Coralbells, or alumroots, were named for their reddish flowers on trim spikes above small leaves. Then breeders crossed several species. Gardeners now have a diverse group of perennials with large, lobed, ornamental leaves combining green, silver, and purple tones. The leaves grow in basal rosettes from thick rootstocks. The flowers are tiny white, green, or red bells clustered on one- to two-foot stems. Some cultivars have very showy flowers, but others are grown mainly for foliage. Most types bloom in spring but a few bloom in summer or fall.
How to grow: In areas with hot summers, heucheras like partial shade, but usually they prefer full sun. Plant them in good, well-drained garden soil with a high humus content, and keep the soil moist in summer. In winter, coralbells resent wet soil and often will die if their feet are wet. Every three years they must be divided to prevent crowding.
Propagation: By division in spring or from seed.
Uses: Coralbells are lovely in a border or when planted among rocks, rock walls, and in the rock garden.
Related species: Heuchera americana is the native type and has been used in many of the hybrids with good leaf color. H. micrantha and H. villosa have larger, more varied leaves. H. villosa requires more shade than other species.
Scientific name: Heuchera hybrids