Lewisias are among the most spectacular of all alpine plants, with delightfully colored flowers that are large compared with the tiny size of the plant. Lewisias have the reputation of being difficult to grow, but this is less true when they are raised in rock gardens where conditions are similar to their mountainous homeland. They are native to western North America.
Description of lewisia: When not in flower, lewisias could almost be mistaken for succulents. Their thick, waxy leaves look much like those of the popular hens-and-chicks. In bloom, though, they are quite different from any other plant. The waxy-textured blooms come in bright pink, pink, apricot, white, or red. They bloom in late spring. Their leaves are either evergreen or deciduous, depending on the species. Ease of care: Difficult.
Growing lewisia: Grow in full sun in well-drained, deep soil. The soil mix should contain at least 50 percent sharp sand for perfect drainage. Surround the base of the plant with rock chips to prevent rot; Lewisias prefer sites with abundant spring moisture followed by a dry, cool summer.
Propagating lewisia: By division or seeds in spring.
Uses for lewisia: Crevices, scree gardens, and other well-drained sites are ideal for this spectacular plant. Plant in groups of three or more for best results.
Lewisia related species: The best-known lewisia is undoubtedly L. rediviva, also called bitter root lewisia; its starchy roots, once consumed by Native Americans, are bitter to the taste if not harvested at the right season. Bitter root lewisia has thick, fleshy, deciduous leaves and pink to white flowers. L. cotyledon has persistent leaves and grows in the form of matlike rosettes. Its flowers are white with pink veins or red stripes. Hybrid lewisias have become available that are said to be easier to grow.
Scientific name of lewisia: Lewisia species