Fertilizing Coral Bells

Author Maureen Farmer Updated 12-15-2021

Coral Bells (Heuchera) are not heavy feeders, and as a native plant to North America, Coral Bells can grow very well without assistance. However, fertilizing Coral Bells can help the plant push out new foliage and flowers. You can fertilize your Coral Bells with very little effort to keep the plant healthy and promote a good growth rate.

Coral bells are short-lived perennials, but you can make them last longer by dividing them every three to five years. Divide your coral bells in early spring or early fall.

healthy-coral-bells-plant-flowering.jpg

How to Fertilize Coral Bells

Most varieties of Coral Bells prefer soil that is slightly acidic and has a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. All types of Coral Bells can grow very well in neutral soil, so testing the soil can help you adjust the pH to best support the plant. If you are uncertain how to test soil, you should be safe because most garden soils are suitable for growing Heuchera. You can feed Coral Bells by amending the soil with compost or manure when planting or placing a thick layer of compost on the ground in the spring. 

Fertilize coral bells in the spring by adding a half-inch of compost or a slow-release fertilizer at half strength. Be sure not to cover the crown (the point where the leaves grow from) with compost. Do not apply quick release fertilizers because this will reduce the likelihood of the plant flowering.

Container-grown Coral Bells will do well with a water-soluble fertilizer applied every 2 weeks. Nutrients leach from the soil of potted plants very quickly due to the more frequent watering, so feeding the plant on a regular schedule is helpful.

coral-bells-growing-in-planter.png

Applying too much fertilizer will result in excess foliage. This foliage will be weak and spindly.

Coral bells grow best in moist, but well-drained soil. Overwatering may cause root rot. Adding compost can improve drainage in heavy clay soils. Water in the morning so the leaves have a chance to dry before the sun is high in the sky to prevent leaf scald and foliage diseases.

Best Time to Fertilize Coral Bells

The best time to fertilize coral bells is in the spring, around the time the plant breaks its winter dormancy and new growth appears. Fertilizing the plant or top dressing the soil with compost once a year is enough to sustain the plant. Avoid using full-strength fertilizers at the time of planting to avoid burning the plant’s roots.

Best Fertilizer for Coral Bells

Use a water-soluble or granular slow-release 5-10-5 or 12-6-6 fertilizer mix. The numbers show the percentage of N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus), and K (potassium) in the fertilizer. You can also blend organic supplements such as bone meal and alfalfa meal into the soil. Topdressing with compost is also recommended. These supplements will slowly release nutrients into the soil and safely feed your coral bells.

Potted Coral Bells will need to be fed throughout the growing season, and a water-soluble fertilizer can give the plant a nutritional lift.  

Coral Bells Fertilizing Tips

  • Fertilize in the spring.
  • Use a water soluble or slow release fertilizer.
  • Do not over-fertilize.
  • Add a half inch layer of compost annually but be sure not to cover the plant’s crown during application.
  • Container-grown Coral Bells can be fertilized every other week.

*Always wear protective gloves and a face mask when handling chemical fertilizers.

*Closely follow all directions and storage guidelines that are on the fertilizer label.