Return to the Heuchera Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Why don't my heucheras thrive?

Posted by sandyslopes z5 UT (My Page) on
Sun, May 25, 14 at 3:32

I like them so much, but I'm becoming disillusioned with them. It's hard to enjoy a plant that gets smaller and smaller every year. Caramel is one of the few that thrives, but most start to shrink about year three.

I have sandy, alkaline soil, mostly on a slope. I plant them among hostas so they do get a lot of water but have good drainage. Varying amounts of sunshine around yard.

Do you all lift yours every other year? I tried that with three in a row. One looks great now, but the other two are pathetic. Not a good ratio of success for my efforts.

Do you have to fertilize them a lot? I never do, just some compost and mulch, if they're lucky. I'll make the effort if that's what they need.

Is my zone 5 iffy? I notice a lot that are great looking on this forum are in zones 7 and 8.

Are they just very short-lived plants? Too much time and $$$ spent for this to happen.

I'm getting close to throwing in the towel on them but not quite ready to give up yet. Any advice for me?

Here's a pic where I was focusing on the hosta, but look at about 2 o'clock and you see how so many of my heuchera get so small they're only a few inches. I don't expect much more growth than it has now. Opposite of thriving.

Serendipity mid-May photo DSC01400_zpsb144f585.jpg


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

Do you have tree root problems? I've noticed that those that grow where tree roots tend to take over fail to thrive, but those that don't have to compete with tree roots take off. That may be one cause. Heucheras don't like root competition.

Karen


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

Space them from your hostas. Make sure the soil is good. I find mulching helps them. Make sure they are not planted too deep. I "fluff out" those larger bottom leaves. Neem oil every few weeks helps too for rust.


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

Hmm, some may have root competition, more from large shrubs than trees. But hostas do well, so I'd think they'd suffer, too, if that was the case. Maybe some are planted too deep, being sandy and on a slope they might sink down after a couple of years. I did lift those three and only one responded well, but I can try some more.

Looking at other threads some of the ones people say grow big for them are ones that are dwindling away for me. ~sigh~


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

Without a good close look at the stem of your plants I am only guessing, but here's an idea, have you divided them yet? Some of mine, not all, seem to put on a stunning show, then fizzle within a year or two. All I'm left with is the woody stem that usually pulls right out of the ground, that may have a few pathetic leaflets on it. It's happening right now to Ginger Ale and it's only on year two.
I need to lift the entire plant out of the ground and take a good look at it. Trim off all the dead stems and leaves, and if there is a long hard root stalk with no leaflets, trim that to a few inches from where there is growth.
My poor Ginger Ale has only one leafing area, but sometimes when you pull a coralbell, you find yourself looking at potentially MANY baby plants. You can leave those on the stem that are about the same depth when you replant the stem. Replant the stem where it came from and either pot up the new plants until they get bigger or tuck them into garden, which is what I do.
I have 10+ year old plants I have never divided, and plants I seem to be dividing constantly. I don't know why some whimp out or go woody stalk.


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

Gorgeous photo!
I love them too, but I have given up. Over a few years I bought 10. All different vendors, types, and planted different areas. They look great a couple years then shrink and disappear.

I decided to quit trying to force plants to grow. I'll buy more of what likes my yard.


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

It may be your soil. Heuchera tend to be plants that grow best in forest leaf humus, as far as I can tell. Not sandy soil. Mine grow best in leaf humus on level ground, in locations that do not get a great amount of direct sunlight.
I am in northern Va, zone 7A, so the very middle of the middle Atlantic. My Rave On coral bells are thriving, as are my Silver Scrolls coral bells. But my Peach Flambe coral bells are mediocre, maybe because they were bred for leaf color rather than vigor.


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

I don't have much luck with the newer ones, but I have many clumps of the older coral bells. They are still where I planted them over 45 years ago.
maybe somebody should try hybridizing with some of these old ones.


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

They are a fussy plant. As expensive as they are I backed off a lot and only buy them if I see them real cheap at my local nursery sales. I will not pay more than 5.00. If they survive fine if not I know not to buy that one again.

It seems any purple will survive in my gardens. The only light color I have had any success has been Carmel, Georgia peach, and Encore, Southern Comfort. The rest are purples or dark almost black.

I would not buy Terra Nova for years because they were putting them on the market so fast and they were dying in my garden as fast as I could get them planted. They really were not a good developer for my garden soil and weather.

All the ones I have gotten developed at The Primrose Path Nursery survive in my garden.


