Friday, 18 January 2013

Heuchera......It's a love hate thing!



The 1st Heuchera bought
for this garden in 2010.
I'm sure I'm not alone in having a love-hate relationship with a specific genre of plants.  It's an on-going itch that just never stops!!

My specific itch or should that be itches are Heuchera - sitting in their droves in the GCs - their impressive, perfect, multi-coloured foliage rarely fails to turn heads.  Whether they are bought to do a specific job or just another impulse buy, I will always be a sucker for them!  They will brighten up a dull corner, provide lush colourful foliage, contrast beautifully with their neighbours, their height a spread make them an ideal front of border choice or just fill a gap when nothing else seems to fit - I can always find another space to plant one!  

So you see that sales pitch technique works every time!  Obviously, I'm a victim of the marketing ploy! I'm visually drawn in every time!!...need I say more!

Where does the 'hate' come into it? - I hear you ask!

My opinion is that these plants always look like they are giving 100% or they are a total disappointment and looking like they've seen better days, there is NEVER a happy medium, it seems, in my garden.  Between you and I, I've actually lost count of just how many have bitten the dust or gone to that great big compost bin in the sky.

Until recently, when not looking their best, I just dug them out, without giving very much consideration to what the actual problem was.  Yes, the phrase 'More Money than Sense' has been said to me on many an occasion.

A specific pest for these plants are Vine Weevil Beetles (VWB) and their larvae are one of the most common problems for these plants, so when ever one turned up it's toes or like tumble weed, took off across the garden at first breeze - they were 'out of here' tout suite!!

VWB!
Since taking to the world wide web to search for solutions, it seems that apart from the dreaded beetle there are more common problems than I originally thought.....  
  • Planting to deep - causes crown rot
  • Planting to shallow - causes the plant to heave (particularly in winter when freezing occurs)
  • Mulch to thickly - a winter tip to help protect against heaving - causes crown rot
  • Caterpillars - I have found  that caterpillars hide on the underside and munch the foliage
  • Slugs - although not generally said to be a pest - those tiny little beige coloured slugs get right down inside the crown and devour the newest and softest of foliage
  • Vine Weevil Beetle/Larvae - the adult eats the leaves and the female lays her eggs where the larvae mature by munching on the roots below
  • Poorly drained/waterlogged soil - after far too much rain 2012 - I found  that those where the soil remained wet for weeks on end - began suffering
  • Rabbits/Mice - will nibble on stems and leaves
Strangely enough, I have found in the past the the zingy lime green heuchera DO NOT like my garden, 3 or so attempts have been utter failure - they were gone within weeks, if not days of planting!  The jury is out as to why - but it was definately not the dreaded VWB - the plant roots were given a through post mortem and for plants to disappear so quickly there surely would have been sign of grubs but none were found.  Mice/Rabbits are the primary suspect in so far as I'm concerned!
Some plants just go! - it's as simple as that - 2 specimens planted adjacent to each other - 1 has thrived and 1 just gave up the ghost!  Investigation again, showed no sign of the VWB!
Even growing them in containers, with strict chemical control aimed at the larvae of the VWB - brought no success with one or two. Again, I ruled out VWB!
There are possibly numerous other reasons - I have yet to discover - but the ones above are I'm convinced are the top causes in my garden.  Advice I would give would be ensure you plant at the correct level when taking out of the pot, be vigilant for caterpillars, slugs and VWB, first signs will be apparent on the leaves and ensure adequate drainage.  If you are going to mulch - make sure the crown is not covered.
Heuchera Marmalade Summer 2012
If you discover one of your prized plants isn't doing quite as it should, all is not lost!  These are very forgiving plants and as I've discovered can easily be rescued.  How?  It's simple - remove the plant from the ground (or container) remove as much of the soil or compost around the roots as is possible.  Checking for grubs as you go.  If in doubt do not reuse spent compost (if container grown) unless you can be 100% sure there are no grubs. If growing in the ground root around in the soil for grubs or signs of grubs.
Under a running tap - wash off all remaining soil/compost.  It's at this stage you will see how the plant can be divided - divide sections with as much root as possible and double check each section for grubs.  They can get right inside the stalky part of the plant.  I would recommend the same practice even if your plant has suffered any of the other problems I mention above.  Better to be safe than sorry.  Once you have your divisions ready for planting - I use a mix of Multi-purpose compost/JI (what ever I have to hand) and some grit for drainage.  Pot them up into individual pots or 3 or 4 into a larger container ensuring an even spacing to allow for growth.  Water in and place in a sheltered position, your plant will soon begin to recover.  Other advice I have read or been given is to use peat free compost - tried this and to be honest I can't say I noticed the difference, plants in both mediums recovered - so the jury is out on that one!  Mulching with grit or gravel is said to make it more difficult for adult VWB to lay her eggs - this I haven't tried, therefore can't comment as to whether is works or not.

