Coral Bells (Heuchera) – The Complete Guide

The evergreen coral bells (Heuchera) are also sometimes known as alumroot. They enchant us with beautiful flower colors and neat leaves that shimmer in magnificent shades.

Native to the mountains of North America and Mexico, the plants are well hardy. They grace your garden as prodigal perennials for many years with their beautiful floral display.

Planting Coral Bells Properly

Careful soil preparation sets the stage for long perennial life in a semi-shaded location. Loosen the humusy, nutrient-rich soil deeply to enrich it with compost, horn shavings, and rock flour.

If in doubt, improve the permeability with sand, perlite, or fine chippings, because coral bells have no chance of survival in waterlogged conditions.

Please set the potted young plants a little deeper, as the root balls often push upwards. Before mulching with leaves or grass clippings, water on with regular tap water.

Care Tips

Your coral bells will show their whole floral beauty when given this care:

  • Water them moderately during dry spells without soaking the soil.
  • Pile compost on rootstocks that rise from the ground.
  • Fertilize bedding perennials in March/April and June/July with compost, horn shavings and rock flour.
  • In pots, fertilize the coral bells with liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks from May to September.
  • Clean out withered flower stems regularly.
  • Cut the coral bells back in autumn just above the wintergreen decorative foliage.
  • Cut them back close to the ground in late winter, in good time before new shoots appear.

Modern Heuchera varieties have robust winter hardiness. Only in exposed locations do we recommend protection in the form of foliage, coniferous branches, or compost.

You don’t need to put planters away but treat them with a winter coat of jute, fleece, or foil and a warm base of wood or Styrofoam.

What Location is Suitable for Coral Bells?

Within the exuberant spectrum of magnificent species and varieties, there are suitable coral bells to be discovered for every design wish.

Although the perennials differ in terms of growth height, flower, and foliage color, they conform in terms of ideal site conditions.

We have compiled all the relevant criteria for you here:

  • Shady to semi-shady location.
  • Fresh, well-drained and sandy-loamy soil.
  • A neutral to alkaline pH of 7.0 to 8.0.

Do not expose your new favorite perennial to full sun or perpetual shade. Under these extreme conditions, the bloom will take care of itself and the stunning foliage color will fail to appear.

The Right Planting Distance for Coral Bells

The densely caespitose, sprawling habit of coral bells requires generous plant spacing to show off their decorative effect.

Arrange the perennials in the bed at a distance of 14-16 inches (35-40 cm) from each other. For cultivation in containers and balcony boxes, you should reduce this value by 2 inches (5 cm).

If you have chosen Heuchera as a decorative ground cover, place 6-8 plants per 10 square ft.

What Kind of Soil Do Coral Bells Need?

Welcome your coral bells with nutrient-rich, humusy, and well-drained soil. These ornamental perennials will gladly stretch their roots in moderately dry to freshly moist soil that contains some lime.

These fairly modest requirements make it easy for us to choose a substrate for pots and window boxes.

A good compost-based container plant soil will meet expectations when enriched with a handful of perlite, fine grit, and rock flour.

What is the Best Time for Planting Coral Bells?

You can plant container-grown Heuchera throughout the growing season.

The ideal planting time spans the months of August and September. At this time, young coral bells find ideal conditions in the sun-warmed soil for rapid rooting until winter.

When is Flowering Time for Coral Bells?

From spring until well into fall, coral bells add colorful accents to your garden and balcony. Properly combined, the blooming season extends from May to October.

Use the following overview of some popular species for your inspiration:

Coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea): blooming season from May to July.
Crevice alumroot (Heuchera micrantha): flowering from June to September.
Hairy alumroot (Heuchera villosa): flowering from July to October.

Please remember that the decorative value of coral bells is by no means limited to the flower panicles. In the most magnificent species, it is the stunningly colored leaves that captivate us with iridescent hues throughout the year.

Pruning Coral Bells Properly

If you cut off flower stems that have faded to the basal foliage, you can look forward to repeating bloom.

Again, as the garden year draws to a close, simply cut off withered flower stalks. Enjoy the impressive winter aspect of the decorative leaves until early spring.

Then, in February, cut the perennial close to the ground to make room for fresh sprouts.

Watering Coral Bells

Looking at the dense, evergreen foliage, coral bells require watering year-round. Check regularly by thumb-testing to see if soil or substrate has dried out.

Water these perennials only moderately, as waterlogging will cause root rot within a short time and the plants will die.

Please note that even after a light summer rain, additional watering may be necessary as the raindrops do not penetrate the soil.

