Yes, you can grow heuchera (also known as coral bells) from seed! Learn how to start this shade loving perennial from seed indoors!
I have a lot of shady spots in my garden, and I like to plant heuchera for some contrasting color to the hostas and ferns. But I still have a lot of empty space in those areas to fill, and coral bells can be $10-20 a plant at the garden center!
So this year, I'm growing coral bells from seed! While hybrid varieties you see at the store won't produce seeds that are an exact copy of the parent, there are some heuchera seeds that will grow true.
I'll be growing Firefly coral bells, which has gorgeous red blooms that attract hummingbirds. The seeds stay true to the parent, so I can plant a huge drift of them in my shade garden for just a few dollars!
Let's get growing!
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What do heuchera seeds look like?
Coral bells seeds are tiny black specks, similar to snapdragon seeds. It'll be difficult to sow just one or two seeds per cell, so I'll be sprinkling a few over the surface of the soil and thin out the seedlings later.
If you want to collect heuchera seeds from plants in your garden, just strip the seed pods from the flower stalks and place them in a paper bag. Once the pods dry, you can shake the bag to separate the seeds from the chaff. Just remember that your seeds might not grow to look like the same plant!
How to plant heuchera seeds
Starting coral bells from seed is an easy process, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you start.
When to start heuchera seeds
Heuchera seeds can take 3-4 weeks to germinate, although mine started sprouting after about a week and a half. Start your seeds at least 8 weeks before you last frost date to give them enough time to produce a strong root system before planting them out in the garden.
Prepare the soil
Use a good quality seed starting mix, not potting soil. It's specially formulated to be lighter, so the tiny seedlings can push through easily. Mix it with water until it holds its shape when you squeeze it in your hand without any drips.
Fill each cell of a clean and sanitized seed tray with soil, then press down lightly to remove air pockets. Top off the tray with more soil as necessary.
Plant the heuchera seeds
Heuchera seeds need light to germinate, so just sprinkle them on the surface and press them down lightly to ensure good contact with the soil.
Mist the soil surface to settle in the seeds without washing them away.
Place a humidity dome over your seed tray to keep the soil moist, but remove it once the seeds have sprouted. Heuchera seeds need temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees to germinate, so don't put them on a heat mat unless the ambient temperature in your growing area is colder than that.
Water and fertilizer
I like to use these self-watering seed trays that have a water reservoir and a wicking mat underneath the soil to provide consistent moisture to my seedlings. But I also water the seeds once a day until they germinate so the soil surface doesn't dry out.
After my seedlings get their first set of true leaves, I start fertilizing once a week with a half strength dose of this fertilizer. Seed starting mix doesn't contain any nutrients, so you need to add that back into the soil to give your plants the food they need to grow.
What do heuchera seedlings look like?
I was surprised to discover that my coral bells sprouted in just over a week! Their first set of true leaves have a scalloped edge and a fuzzy surface. The underside of the leaves and the stems have a reddish tone.
Algae started growing on the soil surface, so I sprinkled vermiculite over it to soak up excess moisture and block the light (similar to preventing weeds in the garden by adding mulch).
After four weeks, I had quite the crop of heuchera seedlings! I potted up each of these little babies into their own cell so they have more room to grow. I ended up with 24 strong, healthy plants!
Our last frost date is still four weeks out, so these little seedlings will have plenty of time to grow indoors before I harden them off. Check out my guide on how to grow heuchera for tips on how to care for these little sprouts once they go out into the garden!