 inches long. They should be planted planting soil and covered. After about six weeks, the cuttings will usually have formed roots and can be transplanted. The varietal identity of the Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’ is propagated through seeds.

Diseases and Pests

Waterlogging frequently causes root rot in Coral bells. Root rot can be recognized as the plants will only show paltry growth and the earth will have a moldy smell. If the disease is recognized in its early stages then the plants can often still be saved. This is done by replanting the plants in dry substrate mixed with sand; good drainage is also essential.

Black vine weevils are common Coral bell pests. Their larvae in particular eat the roots and buds, bothering the Heucheras. They can be effectively combatted with biological nematode treatments. These nocturnal weevils can also accumulate in twilight

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I plant Coral bells?

As with most shrubs Coral bells can be planted both in the spring and fall.

When should Coral bells be pruned?

Dead stems should be cut off near the ground after blooming. If Coral bells should develop a bushy growth, prune the plants before budding.

Are Coral bells winter-resistant?

Coral bells are winter-resistant, however there are some varieties which may be sensitive to frost. Corals bells should be covered with pine brushwood, in particular during snow-free winters and in harsh locations.

What works well with Coral bells?

Coral bells look great in combination with other shady shrubs, such as hostas, various geranium species and astilbes. However, ferns and grasses are also great bed border partners.

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