If winter comes along with a bare frost, water the coral bells in beds and containers on mild days.

Fertilizing Coral Bells Properly

When it comes to nutrients, coral bells are unexpectedly modest. In the bed, these magnificent perennials make do with compost, horn shavings, and rock dust in March/April and again in June/July.

Please work the organic material into the soil only superficially and water afterward. If Heuchera thrives in a planter, add a little liquid fertilizer to the water every month from May to September.

Wintering Coral Bells

As typical Saxifraga, coral bells are hardy in most places. Only in areas with very cold and long winters is outdoor protection from the cold recommended.

Ideally, cover the perennial with a thick layer of foliage, fixed with fir fronds. In garden practice, a protective layer of compost has also proven to be good.

Please do not carry your Heuchera in a pot into a frost-free winter quarter. The plants need a cold period so they will sprout again next spring.

Instead, wrap the container with bubble wrap and place it in front of the south wall of the house on a block of wood.

Propagating Coral Bells

The multifaceted diversity of species and varieties of coral bells awakens in us a passion for collecting. To fulfill the desire for more specimens, these straightforward methods of propagation are available:

  • Division of the root ball in the spring or fall.
  • Cutting head cuttings in the summer to let them root in a small pot.
  • Harvesting the capsule fruits with the dark seeds and sowing them behind glass starting in February.

Unlike vegetative propagation by division or cuttings, seeding can give you headaches. Some of the most beautiful varieties are sterile, so they will not produce seed heads.

Provided you get hold of the seed, it requires stratification. Only with a cold stimulus at temperatures between 24 and 39 °F (- 4 and + 4 °C) can the seeds be motivated to germinate.

How to Repot Coral Bells Properly

After 3-4 years, the vitality of coral bells visibly fades. The flowering becomes punier and the previously bright leaf color becomes dull.

Now is the right time for a rejuvenating cure. Pick up the root ball in the fall and divide it into segments with at least 2 buds.

Set the segments in the new location in the soil prepared with compost and rock flour. Water abundantly and regularly in the following period, and the rejuvenated perennials will take root quickly.

Coral Bells in a Pot

In a pot, coral bells transform semi-shaded spots on balconies and patios into colorful, evergreen retreats.

For the plan to succeed, drainage of clay shards under the well-drained substrate effectively prevents nasty waterlogging.

You want to water Heuchera in the planter whenever the surface of the soil has dried to a depth of 1 inch (3 cm). Let the water run gradually onto the root ball.

As soon as the saucer fills up, the current watering needs are met. From May to September, apply liquid fertilizer monthly to give your flowering perennials a new lease of life.

Please do not put the containers away in winter, as Heuchera relies on the cold winter stimulus for flower induction. Instead, place the containers on wood and wrap them with foil, fleece, or jute ribbons.

Cut the wilted flower stalks down to the foliage. The leaves themselves receive pruning close to the ground just before new shoots appear.

Are Coral Bells poisonous?

You can beautify your family garden with non-toxic coral bells without worry. No Heuchera species or variety poses a health hazard to humans or animals.

Beautiful Varieties

  • Firefly: Premium variety with spherical growth and scarlet flower panicles from June to July. The growth height is 4-24 inches (10-60 cm).
  • Berry Smoothie: Stunningly beautiful silver coral bells with iridescent, berry-colored foliage and white flowers. The growth height is 20-24 inches (50-60 cm).
  • Plum Pudding: Sighting winner with wavy, plum-purple leaves and pinkish-white flowers. The plant grows 20-24 inches (50-60 cm) high.
  • Autumn Leaves: Delights with foliage changing from light red to peach to wine red as the year progresses. It grows 16-20 inches (40-50 cm) high.
  • Silver Streak: A salmon pink flower rises above the bronze-colored, silvery leaves. The growth height is 12-16 inches (30-40 cm).
  • Sweet Tea: Dreamlike with tea-colored, silvery heart leaves and cream-colored flower panicles. This variety grows 16-20 inches (40-50 cm) high.
  • Shanghai: Shows off its dark purple, maple-shaped leaves under filigree, white bell-shaped flowers. It has a growth height of 10-16 inches (25-40 cm).
  • Solar Eclipse: The red-brown heart leaves are decorated with a neon-green edge. This variety is a feast for the eyes in beds and tubs. It grows 16-20 inches (40-50 cm) high.
  • Tiramisu: A noble hybrid whose creamy white flowers rise above yellow, rust-red leaves. The growth height is 16-20 inches (40-50 cm).