What to do with Woody Palace Purple Heuchera?

linnea56(z5 IL)July 1, 2013

I know it's common, but it was economical for a long border.

I have a whole row that have become woody, with tufts of leaves at the ends of long stems. Last year I tried digging one up, cutting off the live tips, and planting those. They lived but now I just have very very small plants in those spots. I donâÂÂt know how long it might take for them to become fuller. They are alive, but just sitting there, with 4 leaves.

I believe I recall that you can also dig them up, and replant them whole, burying all the bare stem. Which is a better approach? Thanks!

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Hi Linnea. Up until recently I only had one heuchera. Now I have a ton, so I asked my father-in-law (who owns a landscaping company) to show me his process. I can share that info with you and hopefully it helps.

Anyway, what I was shown sounds similar to what you've already done. He dug up the heuch and broke off the old woody pieces and old leaves until he just had the fresh leaves and a bit of stem left. He said occasionally there may be some roots, but usually there aren't any...just a few leaves attached to what looks a bit like a rhizome.

After he divided everything and decided what to keep, he potted them up. If yours are just sitting there doing nothing, you may dig them up (they've probably grown roots by now) and put them into 2 1/2-inch pots with some well draining compost. He didn't bury the crown. It was at soil level, or maybe just a tad below. After that, he said to just let them grow naturally until they're big enough to put into bigger 4-inch pots.

If he's doing this when the weather's warm, he said he'll usually get roots within 6 weeks. He may winter them over in containers if they're still pretty small. He doesn't usually plant them in the ground until they're at least a 4-inch container size.

I hope I've helped. I know you've already taken some of the steps I described. Just thought I'd include the whole process just in case someone else might be reading this post too.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 1:00AM
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Awesome info, thanks for the hints and tips flower_frenzy! What a bonus it would be to have a landscaper in the family!!

Do you think that winter heave was why linnea56's PP began looking "woody"? Heuchera are challenging for me so I'm interested in any suggestions and info I can get.

PP and Brownies are two that have done OK in my garden, even with all the (seemingly non stop) rain this year. I do a lot of pot/planter gardening. Here's a photo of my Palace Purple I had for 2 years. This spring I moved it from shade to this bed that gets morning sun and it's doing better.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 12:20PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Flower-frenzy, is the rationale behind potting them is to have soft fresh dirt for them to grow on faster? Admittedly when I planted the cuttings, it was straight into the border, where the soil has become hard. Small pots for me are prone to drying out when I am away. IâÂÂll try some into the vegetable garden, which has very soft soil.

Dgregory, Mine were not heaved. They are old (6+ years), and as new leaves grow at the tips, bare stem is left behind. Not all varieties do this to the same extent.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 2:19PM
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Deb-I think the woodiness factor was due to the age of the plants, not the winter heave. Heuchs start sprawling and looking ragged after they live a while and need to be "re-propagated" if you will.

Linnea- I can think of several benefits to potting up the heuchera...the nice fluffy dirt you mentioned being one. It's also easier to move the plants around to different environments if they show stress or aren't growing well if they're potted up.

The main reason, I think, is that small plants root and grow better when they have their roots in a limited space, such as a pot. It's probably warmer for them. I grow a lot of hostas in pots and I always start them out in smaller pots and then move them up as they get bigger. I've found that starting them out in a pot that is much larger than they need inhibits their growth. I'm assuming the same would hold true for the heuchs.

Since you're worried about them drying out while you're away, you may sink the potted heuchs into the soft garden soil. That way they still have root insulation but you can let your sprinkler system or hose do the work of keeping them watered.

If you decide to pot your heuchs up, I would re-work the soil where their permanent home is eventually going to be. If you added some compost and some grit for drainage, the ground wouldn't get as hard and they'd reward you with faster growth.

This post was edited by flower-frenzy on Thu, Jul 4, 13 at 15:20

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 3:17PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Thanks! I think maybe IâÂÂll pot some up, then sink the pots into the vegetable garden to retard them drying out or being knocked over.

The bed is an existing one with lots of plants and really canâÂÂt be re-worked. They all get compost, sand, (etc) when they are started, but sooner or later, the organic material is gone, and then they all get hard. All I can do now is amend a cavity when IâÂÂm read to plant.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 5:03PM
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OK, thanks for the info about heuchera aging and re-propagating.

Also, thanks for letting me read over your shoulders while you all talk this through.
Good stuff.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 7:38PM
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Deb-Happy to help!

Linnea-good luck on potted heuchs. Keep us updated on how it's going if you have the time. I know what you mean about re-working a bed with a ton of plants in it. Like you, my only option is to re-work cavities and small openings as best I can.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 7:48PM
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