Coral Bells differ from most plants by their beautiful leaves. The foliage can vary in color, but most importantly the brightness and richness of the color are amazing.
The scientific name of Coral Bells is Heuchera. It likes to grow in rocky areas and is native to North America.
Over the years, many varieties have been introduced by hybridizers. As a result, this plant has become an addictive collector’s item.
Coral Bells (Heuchera) Care tips
- Plant it in the shade or semi-shade
- Use well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5-7.0
- Water when the soil is 1.5 to 2 inches dry
- Apply a slow-release fertilizer in March-April
- Spray the plant with a fungicide to get rid of the disease
- Remove dead leaves in spring
- Use horticultural oil to protect the plant from pests
|Hardiness:||USDA zone 4-9 (3), frost-resistant|
|Size:||Height 8-10 inches and width 12-15 inches|
|Shape:||Low rounded bush|
|Light requirements:||Full shade, Partial Sun|
|Soil pH:||Ph 5.5-7.0|
|Water requirements:||After the soil is 1.5-2 inches dry.|
|Leaves color:||Green, red, purple, yellow|
|Pots:||Need at least 10 inches pots|
|Best time for planting:||Early spring and early fall|
|Spacing:||3-4 feet apart (center to center)|
|Transplanting:||Early fall or early spring|
|Fertilizer:||Balanced NPK formula, once per year.|
|Diseases:||Botrytis, Crown Root, Rust|
|Toxicity:||Non-toxic for dogs, cats, and humans.|
The best time to plant Coral Bells is spring or fall. You can plant in the spring as soon as the ground has thawed and warmed up a bit. In the fall, wait until the days are a little cooler before planting.
Choose a day that is not too sunny. It will also be good if the air and soil are a little moist. If the weather is dry, water the heuchera before planting.
The best place is in the shade or semi-shade. It is also important that no water stagnates near the roots. The soil should be light and quickly drained.
If you have heavy clay soil in your yard, prepare a soil mixture before planting. Take a bucket of native soil and mix it with a bucket of high-quality soil conditioner.
Dig a hole twice or three times the size of the Coral Bells root system. Fill the hole halfway with the prepared soil mixture and place the plant in it. Don’t deepen the stem of the heuchera too much.
Fill all the empty space with soil mix and compact it lightly. Then water to soak the soil well.
Coral Bells grows best in full shade. In this case, most varieties will have a beautiful bright appearance.
It is also possible to grow these plants in semi-shade. But not all varieties can tolerate direct sunlight. Dark heucheras tolerate the sun best, while yellow and green ones almost none.
In the partial sun, darker varieties will have even more intense colors. The lighter varieties will burn in the sun even if they get 1 hour of sun a day. Their leaves will become crispy on the edge.
What you don’t want to do is grow them in full sun all day. The afternoon sun can ruin the pigmentation of even the most persistent varieties.
Coral Bells can tolerate a fairly wide range of soils. But the best substrate will be loose and well-drained.
Most soils are clayey which is not good for heuchera. For this reason, you need to change it a bit. Mix one bucket of soil conditioner or organic matter with clay soil and you get a best-growing medium.
Choose a soil conditioner from a reliable manufacturer. Or use quality pest- and disease-free compost.
As for the acidity of the soil, it should be slightly acidic or neutral (pH 5.5-7.0). Most soils are neutral, but if you want to know for sure, you can check the pH with special kits. You can buy them at a garden center or online.
Use sulfate to acidify the soil. But if the soil is too acidic (pH<5.5) use garden lime.
Coral Bells should be watered when the soil around the roots is 1.5 to 2 inches dry. In hot, dry weather, this may take a few days. While in cloudy weather, the soil can remain wet for several weeks.
So watch the substrate for moisture and only water when it has dried out a little.
Moreover, heuchera can tolerate some drought as long as it is in the shade. Of course, the plant will not be too happy about this, but it can easily survive a few days without water.
The amount of water each time you water should be about 1 gallon, depending on the size of the plant. Make sure all the soil around the heuchera after watering is moist but not dry.
Avoid watering too often or with too much water, as this can lead to root or stem rot.
If you used a soil mix that contains compost, Coral Bells only needs to be fertilized once a year. The best time to fertilize is early spring.
A multi-purpose fertilizer is best for heuchera because it does not have any special requirements. You can use a product with a balanced NPK formula or with a bit more nitrogen.
The best form of fertilizer is slow-release pellets. The longer they work, the better. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and apply only the specified amount of fertilizer. As a result, the plant will be nourished throughout the growing season.
