Heuchera Growing Guide

Green Spice Coral Bells

Patrick Standish

Add heuchera to any space that needs a bright pop of color, not only in its flowers but as a blanket of colorful foliage. You can get just about any shade, shape, and style of heuchera you might need to round out your organic landscape. 

What are Heuchera

For anyone new to gardening or simply new to heuchera, it’s worth taking a second to learn what these gorgeous plants are. Sometimes the Coral Bell variety is singled out as the heuchera, but there are so many to choose from.

Heuchera are grown for their impressive foliage, broad and interesting. Some have texture, others show off shocking bright colors. Some heuchera does flower, but it’s the leaves that tend to steal the show.

Another great benefit of heuchera is its shade tolerance. Couple that with a brightly colored variety and you’ve added a gorgeous glow to an otherwise darkened area of the garden.

Tucking Heuchera into the Garden

Some heuchera are actually native to rocky, less than desirable locations. That means you have little to worry about when choosing a spot for heuchera. Some shade is preferable, soil simply needs to drain well, and maintenance is low.

There are heuchera varieties that run rather small, and some that are several feet high and wide. The smallest heuchera adds excellent edging color and interest. They can also tuck underneath medium and tall plants, enjoying the shade they cast.

Larger heuchera can tuck against a shaded porch, grace containers, and thrive in hanging containers underneath the shade of an overhang. Give them a couple of feet to spread, based on your chosen variety and what they need.

The best use of heuchera, I think, is for contrast. Color and texture can both be utilized to make heuchera stand out against the rest of the landscape. Tuck the somewhat broad, flat foliage of larger varieties behind finely textured foliage like dill and chamomile.

Use either contrast or likeness to add heuchera to a color-themed garden (or build one around it!). In Gardening Like a Ninja, I talk quite a bit about creating spaces by color. You might like to cultivate a completely warm look with reds and oranges, or you may enjoy a variety.

Flowering heuchera will bring in beneficial bugs and pollinators, too. So even if you are shooing for a fully edible garden, sometimes it helps to add easy plants like heuchera that will still bring more than aesthetics. Attract pollinators, provide (or fill!) shade, and improve the overall look of your garden. Heuchera really are some of my favorite ornamental plants!

Roughly in zones 3-9, most heuchera will be winter hardy perennials.

Growing Tips

Since heuchera now comes in so many varieties, with experiments and breeding giving us hardy, fascinating types of foliage and flowers, you’ll not likely be able to save the seeds with reliability. Purchase seeds or starter plants for a predictable plant.

If you are starting heuchera from seed, note that it’s actually a seed pod that carries tons of seeds inside. Don’t overplant! When they have sprouted a second set of leaves, you can transplant them to a slightly bigger space to handle the long root formation.

Speaking of roots, a mature heuchera grown in its hardiness zones will grow a root complex that may reach up out of the ground. Don’t hesitate to gently unearth the plant and replant.

In zones 3-9, or wherever your variety is hardy, you may also start the seeds directly outdoors, usually in the fall so that it can grow steadily for a little while before winter really sets in.

After your heuchera are established in the garden, really all you have to worry about is whether it’s too wet. Provide some periodic moisture and avoid the soggy ground. This lends itself well to areas prone to drought.

Heuchera does well in raised beds, though that doesn’t always provide the shade needed. Think about tucking it into your vegetable garden, next to taller crops. Having a steady perennial voice in the garden can help shift your traditional growing methods toward permaculture and a higher level of sustainability.

Hummingbirds and other pollinators will return year after year, and as the garden rotates around it, you’ll have these “helpers” used to coming around, too.