Not all is doom and gloom in the Heuchera department - please feel free to check out my pictures from 2012 and just how good these plants look when they are happy

Of course, if you know of other problems please do share it with us - the more the merrier!

Do you have a love-hate relationship with any of your plants?  Have you tried and failed miserably to grow a specific plant in your garden?  Had an obsession! - how did you beat it?                    



    

25 comments:

  1. Angie - I find the heaving the worst part of this otherwise, pretty plant. Not sure how many I have purchased, but I know I only have about a dozen left. I moved them last fall, so I'm waiting to see if I got them deep enough. Be well. c

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    1. Claudia - I hope yours comes through for you :)

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  2. Too many sirens out there beckoning to me to dither over anything that refuses to cooperate. Still, if I was having trouble with Heucheras I think I would find it worth my while to solve the problem. I guess I just lucked out with their placement and they are happy enough to multiply.

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    1. Ricki - I hear those sirens too and I keep telling myself, this is the last one!! A happy plant is always a keeper - the trouble with some plants when they are happy is that they keep on multiplying - then they become a problem plant!!

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  3. I have no idea what mine do, but they never make an entire year in my garden. They just seem to disappear, but perhaps I'm just not paying much attention. They are beautiful plants, though. Like you, I have been the victim of their marketing ploy many times!

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    1. HolleyGarden - I wish I had stopped paying attention a while ago - I would have saved myself a few pennies!

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  4. Hello again, Angie – this post caught my eye that’s for sure. Who could hate Heucheras – yes I know there are some who do. I love them, but then again I’ve never noticed VWB. Thanks for the thumbs up on that.

    Via division (any time I feel like it) I have been spreading heuchera around my garden for a few years now (don’t have as many varieties as you) and I seem to be getting away with it. I never pot them up either – the root part just gets buried in the ground and I leave it until it bulks up and then I start the whole thing all over again. I never consider the planting depth much either – guess I’ve been lucky up until now.

    Great info post on one of my favourite garden plants – thanks for sharing :-D

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    1. Shirley, thanks for popping in. Yes Heucheras are not loved by everyone!!
      I used to do it your way in my old garden, maybe I'm molly coddling them too much now :)
      I'm glad you enjoyed!

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  5. Hi Angie, I love heucheras too, haven't fallen out with them yet but have noticed that they don't thrive much in a semi-shady position, even though they are meant to take it. I have three varieties, 6 plants, and have divided the oldest, given some away and could still do with some new colours :-)

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    1. Helene, It's nice to share our plants - I do that often too and had some lovely plants in return. It's a great way to keep costs down too!
      Some heucheras are said to prefer sun or full shade but I'm sure that all are said to thrive in part shade - strange isn't it how some plants never do as it says on the tin :)

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  6. Heucheras don't thrive in my garden, I suppose it's too wet, they always disappear after 1 or at most 2 years, that's why I don't like them anymore! And I will not buy them anymore or.......no, I don't want to be a victim of the marketing people.

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    1. Janneke, parts of my garden are too wet for them and I would never contemplate planting them there but this years exceptional rainfall meant other areas suffered too therefore previously happy plants didn't cope!!
      I used to be the same with Lavender, as soon as I accepted it wasn't going to thrive, I was able to ignore them in the GCs!

