Heuchera sanguinea

Latin Name: Heuchera sanguinea
Common Name: Coral Bells, H. sanguinea, Alum root
Mature Height (ft): 8 inches
Mature Width: 12-18 inches

Mature Shape

Mulch: Organic, forest litter

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Heuchera species are native throughout the North American continent and make wonderful foliage and flower plants for your woodland border. One wouldn't think that such an indispensable garden plant would be native to the hot and dry areas of Arizona, New Mexico and northern Mexico, usually in rocky montane environments, but it is. The genus was named in honor of Johann Heinrich von Heucher, a German professor of medicine and botany and a friend of Linnaeus. There are roughly 50 species of heucheras, and they readily cross pollinate in the wild.

Indispensable, as it is one of my leading plants for dry shade areas, adding not just year-round interesting evergreen foliage, but delightful tiny coral bell-shaped flowers, as well, actually inflorescences on a stalk. Heuchera sanguinea's coral-red bell shaped flowers has given the genus its common name, coral bells. Heucheras are also called alum root, for its astringent root that can be used like alum in pickling processes, and has been used medicinally to shrink tissues in nose bleeds, sore throats, ulcers and piles by Native Peoples.

For the Texas Panhandle, Heuchera sanguinea exceed hostas for shady locations, as I have never noticed a bit of leaf damage by slugs or snails, or any insect (deer resistant too), yet provide a pleasing mounding rosette of foliage and a prettier flower. Plus, its an evergreen and a dry shade plant. Flowers of this native species, though tiny, contain abundant nectar for hummingbirds.

For the High Plains region, in choosing a heuchera among the more than 200 cultivars, search out cultivars that have at least one parent to a southwestern native heuchera, such as H. sanguinea. Examples are 'Firefly', 'Grandiflora', 'Splendens', 'Maxima', 'Ruby Bells', 'Bressingham Blaze', and 'Alba'.

H. richardsonii, prairie alumroot is a northern prairie native, though not a Panhandle native. Its flowers are a whitish green. H. americana, American alumroot, has green leaves and grows extensively in the east from Pennsylvania to Alabama. H. pulchella and H. villosa are used, along with these other mentioned species, for hybridizing and creating new cultivars.


Use in Garden

One of the perfect plants for dry shade, I say Heuray for Heucheras! Place at the front of a part sun/part shade border. I've planted heucheras close to our house on the north side, where nearly no sun shines, yet H. sanguinea, and the cultivar 'Firefly' flowers profusely in spring. Also great for bordering a shady location or woodland garden. Even if yours don't flower, you'll be thrilled by the foliage.

They pair well with geraniums (cranebills), aquilegias (columbines), corydalis and Mahonia repans (creeping Oregon Grape Holly shrub) to give a Western Woodland or shady area texture and interest. These four genera all have similar soil and water requirements.

Heucheras take to container gardening rather well, especially the hybrids. for more information on the cultivars and hybrids, click on http://www.highplainsgardening.com/plant-profiles/heuchera-hybrid-cultivars.


Topdress 1 inch of with compost spring and fall. Deadhead to prolong blooming. Some references note that the clump needs to be divided every 3-4 years in fall or late winter, as the rootstock gets quite woody. Dividing promotes longevity and better looks. Having said that, I've grown coral bells for 8-10 years without dividing and they still look great.