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.
Check this out to see what I mean; 23 Landscape Design Ideas
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.
Jim Coulter says
There ue are getting to ba a lot of PP tags now in the Big Box Stores. Tough to find one without them!
We have several wholesale sources that can supply them as well as members that grow non patented heuchera. Trying to start my own collection.
Ann Rutter says
I have been thinking about selling at the summer farm markets. Now you have me worried about the origin of all my plants that I have been dividing and propagating for sale. I do quite a bit of plant swapping and buying at garage sales. There are of course some of my new cool hostas that are likely Monrovia patented that I bought at a big box store. Is there a resource that you know of that would help me ferret out the mystery plants so I can sell them?
You truly are off to not such a good start. There is not resource beyond the original plant tags. That’s why we have a members area, http://backyardgrowers.com/join, to get folks off to a good, solid start. Are the cuttings that you have to stick “Rant Compliant”.
Honestly, this is the most important thing I can teach new members.
How long do heuchera need from seed to a sellable plant? I do have little space in my garden left and I do have more an edible and medicinal garden, but for local selling I want (have to) venture more into ornamentals.
Probably a full season.
Karen Zerkel says
I live in the Cascade Range in Oregon and have 1000’s of Coral Bells on my property. We just logged and I’ve been potting them up and they are beautiful. They don’t sell here well because they are native plants in this area. They do sell them at the big box stores for $12.99 and mine are bigger and healthier looking.. I joined the business center, but the ones I potted up are too heavy to ship. It breaks my heart when I mow them knowing someone could be enjoying them.. How do you recommend I sell them?.
You’d have to divide them then grow them out a bit and sell them. If the box stores are getting $12.95 for them, then there is a market. Bring this up in the business center for more ideas.
The azaleas here in the Piedmont of NC have finished blooming and its time for pruning. Any special suggestions on using the prunings as “sticks” for new plants?
BTW, looks like I’ve got about 90% success on my muscadine cutting using your method. I’ll wait until mid summer as you suggested b/4 separating and potting individually and then into the vineyard after they’re dormant.
Thanks in advance,
You really want only softwood cuttings from those azaleas. I’m guessing they don’t have that much new growth yet. Prune them but if last years wood I’d simply toss it and do softwoods in the summer.
This about my “Six Week Rule”.
In northern Ohio the six week rule is typically June 1st. So that means that in southern Ohio the six week rule would probably be around the third week of May.
You have to find your own six week rule.
The Six Week Rule
Here’s the thing with softwood cuttings. Forget about what they say online (as if I’m not online pumping out info online!) about bloom date etc. If you follow the six week rule you can’t go wrong as far as timing is concerned.
From the day plants get their leaves in the spring, count ahead six weeks. During that six week period the plant actually produces, for you, about 5 or 6 inches of new, soft growth that can be used for softwood cuttings. That new growth needs six weeks to harden off enough to be used as a softwood cutting.
If you take the cuttings too soon, they will wilt down and fail, but most importantly you will have wasted those cuttings. You can take a few, stick under mist, and see how they hold up. If they stand up, you’re good to go. Some wilting is normal, but not laying flat on the rooting medium.
So anytime after the six week date is good until the wood starts to harden off near the end of summer.
Thanks Mike appreciate the fast reply.
Anne-Marie W. says
Love your site and videos. Thank you. Now for my question. Can you tell me why none of my Heuchera have every blossomed? They put out the spike with seeds, but have never blossomed. They are several years old; some are at least 8 to 9 years old, maybe more.
If they put out a spike with seeds then they bloomed. Can’t have seeds without a flower. However, not all flowers look like flowers. Some are super pretty, others not so much.
Ruth Miller says
Next year I am planning on finally moving out of my apartment into my own house. I have been following your blog and watching your videos for years and plan on starting my own little nursery after moving. I am currently in the planning stages of what kind of plants to grow, as I am in a colder zone. Coral bells grow wonderfully here. I was wondering if you knew where one could find a list of non-patented coral bells. I have already found a good list for hostas. I am thinking of doing a trial on the members area later in the year to see how things work there and for more info on starting my little nursery.
The sooner you get in the members area the sooner you will be up to speed on what you want and need to do. There is no list that I know of, but the members know which ones are non patented and often offer them for sale. http://backyardgrowers.com/join
Hi, Mike. I really enjoy your extensive gardening articles. I would love to see what it takes to get into the business side of gardening. I will be retiring this year and wanted to get an early start. But I don’t know how Uncle Sam will view the deductions I take off of my hobby/business. Maybe you’ve already written an article about this and you can direct me to it. Thanks a million for all that you do.
