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Past Articles Library | Propagating and Caring for Coral Bells or Heuchera

As the name implies, the blooms of the coral bells are shaped like bells supported on a long stem. While the flower color has pretty much remained the “coral” shade, the leaf colors have changed. Now, you can find a wide variety of leaf color that includes leaves that change color as the growing season goes on to purple and even sliver with dark veins.

Coral bells are perennial flowers that are hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 8 but before jumping for joy, the true hardiness is based on the variety you pick and the environmental conditions.

While this plant is typically grown for its colorful foliage, the flowers are just an additional high point that appears in late spring to early summer.

This plant likes a well draining soil that is also located in a sunny to partial shade location. If you area tends to have hot summer then your coral bells would prefer to be placed in partial shade.

The growing requirements seem to be a little generic but keep in mind that this plant can be used in several different ways. Consider adding it to a rock garden, along the edge of woodland or as a border plant. If none of these ideas fit your needs, plant your coral bells in a container.  

Propagating coral bells can through seed, division or leaf cuttings. When it comes to seed, you will only be able to use seed from non-hybrid varieties. Using the proper seed will guarantee that the seedlings are true.

To begin the process of planting coral bell seed, starts with making a decision as to whether you want to get a jump on the season or not. Coral bell seed can take between two to eight weeks to germinate. In doing so, you may want to start your seed indoors. If the latter is what you decide to do, you will first need to look up your local frost free date. Since the germination time can be up to two months, count back at least 12 weeks but no more than 16 weeks. Once you have that date, you can plan on planting your coral bell seeds.

The indoor planting process begins with selecting, cleaning, and sterilizing the container. While you can use a flat or pot, I prefer to use peat pots. The reason for this is the fact that I do not have the space to hold a flat, which will then need to be transplanted after the seeds germinate. The same goes for the pot but I can control the number of peat pots by planting several seeds per pot and then thinning out without increasing the number of containers I have in my home. If you decide to use a flat or pot, place the container in a basin of water that has one capful of bleach added to it. Allow the container to soak and then scrub to remove any dirt. Once clean, rinse the container in clear water and allow to dry in the sun.

After the container has dried, moisten a bucket of all purpose potting soil medium. Do not make it soggy though, the goal is to make moist but not wet. Once that is done, add it to the container and tap down. Sprinkle the coral bell seeds on the soil surface and mist gently with water. Be careful that the water does not bury the seed since it is very small.

If you are using peat pots, the process is the same except the cleaning and sterilizing. Regardless of which technique you choose, place your container on a sunny windowsill and keep the soil evenly moist.

Once the seeds have germinated, you can plant in the garden after your local frost free date has passed and the seedlings have been hardened off.

Another propagation technique is through divisions and/or plants. Division of this plant should occur when the center of the plant begins to die and/or every three to five years. The division of coral bells starts off with uplifting the entire plant from the garden space. Once that is done, cut away the dying parts of the plant while preserving the living. When replanting, make sure that the hole is twice the width of the root mass and the same depth. This planting pattern holds true for bought plants. Once the plant is place in the hole, fill in with soil and water in. Add more soil as needed to keep the soil level even with the surrounding soil level.

The third propagation technique is through leaf cuttings. This process begins with an existing coral bell but before you pull out your garden knife you will need to make sure that the plant is not patented. You can look this up or simply check out the plant label.

Once you know that it is fine to take a cutting, the process is simple. The first step of this process is to make the potting medium. You will need to take a container and mix a 1 to 1 ratio of perlite to peat moss. Next, add water to the DIY planting medium and set aside. After your soil has been prepared, clean and sterilize your container. The next step is for you to fill your container with the DIY potting medium. Right now you are ready to go out to the garden space and start taking cuttings. While this can be done any time, the early spring is the best time. The first step one needs to take prior to cutting is to study the foliage. You are looking for a leaf that is disease/pest free. Once you have found that leaf, remove the leaf at an angle so that the stem is still attached. Dip the cut end into a root hormone. Make a hole in the DIY soil with a pencil and insert the cutting into this hole. Continue with this process until you have collected all the cuttings you desire.

Place wooden sticks in your container and drape clear plastic over the wooden sticks. The goal is to create a mini greenhouse while keeping the plastic off the leaves. Put your container in a shady area by which the cuttings receive indirect sunlight. Monitor the soil moisture and in four to six weeks your cuttings should have rooted. How can you tell if they have rooted? Well, just give the cutting a gentle tug. If you feel resistance then the cuttings have taken root. Once the cuttings have a strong root system, harden them off prior to planting in the garden.


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Gardening Tips:

Primula Love Cool Weather

There are many varieties of Primula and they all love cooler temperatures and shade to partial shade areas.

The top three favorites are English Primrose (Primula Polyanthus), Fairy Primrose (P.malacoides), and P.obconica.

They make great woodland plants, bedding or edging plants, and container plants.

They are perennials, and when planted in the correct spot, will last for years.

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