Alum Root (Heuchera)


Want some color in your shady garden? This is the plant for you. Alum Root or Heuchera (it goes by a few names) is a short native plant known for its colorful leaf cultivars. 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 a rainbow of heuchera options.

Part Sun – Shade
16″ tall
Heuchera americana
Yes—this is all heuchera!

Dig Deeper

Explore the history, types, and where to plant native Heuchera / Alum Root

Table of Contents

Heuchera is a native plant beloved for many reasons: it’s resilient and evergreen in most climates, and it has cultivars in almost every shade of the rainbow. In this article, we’ll share its benefits, introduce some color options, and share planting tips.

Let’s start by getting the name right. This plant is known by several names. 

Heuchera, alumroot, coral bells—these are all the same plant

This plant has many common names: alum root, alumroot (one word), American alum root, heuchera, and coral bells. On The Plant Native, we’ll call it by its Latin genus name, heuchera. No matter what you call it, 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!)

There are many native species—we’re here to focus on one

Within the Heuchera genus, there are quite a few different plants (a genus is a group of plants with species within it.) To give you an idea of how large this plant genus/group is, the USDA plant directory returns 77 Heuchera records in America alone. There is even one species native to just Arizona!

In this article, we focus on a plant with the singular, specific scientific name Heuchera americana, which we’ll call heuchera for short. This is the native plant from which most Crayola-bright heuchera cultivars are made (more on that in a few paragraphs).

Heuchera americana has a huge native range, making it a great plant choice for most American gardeners:

What is Heuchera americana’s native range?

Heuchera americana will grow easily in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, some of the Northeast, and most of the South (map from the USDA)

Now that we know how to say it and where it’s from, let’s discuss heuchera’s many benefits. 

What are the benefits of planting heuchera?

Heuchera is a native plant that has grown in North America for thousands of years. It’s lived and thrived through every storm, drought, season, etc, in its home area.

Heuchera are low-to-the-ground plants, with flowers on long elegant stalks in the spring

Planting native plants makes our yards and spaces gorgeous while helping the birds, butterflies, and animals (and helping save us time.) Here are a few reasons why planting native plants like heuchera is worth it:

  1. Wildlife support (and sightings): without native plants, iconic animals like Monarch butterflies and songbirds won’t have the food or homes needed to survive
  2. Time and money savings: after the first year of getting established, native plants are happy with rain
  3. Resilient, climate-friendly beauty: heuchera is a perfect example of how beautiful and resilient native plants are—they are always the best choice for our gardens

And a few more benefits to mention…

Heuchera also looks great in containers

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.

We’ve covered the basics and benefits. Now, let’s dig into planting ideas and tips.

Where is the best place to plant heuchera?

Plant heuchera in borders, entryways, containers, 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. Heucheras are also great in containers and window boxes.

Heuchera is perfect for borders, since it's so short

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.

A rainbow of baby heucheras ready for your shady garden

Heuchera cultivars​ offer a rainbow of leaf colors

It is rare to find the true native Heuchera americana at plant nurseries. The true native species is a humble, green-leaved plant that doesn’t look as showy—and sell as well—as the cultivars.

Over many generations the humble Heuchera americana has been bred to create a rainbow of cultivars. (Wondering what a cultivar is? Here’s a short cultivar overview.) 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. 

Every year, new heuchera cultivars come out. Let’s meet a few.

Heuchera cultivars

Here are a few heuchera cultivar options with colors, leaves (and names) that stand out. (You’ll know it’s a cultivar when a cheeky name is included in single quotes.)

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.

Plant a few, together!

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…

Mt. Cuba Center—the largest native plant garden in America—looked at 83 different cultivars and found ten Heuchera cultivars that stood out.

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.”

These prominent heuchera performers are: ‘Citronelle’, ‘Bronze Wave’, ‘Cajun Fire’, ‘Color Dream’, ‘Steel City’, ‘Caramel’, ‘Apple Crisp’, ‘Frosted Violet’, ‘Southern Comfort’, and ‘Spellbound’.”

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. 


Where can you buy heuchera seeds online?

There are several great places to buy heuchera seeds online (it can be difficult to find them—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 ways to find or buy heuchera plants:

Alum Root (Heuchera)

Where can I find seeds and plants?

Finding native plants can be challenging (we partly blame Marie Antoinette.) To make it easier, we’ve assembled four sourcing ideas.

Native Plant Nurseries

Our list of native nurseries makes finding one a breeze

Online Communities

Local Facebook groups are a great plant source

What pairs well with heuchera?

Heuchera looks great planted alongside other native plants that like shade or part shade, like native Azalea, Celandine Poppy, Golden Alexander, Rhododendron, and Mountain Laurel, Foamflower, and some native shade-loving Asters. Here are some stellar pairs:

Celandine Poppy
Golden Alexander
Mountain Laurel

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!