Best thing to do is join the members area, only $7.00 for a 30 day trial, http://backyardgrowers.com/join, then post this question to the other members. But if you are starting a legitimate business, then those deductions should be valid. Doesn’t have to big a big business, but it does have to have the potential for profit. If your goal is only a hobby, then I would not take any deductions.
Debra Apple says
I would enjoy the chance to experiment with these Heuchera coral plants and see what amazing colors I can come up with.
Mike I’m currently looking to move into a new home, but am concerned about lot size with regard to my BYG business. After years as a member, I’m finally starting out as a grower. With my lifestyle I anticipate growing my business to a $10,000 to $12,000/yr. operation. My question: How many working square feet, at a minimum, would I need to accommodate an operation of that size?
I can’t go into a lot of detail here, this would be an ideal question for the members area, http://backyardgrowers.com/join. It really depends on what you choose to grow and sell. But as an example, let’s say that you did nothing but rooted cuttings and sell them right out of the propagation bed. Being generous with space I’d allow 1.5 square inches per rooted cutting. But you can also broker, or flip plants in between that which would give you extra profit and not take up a lot of space. There are so many options. This place; https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2016/03/mikes-first-backyard-nursery/, the nursery consumed about 1/20th of an acre.
S. A. Unger says
Hi, Mike…any suggestions for a fern garden?
is being dismantled to be replaced by a “fern garden”. Ferns grow well along the backside wall of our home in no sun. We love ferns of all sizes, hues and textures.
My friends are always surprised when I incorporate them into my wildflower arrangements for every day use, special occasions and gifts.
S.A. Ferns are awesome and in demand, people are always looking for plants for shady areas.
Iris Du Pont says
Hello – does this plant need a lot of sun? And, perhaps you could shed some light on why my hydrangea didn’t bloom at all last year – i live in Boston and the previous winter was brutal and I had cut back some of the hydrangea. But of the 40 plants I have only two blossomed, lovely leaves, but no blossoms.
No, Heuchera is a shade loving plant but will tolerate some sun depending on the variety. Your hydrangea buds were probably damaged over the winter. Happens a lot with varieties like Nikko Blue.
Kaye Tamez says
I would love to buy Coral Bells Heuchera from you but can’t find any kind of order form. I live in Houston, Texas in zone 9a, and truly hope you can assist me. However, I’m simply an individual retired geezer and don’t have a website, so I may be out of luck. Thanks in advance!,
At this time I am not shipping any coral bells but they are for sale in our members area on a regular basis. Usually $1.75 to $2.75 each.
Annette English says
How can I purchase seeds?
There are a lot of seed suppliers online.
Barbara DUDLEY says
Will the deer eat these plants?
I’ve never heard of them eating them like they do hosta, but I honestly don’t know.
Janr Murphy says
Hi, Mike. Keep the posts coming, they’re informative and entertaining. It’s interesting to note that many, many gardeners instantly recognjze your name when I mention your website!
Thanks Janr, I appreciate that.
C. Michael Hawkins says
I would love to meet yo one day to exchange notes and tips. However, you are a long way aways. I live in Huntersville, NC just north of Charlotte. I have always been interested in growing things. By trade, a chemical engineer, 64 years old. I want to work, but it seems no one wants me for technical work. I ahem been thinking about better utilizing my 1.04 acre lot to grow things. I have many trees, but some sunny spots. Tips pointers and comments welcome. Could I obtain plants by mail or other means to get started. I am also very interested in micropropagation.
You’re really not that far away. At our summer shindig people come from many, many miles. Pam and I were just in Atlanta meeting with our southern members. We have a number of members down your way and yes, you can purchase plants and have them shipped to you. In our buy/sell area, http://backyardgrowers.com/join, people buy and sell daily. They ship all over the place! Membership opens again on March 20th I believe, take the $7 test drive to see what it’s all about.
Adam Frieholtz says
I am a disabled Marine veteran. I would enjoy the chance to expiriment with these Heuchera coral plants and see what amazing colors I can come up with. Do they grow in colors such as gold and scarlet? Those are U.S. Marine colors. Would you be willing to send me a few to expjriment with? My wife had MS and we would love the challenge to come up witj a new color. We would ensure we send the new types back for your use. Thank you for yoyr time. Semper Fi.
521 Greenbriar Pl
Boulder City NV 89005
They do grow in the colors you are asking about, there are all kinds of colors. Right now I have none to ship, but they are available in our members area on a fairly regular basis. I’d love to see somebody really run with this! http://backyardgrowers.com/join