Friday, December 4, 2020

Growing Heuchera

It's been ten years since I originally wrote about Heuchera, and an update has been a long time coming. I'm scrapping my old posts and updating them with some slight revision for clarity. This post is going to be on just general culture and species, I'll post more about hybrids and history at a later time. 

Heuchera 'Caramel' with Hostas 'Stained Glass' and 'Fire Island' and Lamium 'Purple Dragon'

Nearly everyone (including me) mispronounces Heuchera; proper pronunciation is HOY-ker-uh. I've been pronouncing it WHO-ker-uh for 25 years, and it's hard to change! The genus is exclusively American in origin, with around 37 species in the United States and Canada and another 5 found exclusively in Mexico. 

Heuchera species fall into two basic categories. The mountain dwelling species are suitable for the rock garden and well drained soils. They tend to be heat tolerant and are more sun tolerant, but still appreciate some afternoon shade as they tend to grow in the shadows of boulders or scrub. The woodland dwellers are more suitable for shade gardens. They want soils that are consistently moist but well drained with adequate organic matter. They tend to be found on woodland edges, savannahs, or grasslands. Montane species are more heavily represented in the west and woodland species more so in the east; but both groups exist across their range. Regardless of montane or woodland, all species tend to be found in rocky, well-drained locations. 

In general, loose well-drained soil is important. Few varieties will last long in heavy or compacted soils.  Most varieties appreciate morning sun, with bright shade in the afternoon. Provided those 2 conditions, most varieties will do well. A little research will help determine which varieties will truly thrive in your location. Knowing where and when they were hybridized is also useful. Here in the Midwest, I find cultivars bred on the west coast are less likely to thrive compared to cultivars bred in the Midwest or Northeast. 

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