Want some color in your shady garden? This is the plant for you. Alum Root or Heuchera (it goes by both names) is a short native plant known for its colorful leaves. They keep their leaves year-round—even in cold climates. Spring brings tall, delicate flower stalks. Heucheras are perfect for shade gardens, super easy to grow, and are easily found at most plant nurseries. Scroll below to find planting tips and types.
No full sun
Great for borders
Leaves year-round in most climates
Sadly, deer love this plant!
Yes—this is all heuchera!
Explore the history, types, and where to plant native Heuchera / Alum Root
Table of Contents
Why is it important to plant native plants like heuchera?
- Without native plants, iconic animals like Monarch butterflies and songbirds won’t have the food or homes needed to survive
- Native plants save time and money: after the first year of getting established, native plants are happy with rain
- Native plants are gorgeous! Heuchera is a perfect example of how beautiful and resilient native plants are—they are always the best choice for our gardens.
Is alumroot the same as coral bells?
This plant has many common names: alum root, alumroot (one word), American alum root, and coral bells. We’ll call it by its Latin genus name Heuchera. No matter what you call this plant, it loves to be planted in shade or part-shade gardens.
How do I say heuchera?
It’s pronounced whooo-ker-ah. Imagine you’re a wizened owl from a kids’ movie to get the first sound right (whoooooo likes whoooooo-ker-ah!)
Heuchera is very easy to grow
Heuchera is a very easy-to-grow shade-loving native plant. No matter the color, all Heucheras share the same basic benefits and characteristics. They are:
- Shade or part-shade lovers
- Mostly evergreen, even in cooler climates
- Short—no taller than 16 inches (don’t put them behind taller things, or they will be hidden!)
- Low maintenance: no fertilizer or special needs are required for heuchera to thrive
- Perennials: they will come back year after year. Once you plant them and they are happily established, you can enjoy them in your yard for years to come.
Where is the best place to plant heuchera?
Plant heuchera in borders, entryways, and garden edges
Heuchera are low-lying plants (around 6-16″ tall), so plant them along the edge of your garden to see them shine. (They can disappear behind taller plants.) They work great in front walkways and entryways; their mostly evergreen leaves keep your front door verdant.
When does heuchera bloom?
Heuchera blooms in the spring. Every spring, they have delicate spikes of flowers.
How do you take care of heuchera in the winter?
Heuchera is mostly evergreen—even in cold climates. In places with very cold winters, heuchera will sometimes die back, or have fewer leaves. If this happens, don’t worry! It will be back in the spring with new leaves.
Types of Heuchera
There are many native types of heuchera. Each type is known for being native to a specific region (there is even one type that is native to Connecticut!) To give you an idea of how large this plant family is, the USDA plant directory returns 77 native heucheras in America alone.
However, you probably won’t find native heuchera to buy
It is actually rare to find true native heuchera at plant nurseries. Heuchera cultivars have overtaken native varieties because the cultivars have been bred with so many incredible traits (crazy colors! drought tolerance!) The true native varieties simply don’t look as showy—and sell as well—as the cultivars.
Heuchera cultivars offer a rainbow of leaf colors
Every year, new heuchera cultivars come out. Many heuchera cultivars are hybridized for different foliage colors and shapes, from deep purple to vibrant orange, red, and yellow, and from round to ruffled, lobed, or deeply cut leaves. Here are just a few with leaves (and names) that really stand out:
Heuchera cultivars include:
Heuchera 'Midnight Rose'
Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’ reminds you of what a Jackson Pollock painting might look like under a black light.
Heuchera 'Peach Flambé'
Heuchera ‘Peach Flambé’ sounds and looks like a color of nail polish.
Heuchera 'Electric Lime'
Heuchera ‘Electric Lime’ does indeed look like a margarita plugged in. Plant this cultivar alongside other green leaf colors to help all nearby plants look extra spectacular.
Heuchera 'Forever Purple'
Plant some Heuchera ‘Forever Purple’ in your yard, and neighbors will not believe it’s real.
Heuchera cultivars also look great when planted together. The similar heights and rainbow of leaves help their differences shine.
Which heuchera should I plant?
The answer to this question at The Plant Native is always the same: plant what you love and plant what you find. Sometimes finding a very specific native plant can be difficult. It’s better to visit your local nurseries with an open mind. Oftentimes, what you find is even better than what you had hoped for.
If you’re looking for heuchera cultivars that will do the best in your garden…
According to Mt. Cuba: “After three years of evaluating plant habit, vigor, bloom time, flower color, sun tolerance, pest and disease resistance, and overall adaptability, ten cultivars stood out as top performers.
How to grow heuchera
Heuchera is easy to grow from seed and easily found in a rainbow of colors at local plant nurseries and plant sales.
Grow heuchera by seed
Heuchera is easy to grow by seed. You can plant them directly in the garden in the fall or start them in small pots in the spring (replant them in your garden when they are big enough.)
To plant heuchera in the fall, scatter seeds and loosely throw mulch or dirt over the seeds. Seedlings will emerge in the spring. (Yes, it really is that easy! Remember, native plants have survived for thousands of years without us and our trowels.)
After the seedlings emerge, water them daily for the first two months to ensure they get enough moisture to grow.
In the spring, you can start heuchera outside when the soil is warm 65°F (18°C) — or start plants inside.
Grow seeds outside
Take the seeds individually and plant them into holes 1/8″ deep. Water daily for the first two months to ensure they get enough moisture to grow. Watch the seedlings emerge in the spring, grow greenery that summer, and bloom in future summers.
Start seeds inside
Start heuchera inside in small pots under grow lights. When the danger of frost has passed, move the pots outside to get used to the wind/light/environment (this is called ‘hardening’.) Plant after they have been ‘hardened’ for a week. Water daily for the first two months to ensure they get enough moisture to grow.
Buy heuchera seeds online
There are several great places to buy heuchera seeds online (it can be difficult to find heuchera seeds—even at local nurseries.)
Grow heuchera from plants
You can almost always find heuchera at your local plant nursery (and sometimes even at big box stores.) Since they are so easy to grow and so fun to look at, you can consistently find heuchera plants for your garden. Here are three ways to find or buy heuchera plants:
Buy from a local plant nursery
Your local nursery will have heuchera plants to buy, especially at the end of spring / early summer. Whenever possible, buy native plants from local nurseries. Home Depot and Lowes cannot beat the plant selection at local nurseries.
Find a local plant swap
Heuchera are easy to dig up and give away. Search local gardening groups on Facebook to find local gardeners who often give away plants during the spring and fall.
Visit local plant sales in the spring
Almost all local plant organizations and gardens host plant sales in the spring. These plant sales often include plants that are not available at conventional nurseries. Check your local garden websites for dates.
Heuchera is perfect for shady gardens
To say it simply: heuchera is a stunning shade-loving plant that looks great year-round, thanks to its semi-evergreen leaves. Dozens of leaf colors come from a stream of fun cultivars making it easy to bring color and excitement to your native garden. Enjoy building a crayon box in your shade garden, filled with heuchera colors. Happy planting!
- Johnson, Lorraine. 100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants for American Gardens in Temperate Zones. (1999), 101.
- Harstad, Carolyn. Go Native! Gardening with Native Plants and Wildflowers in the Lower Midwest. (1999), 209-210.