Avoid fertilizing Coral Bells too often as this can cause root burns. Also do not fertilize over the winter because the plant needs to rest during this period.
Coral Bells needs a minimum amount of pruning each year. The first thing you want to do is remove the dead and old leaves. The best time to do this is in the spring.
Carefully cut off dry leaves and leaves that are more than two years old. They are usually already lying on the ground after the winter. Cut as close to the stem as possible but do not damage it.
Do not remove annual leaves as the plant still needs them for photosynthesis.
The second type of pruning is to shorten the heuchera stem. Over time, the stem will become very long and will need to be cut back to shape the shrub. Do this in early summer to allow the wound to heal in time for winter.
I cover the subject of pruning in more detail in this article: Pruning Coral bells – Complete guide with pictures.
Coral Bells can get a number of different diseases. But most often the owners of these plants encounter fungal diseases caused by various pathogens.
First of all, this is the case with gray mold. It is very common on the lower leaves and leaf petioles. It will not cause any serious damage to the plant, but it is better to get rid of it.
Brown or black spots can also occur on heuchera leaves. This is also a consequence of the fungus.
Make sure there is good air circulation around the shrub to avoid the disease. Do not plant it close to other plants.
Also, do not overwater Coral Bells. Clean up any plant debris or dead leaves near the shrub.
Spray the plant with copper fungicide if the disease has taken hold. Repeat the spraying after a while.
The next problem is pests. Unfortunately, there are some insects that can cause significant damage to Coral Bells.
In the first place, this applies to whiteflies. These insects start breeding almost imperceptibly. But as soon as there are a few more females, the reproduction rate increases manifold.
The second pest is vine weevil. This is a relatively large beetle that can destroy a significant portion of heuchera foliage. Fortunately, it does not reproduce as quickly as the whitefly.
Both pests are difficult to control because organic methods (neem oil or insecticidal soap) do not work well. The most effective method of control is systemic insecticides, but their usage has some disadvantages.
The easiest way to propagate Coral Bells is by cuttings. The best time for this is early summer, so the cuttings have time to take root before winter.
Simply cut off the top part of the stem at least 2 inches long, but as long as the heuchera stem has reached at least 5 inches in length. The stem should not be cut off at ground level.
Also, Coral Bells often create daughter plants with roots around the main plant. Gently tear them off the mother plant, but do not cut them off.
Plant the cuttings or daughter plants in pots 10 inches wide. Use sterile seedling soil. Place the pots in full shade and water them regularly.
By the end of the season, the cuttings will establish roots and overwinter. Plant them out of the pots into the ground in the spring. (For more information check this article: How To Propagate Coral Bells?)
The first thing to do to prepare Coral Bells for winter is to provide it with enough moisture. This is to ensure that the plant stores enough water for the winter and does not suffer from dehydration when the ground is frozen.
Beginning in September, keep an eye on the soil and water as soon as the soil is about 1.5 inches dry. Avoid watering in wet and damp weather. As soon as cold weather arrives, stop watering.
The second thing to do is to mulch the heuchera with pine bark or other organic matter. The layer of mulch should be about 2 inches. The mulch will trap the heat that comes from the ground around the roots and the plant will be more comfortable.
What you don’t want to do is trim Coral Bells in the winter because in the winter thaw the wounds will start to rot and you may lose the plant. Also, don’t tear off old leaves in the fall and winter wait until spring.
The best time for transplanting is in spring. This is a good time for the transplanted plant to take root by the end of the season and to overwinter easily.
Replant when the weather is cloudy and damp so that the Coral Bells will lose as little moisture as possible. Water the plant well before transplanting.
Be careful not to damage the roots when digging. The new planting hole should be at least twice the size of the root system.
Place the roots in the hole and fill it with a good organic matter-based soil mix. Next, water the heuchera generously.
After transplanting, some of the leaves may droop. To correct this, shade the plant for a few weeks.
Growing in pots
You can also grow Coral Bells in containers. You will need a pot at least 10 inches in diameter and make sure it has drainage holes.
Fill it with a nutritious potting mix and plant the bush there. Place the pot in full shade. Avoid growing potted heucheras in the penumbra as even a few hours of direct sun can quickly dry out the soil. As a result, the plant will suffer from drought.
Each year, repot Coral Bells in a pot 1-2 inches larger than the previous pot. This is to avoid root-bound. When replanting, change the soil to a new one.
Do not let the potting soil dry out more than 1 inch.