Growing Coral Bells: A Comprehensive Guide to Care and Cultivation


Coral bells, also known as Heuchera, are stunning perennial plants that add vibrant color and texture to any garden.

With their unique foliage and delicate flowers, they are a favorite among gardeners.

In this article, we will explore the various aspects of growing coral bells, including care tips, native range, and creating a hummingbird-friendly environment.

Understanding Coral Bells

  • An Introduction to Coral Bells: Coral bells are known for their attractive foliage, which comes in a wide range of colors, including shades of green, purple, and silver. They also produce delicate bell-shaped flowers on tall stalks, adding an extra layer of beauty to the plant. With their compact size, coral bells are perfect for borders, containers, or as groundcover in your garden.
  • Native Range of Coral Bells: Coral bells are native to North America, particularly in regions with cool, moist climates such as woodlands and mountainous areas. They can be found in various states, including California, Oregon, and Washington. Understanding their native range can help you create the ideal growing conditions for these plants in your garden.

Choosing the Right Location

  • Light Requirements: Coral bells thrive in partial shade to full sun. While they can tolerate some shade, they generally produce more vibrant foliage colors when exposed to more sunlight. However, in hotter regions, they may benefit from some afternoon shade to protect them from scorching heat.
  • Soil Conditions: Well-draining soil is crucial for the health and growth of coral bells. They prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. Amending the soil with organic matter, such as compost or peat moss, can improve drainage and provide essential nutrients.

Planting and Propagation

  • Planting Coral Bells: When planting coral bells, choose a location that meets their light and soil requirements. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball and place the plant in the hole, ensuring that the crown is level with the soil surface. Backfill the hole and gently firm the soil around the plant. Water thoroughly after planting to help the roots establish.
  • Propagating Coral Bells: There are two primary methods of propagating coral bells: division and seed sowing. Division involves separating the plant into smaller sections, each with its own roots and foliage. Seed sowing requires collecting seeds from mature plants and sowing them in a suitable growing medium. Both methods can be successful with proper care and attention.

Watering and Fertilizing

  • Watering Needs: Coral bells prefer consistently moist soil, but they do not tolerate waterlogged conditions. Water deeply when the top inch of soil feels dry, ensuring that the water reaches the root zone. Mulching around the plants can help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.
  • Fertilizing Tips: Coral bells are not heavy feeders, but they can benefit from a balanced, slow-release fertilizer applied in early spring. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates. Avoid over-fertilizing, as it can lead to excessive foliage growth at the expense of flower production.

Pruning and Deadheading

  • Pruning Coral Bells: Pruning coral bells is primarily done to maintain their shape and remove any dead or damaged foliage. In early spring, before new growth emerges, trim back any winter-damaged leaves. You can also remove spent flower stalks to encourage new blooms.
  • Deadheading Techniques: Deadheading, or removing faded flowers, can help prolong the blooming period of coral bells. Simply snip off the flower stalks at the base once the flowers have withered. This will redirect the plant’s energy towards producing new foliage and flowers.

Creating a Hummingbird-Friendly Environment

  • Attracting Hummingbirds: Coral bells produce nectar-rich flowers that are highly attractive to hummingbirds. By planting coral bells in your garden, you can create a welcoming habitat for these fascinating birds. The bright colors and tubular shape of the flowers make them irresistible to hummingbirds, who rely on nectar as a source of energy.
  • Hummingbird Feeders and Birdbaths: To further attract hummingbirds, consider installing a hummingbird feeder and birdbath in your garden. These provide additional sources of nectar and water, ensuring that hummingbirds have everything they need for survival. Place the feeder and birdbath in a visible and accessible location, away from potential predators.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

  • Pests and Diseases: While coral bells are generally resistant to pests and diseases, they can occasionally be affected by issues such as aphids, slugs, or powdery mildew. Regularly inspect your plants for any signs of infestation or disease and take appropriate measures, such as using organic insecticides or fungicides, to control the problem.
  • Environmental Stressors: Coral bells can be sensitive to extreme temperatures, especially prolonged heat or cold. Providing adequate shade during hot summer months and protecting them from frost or freezing temperatures in winter can help prevent stress and maintain their overall health.

Overwintering Coral Bells

  • Winter Care: In regions with harsh winters, it is important to protect coral bells from freezing temperatures and excessive moisture. Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the plants to insulate the roots and prevent frost heaving. Avoid overwatering during winter, as this can lead to root rot. Monitor the plants closely and provide additional protection if necessary.

Companion Planting

  • Flowers for Hummingbirds: To create a vibrant and hummingbird-friendly garden, consider planting companion flowers that also attract these delightful birds. Some popular choices include bee balm, salvia, columbine, and penstemon. These flowers provide additional sources of nectar and create a visually appealing display when combined with coral bells.
  • Complementary Foliage: Coral bells have beautiful foliage that can be enhanced by planting companion plants with contrasting colors and textures. For example, pairing coral bells with plants that have silver or variegated leaves can create an eye-catching contrast. Hostas, ferns, and ornamental grasses are excellent choices for creating a visually appealing combination.

Coral Bells in Landscaping

  • Coral Bells as Groundcover: Due to their compact size and attractive foliage, coral bells can be used as groundcover in various parts of your garden. Plant them in mass groupings to create a carpet-like effect and add visual interest to areas such as slopes or under trees.
  • Coral Bells in Mixed Borders: Coral bells can also be incorporated into mixed borders, where they can serve as focal points or provide a pop of color among other plants. Consider combining them with perennials, such as coneflowers or daylilies, for a dynamic and visually appealing garden design.

In conclusion, growing coral bells can be a rewarding experience for any gardener.

By following the care tips and techniques outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can enjoy the beauty of these unique plants while creating a welcoming habitat for hummingbirds.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, coral bells are sure to add a touch of elegance to your outdoor space.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can coral bells tolerate full sun?

A: While coral bells prefer partial shade to full sun, they can tolerate some sun exposure.

However, in hotter regions, it is recommended to provide them with afternoon shade to protect them from scorching heat.

Q: How often should I water coral bells?

A: Coral bells prefer consistently moist soil, but they do not tolerate waterlogged conditions.

Water deeply when the top inch of soil feels dry, ensuring that the water reaches the root zone.

It is important to strike a balance between moisture and drainage to prevent overwatering or underwatering.

Q: Are coral bells deer-resistant?

A: Coral bells are generally considered deer-resistant due to their bitter taste and tough foliage.

However, it is important to note that deer feeding habits can vary, and in times of food scarcity, they may still browse on coral bells.

To deter deer, you can try using deer repellents or planting deer-resistant companion plants nearby.

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