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  7. I am a big fan of the purple leaved heucheras, and could happily grow some of the green ones, but I confess I don't like the brightly coloured or strongly variegated cultivars so beloved by the breeders. I've also discovered that, over the years, the old doer "Palace Purple" never gives me any problems, where as all the others I have tried have needed replanting to counter heaving, or have just disappeared apparently over night. Maybe next time I will try digging them up and washing the roots, just in case! My current love-hate relationship is with Olearia, the daisy bush. Beautiful bark, evergreen screening, pollinator friendly white daist flowers. What's not to like, I hear you ask. Well, after the flowers fade, the seedheads last forever, unless you brush up against - or near - them, at which point they firmly attatch themselves to your clothing or hair. It goes on for months. And the seedheads make the entire plant look mucky and untidy, obscuring the lovely crinkly green leaves completely...

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    1. Janet - I wasn't sure what Olearia was, so looked it up. I recognise it now - it's one of those plants that 'look' like it thrives in poor sandy soil, therefore I would walk past that one and not be fooled by the sales pitch :))
      Shame about the seedheads - although it's good to have seedheads for winter interest, the fact that you can't enjoy the beautiful foliage as you would like is disappointing. I'd be out there trying to remove as many as I could!

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  8. I have a few Heuchera. I like them well enough, but haven't found them to be exceptional either way. If I had a love/hate relationship with hollyhocks. They are unbearably beautiful, but I can't grow them because of rust. In other words, I hate them because I can't have them. Isn't that often the way of things?

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    1. Jason, Hollyhocks, now there's another one. They used to thrive in my old garden but the rust here means I don't grow them anymore. I spent quite a bit of money a few years ago on the most beautiful Hollyhocks I had ever seen (can't remember their name) it was love a first sight - I was rather upset that before long they just disappointed me even more each day. Then I tried budget ones from a local DIY store - exact same - so they are now on my don't like because they disappoint list!
      You are right - the mere reason of not being able to grow something is justification for disliking them!!

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  9. I have the same problems...some are absolutely happy where they are and they do fine and others are so fussy they are gone...of course there are more that have gone than have stayed...but I still love those that have stayed...my issue is planting too shallow and they heave in winter..or planting in too wet a spot!

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  10. Donna - it's nice to know I'm not alone!!

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  11. Hi Angie, I have had mixed success with Heuchera as well. Placement seems pretty key with Heuchera. When I get the placement right, they preform better. I also have had problems with them heaving in winter. I must pay better attention to how deeply I plant them.

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    1. Jennifer - I think the plant breeders are laughing all the way to the bank - these plants should carry a warning....
      'These plants can seriously affect your bank balance'

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  12. Ha ha I dislike heuchera. I think they look OK when first planted and then they do that weird thing where they grow a long sort of stem or maybe that is me not doing something I should. And when I see them planted en mass I squirm!!

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    1. patientgardener - I've had a few that produces that long stem thing! I suspect that's because they are not planted deep enough. Binned more that a few of those!!
      Like you I don't particularly like them en mass and look much better dotted around, on saying that a neighbour of mine has a shrub border underplanted with just one variety and it does look good!

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  13. What a fun post, I am afraid I am in the "I hate heuchera" camp - probably beacause as you say, they are so prone to vine-weevil and keeling over for no apparent reason. My sister in law has a marvellous collection and I did actually make note of the name of one of them - it was very large, with large leaves, but sadly, I have forgotten what it was called so I suspect that my garden will remain heuchera free
    K

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    1. Karen - I'm forever jumping between the love/hate camp! You have hit the nail on the head - we see those plants doing well in other gardens that we want some for ourselves. I'm convinced that skill doesn't come into it - its all about luck!

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  14. I am glad its not just me then. They vanish over night where I live. Dryish sandy soil in Cheshire. I do suspect vine weevils. I too have felt like giving up on them.

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