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

I appreciate all the thoughtful replies!

unbiddenn, you sound like a glass half full person. I take those sticks and dwindling leaves as a sign it's on the way out. You found a way to look at those tiny leaves and see new possibilities. I never thought to divide a plant that's getting smaller. But the woody sticks or stems sounds about right. The ones that have totally died out (Snow Angel, for instance) were just some long sticks that looked dead. Other ones (Tiramisu, Mocha, Creme Brulee, Crimson Curls, etc.) have teeny tiny leaves. I see a Brunnera, Jack Frost (?) in your photo. Those LOVE my gardens. They get bigger with more flowers every year. If only heucheras did that for me.

pandora, I'm coming around to that way of thinking. If they don't like it here, they just don't. Can't force a plant to do well.

Alangrr, it could very well be they don't like my sandy alkaline soil. Your observation about the leaf humus rich soil is helpful. Possibly I can narrow it down to the ones I like best and try to make sure they get leafy compost and see if that helps them. Can't hurt to try.

Flowergirl, I had no idea they could live that long! Forty five years would be great! It seems like when the plant sellers produce a lot of new plants that they want to get to the markets quickly, that a lot of the time the new ones aren't as foolproof as the old standards. The new echinaceas come to mind, also.

marquest, I'm glad to hear someone else thinks they're fussy. I bought a lot of Georgia Peach because they're such a beautiful, bright color, and they're wimping out, too. I also had four Purple Plums just fade away. I had many Lipsticks, a dozen or so, that put up so many red flowers it was a stunning sight. This year they're about 1/3 the size they were with a lot less flowers.

I guess there's no magic solution. I'll enjoy other people's pics and see if I can keep a few of my favorites going. Sugar Plum is my favorite this year. I can't coddle plants with everything I have to do in the gardens, so I'll take the hint the heucheras are giving me. They just aren't that into me, lol.


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

Sandy I am coming to believe they are a zone 7 and up plant. Mild temps areas I notice people posting from seem to be having good luck. Anybody in zone 5-6 are having hit and miss short term plants.

I agree I do not have time nor the money to pay the high price for these short lived plants. If I see them on sale no higher than 5.00 I buy them and plant them with the mind that it is most likely a annual. I do not plant them as a basic plant for long term landscape.

The suggestion of leaf humus rich soil is a good tip. I have some planted under a tree with Hostas that are doing terrific for 3 yrs. but they are the common Purple Palace and other older ones not the pretty new fragile things. But in that area Caramel and some of the ones that have been around for awhile lasted 3+ years. I give them a little fertilizer in the summer also.

I tried something a couple years ago I noticed helped. I mixed some homemade compost and leaf humus in a coir pot liners that you use for summer baskets and planted them in those pots. Set them in the garden with some stones around and on to of the soil around the plant and that worked good. You could not tell they were in a pot and they could not heave during the winter because the stones kept them stable.

This gives them perfect drainage and good soil they need to survive.

Santa Rosa has some for 2.99 that I ordered last week because I was ordering some sedum that I know will live a long time.


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

Sandy, lol, I like that ...they just aren't that into me. :)

Marquest, I think you are right, zone 7. I noticed that of the posters too. Good tip on potting and protection. For me right now, I am going to stick with plants happy to be in my gardens.


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

I use to have problems and bought and planted so many but lost so many plants each year. Here is what I was told from the guy at Distinctive Gardens in Illinois. DO NOT plant the grown deep. Since I have followed that advice, I've hardly lost one and I have 40+ different ones. Last year was a really bad one, I lost a couple of trees, lots of hosta's and other very tough plants, but not one Heuchera! It works!


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

The ones I have that are small and shriveled are the ones I moved in the fall and failed to adequately mulch so they had frost heave. In my garden they seem to like well drained soil, but heavy mulch to keep their roots cool and moist.


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

Does anyone think that they could benefit from a balanced fertilizer or do you just not fertilize them at all? I have about 90 of them, some thriving, some not, some lovely and huge, some on their way out the door. It is frustrating when you will have 2 of the same variety in the same location and one is huge and one, not so much.


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

I usually fertilize mine with a balanced fertilizer (triple 16) once in the spring time.

I know what you mean about some doing well and some doing poorly, even though they're given the same growing conditions and they're the same cultivar. I have yet to figure out why this is. I can only imagine that some plants are weaker to begin with.


 o
RE: Why don't my heucheras thrive?

I only fertilize the ones planted in places without tree root competition. For the ones planted under trees, I don't fertilize at all except mulching. The only one that has been slow is Fire Alarm. But it was planted right next to a big locust tree trunk so growing conditions are not so great.

On the other hands, I have 2 Georgia Peach planted in similar conditions. They are really good growers and now are huge.

In general, my heucheras (mostly dark colored ones except Paris) grow better then planted in places where they receive a few hours of morning sun.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Heuchera Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here