Looking for a plant that is beautiful, easy to care for and will add some sparkle to just about any landscape? Heuchera it is! Commonly known as Coral Bells.
These are just some of the Heuchera that we have at the nursery and we sell a ton of them. They are extremely popular and rightfully so! I use them like crazy in my own landscapes because they add so much year round color.
Now here’s the catch. Many of Heuchera that you see in these photos are patented. Patented? What’s that mean? That means that it is against the law for you and I to propagate asexually. Asexually? What’s that mean? That means that all means of propagation except growing them from seed is forbidden. Growing from seeds is “sexual propagation” and there for allowed. But cuttings, divisions, tissue culture etc. are off limits.
But . . . that’s not really the end of the world, it just costs me a little more per plant upfront. I bought all of the Huechera that you see in this photo from One of Our Members, I think I paid about $1.75 each. I sell them for $5.97 each and I really should be charging more for them because they sell for $12.00 or more in garden centers and big box stores.
But now I am changing direction a little bit and I’m kicking myself for not doing this sooner. When I bought the plants that you see in the photo I bought 1,000 of them. That’s $1,750 out of my pocket, up front. I’ll make plenty of money on them, but if I had propagated them myself that seventeen hundred dollars would still be in my pocket.
But Mike, they’re patented! How can you grow them yourself?
They are not all patented. So my plan is to buy as many non patented varieties that I can find, plant them in beds, and get good at rooting them from cuttings. Will I still buy patented ones? Probably, but not as many. But there are some really nice non patented ones that actually better than the patented ones.
I had several of these in my landscape so I dug up one or two and divided them, potted them up and sold every last one. One of Our Members a Few Hours from here bought two of them from me. This summer I realized that I didn’t have a single one that I could propagate from so I asked in the members area and low and behold, who do you think responded? Tammy! The gal I sold those two plants to. She turned those two plants into hundreds of baby plants and I bought the last 80 that she had left. I had to buy my own plants back!
But that’s what I love about this business.
You can turn something that is almost nothing into hundreds of plants that others want. So I have those 80 in a bed and this spring I’ll be on a mission to find a few hundred more that I can put into beds as well. Then I’ll make sure I have a steady supply of Heuchera that I can propagate from.
Earlier I mentioned that it is legal to collect seeds from the patented plants and grow out the seeds. At least that’s my understanding, don’t take this as legal advice, I’m a dirt farmer, not a lawyer.
Why is it okay to grow a patented plant from seed?
Because the cultivar, the actual unique variety is what is patented. And like humans and all other mammals we are never clones of our parents because it takes two beings to make a baby anything. The offspring will resemble each of the parents but not be identical to either one. That’s the beauty of sexual reproduction and that’s where new plants come from.
Recently, when one of our members asked about growing Heuchera from seed this is what I wrote in response to her post. I figured it was worth saving and sharing since I worked hard on it!
Growing Patented Heuchera from seed. Can I or Can’t I?
Confusing? Yeah, a lot of it is but I’ll explain what I know or what I think I know.
1. To my knowledge it is okay to collect seeds from a patented plant and grow those seeds and later sell them because patents protect a plant from asexual reproduction and seeds are sexual reproduction.
With all forms of sexual reproduction you never get a clone of their parent plant.
2. That means that your seedlings might not resemble the parent plant at all. Some might be just a boring, kind of greenish purple color. One or two might actually be really pretty. Only one way to find out.
3. Is there an opportunity here? I think there is and I think it will take a serious but small grower to exploit this opportunity.
4. In my opinion, the world really only needs about 10 varieties of Heuchera in any given zone. Think about it. Good landscape design involves a lot of repetition, repeating combinations of plants and colors, not all kinds of things just planted helter skelter around the yard. Most good landscape designers will plant things, especially perennials in small groupings.
5. Let’s say that you sow a bunch of seeds, at least a thousand and watch them as they come up and mature. Most you can prick out and transplant into a 72 cell and let them fatten up then into a one gallon container to be sold.
6. Should you get any that are really interesting, don’t sell them! Keep them, watch them, photograph them for leaf color and in bloom. If they are distinct enough, or just pretty or interesting consider them “keepers” and start reproducing them “asexually”.
7. Got that? First from seed, then the keepers you want to only propagate asexually so you have exact clones of your new, interesting, pretty plants. Then you increase your stock on each of these keepers so you have a constant supply of “stock plants”.
8. Name and label them. Naming is another tricky issue but for now I’d new them Andi’s introduction #1, #2, #3 etc.
9. Repeat and rinse, always looking for that shining star new introduction.
10. Patent your new introductions? No and this is why. Your patented plant will get lost in the sea of big players and if they are not collecting royalties from you they’ll just kick you to the curb anyway.
11. Just become the go to person for awesome, unpatented Heucheras.
12. If you really, really had that shining star you could patent it, but I honestly can’t see how a small person like us could make it work because apparently it’s pretty easy to produce new varieties of Heuchera since there are so many new, patented varieties.
I suspect that somebody, even if your new introduction is patented, would get their hands on one, apply for their own patent and pretty much steal your introduction.
Did I really say that? Apparently I did.
Here’s a video that I found that discusses growing Heuchera from seed.
Okay, that’s my story about Heuchera. One of the best selling perennials in the business!
Questions, comments, mean things to say? Post them below and I’ll respond appropriately.