Electric Plum HeucheraHeuchera hybrid ‘Electric Plum' (PP# 29,924)
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Heuchera hybrid ‘Electric Plum' (PP# 29,924)
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
The Electric Plum Coral Bells is a new variety of foliage plant, with the most dynamic and striking foliage of any plant. New spring growth is almost black, and then turns bright purple-pink for the rest of the year. This evergreen plant has ground-hugging stems covered in foliage rising about 8 inches above the ground, forming a broad mat that is perfect for edging beds and lining paths. Plant it also in rocky areas and on slopes or terracing. 18-inch flower stems carry small fuchsia-pink blossoms for two months through the summer
The Electric Plum Coral Bells will grow in full sun, partial shade and in full shade too – it’s incredibly adaptable. It grows easily in any well-drained soil, and tolerates dryness once well-established. It takes the heat and humidity of the southeast well, and thrives almost everywhere will virtually no attention. Pests and diseases aren’t usually problems, and deer seem to mostly leave it alone.
Filling the foreground of your beds with low plants can be tricky. We certainly want to do this, because it adds a whole extra dimension to our planting, and a much richer, lush look seen in all the best gardens. A lot of the time, though, plants that are supposed to be ‘low-growing’ become much taller as they age, meaning trimming and clipping is needed. Or they spread aggressively outwards, invading lawns, crowding out paths, and smothering other plants around them. There is a terrific answer, though, and that is in the diverse group of plants called Coral Bells. Part of the rich and unique flora of western North America, we could say these are technically native plants, but the ones grown in gardens are almost all complex hybrids of several wild species, tributes to the plant breeder’s art and craft. If these plants are new to you, or well-known, a great place to start, or to add to your collection, is with the Electric Plum Coral Bells. Surely the most vibrant colored plant for any garden, this low-growing mound of leaves begins a stunning black-purple, and then matures to a glowing purple-pink with striking black veins. It’s perfect for fronting your beds, softening the edges of a walk, or adding interest to a rock garden. It grows in an amazing range of light levels, and needs virtually no care. Interested? Then read on.
The Electric Plum Coral Bells is a low-growing mound of foliage that typically rises 6 to 8 inches, spreading up to 2 feet across. It’s fast-growing, and doesn’t take long to become a substantial plant. It grows horizontally as a tangle of thick stems, hidden by a low canopy of round leaves. The leaves are 4 to 5 inches across, rounded with a broad pointed tip, and divided into 5 shallow, rounded lobes. They show themselves off by lying horizontally, showing us their startling colors and patterns. New leaves are a striking deep purple-blue, very like the skin of a dark plum. As they mature they become a vibrant purple-pink, that really does send an eye-catching electric bolt across the garden. The lighter coloring reveals the dark, almost black, vein patterning, which radiates outwards from the center of the leaf. This coloring holds well, without fading or greening in summer, and looks just as good in fall as it did in spring. In most areas they are evergreen, but if, in a cold region, some leaves should die, new growth soon fills in the spaces.
Most Coral Bells grown for their foliage have disappointing flowers, often just a few off-white blooms. Not this one. In midsummer tall, slim stems grow up, between 14 and 18 inches long, with multiple side branches, and over 100 flower buds. The stems are black, and the tiny, bell-shaped flowers are bright fuchsia-pink, making a wonderful show nodding above the purple leaves. Individual flowers only last 4 or 5 days, but a stem will last 3 weeks. Since stems come up over several weeks you can expect about 2 months of blooming – a great bonus from an already dynamic-looking plant.
This plant is an ideal edger – low-growing but wide-spreading, with no tendency to grow much taller as it matures. Use it freely in the front of your beds – perhaps with yellow blooms, or pinks and other purples. Plant it along a path, in a bed of mixed low-growing plants, or mass-planted as groundcover, spacing plants 12 inches apart. It is also great on the levels of garden terracing, on slopes and among rocks and boulders (the natural environment of coral bells). It can also be grown around large plants in tubs and planter boxes, in warmer zones.
The Electric Plum Coral Bells is super-hardy, growing even in zone 4, but needing little or no winter chilling, and heat-resistant, so growing well also in zone 9.
The range of light this plant will thrive in is remarkable. It grows in full sun in all but the very driest places, once established, but it also grows well (and perhaps best) in partial shade, with just a few hours of sun a day. It will also grow in full shade, but if grown in deep full shade the leaf color may not be as strong, the leaf canopy will be more open, with fewer flowers. It grows well in all kinds of soils except for wet ones, including both acidic and alkaline ones. As you can see this is an easy plant that thrives in many different conditions.
Water young plants regularly during dry weather, but once established the Electric Plum Coral Bells is remarkably drought resistant. Pests and diseases rarely strike, and deer don’t show much interest at all. Once the flowers are over the stems dry and can easily be pulled away for neatness. Remove any dead leaves in spring – they pull off easily – and that is it for another year. “Super low-maintenance” is this plant’s middle name.
Coral Bells, or alumroot as it is sometimes called, are in the group Heuchera, and are often known by that name too. There are almost 40 species, all from North America and mostly from the southwest and Mexico. Almost all plants grown in gardens are hybrids (the different species cross readily with each other) and this is true of the variety called ‘Electric Plum). It is a selected seedling from a cross made in 2013 by Hans Hansen, owner of Walters Gardens, Inc., a wholesale perennial nursery in Zeeland, Michigan. He had done extensive crosses with multiple existing varieties and his own seedlings before achieving this breakthrough plant. It contains genes from Heuchera villosa, a heat and humidity-resistant species from the southeast, as well as Heuchera americana, H. brizoides, H. micrantha, and H. sanguinea (the original ‘coral bells’, with red flowers). He received a patent for his plant in 2018.
This great new plant is probably the most vibrant foliage we have ever seen, and it’s turning heads everywhere it is exhibited. Don’t hesitate to add it to your garden – it’s tough, reliable and oh so lovely. But order now – stocks are limited, demand is high, and ours will soon be gone.