You may already be familiar with the countless flashy, ornamental Heucheras. Unlike those human-made cultivars that have minimal ecological benefit, our native small-flowered alumroot or Pacific alumroot is the understated yet charming cousin that provides nectar to hummingbirds and bees and is a larval food source for butterflies and moths. Its glossy basal leaves grow in mounds that are semi-evergreen. In late spring and early summer, reddish flower stalks extend a couple feet tall and boast prolific clusters of delicate, white, bell-shaped flowers.
- Plant type/canopy layer: semi-evergreen perennial herbaceous plant
- Size at maturity: foliage mounds about 12” tall, flower stalks up to 36” tall; 12” - 24” wide
- Light requirements: full sun, part sun/part shade, full shade
- Moisture requirements: moist soil
- Bloom time: April - July (May - July in the Portland Metro area)
- Growth rate/ease: slow growth rate, easy to grow
- Wildlife support: flowers attract and provide nectar for hummingbirds, adult butterflies, bees and other insect pollinators; overall plant is a caterpillar host and larval food source for native butterflies and moths
- Native habitat/range: locally common in coniferous or mixed forests, cool rocky cliff banks and crevices, and close to shaded streams from near sea level to high elevations in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California. Portland Plant List - yes.
- Special features & uses: semi-evergreen; wildlife and hummingbird favorite; landscape uses include meadowscapes, woodland gardens, pollinator gardens, rock gardens, groundcover and/or erosion control
Gardening with Small-flowered Alumroot: This attractive perennial prefers moist, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter, such as a mature woodland garden, streamside or mostly-shady raingarden. Although it can tolerate a range of sunlight, it is arguably happiest in a part sun/part shade location, where the soil will not become excessively hot or dried out. Its mounding form and exceptional floral display make it a great border plant, container plant or addition to shady rock walls where its roots can stay cool. The flowering stalks tend to flop over, so we advise planting it away from highest-traffic paths. If you want a groundcover effect, buy and plant several (i.e. 5 - 7) 12"-18" apart. It will spread by seed or rhizome, but only slowly, over many years.
Photo Credit 1 - 3: Nikkie West, Sparrowhawk Native Plants
Photo Credit 4: "Heuchera micrantha" by brewbooks is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0