Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lovely Little Lewisia

There's a sweet little rock garden plant, native to the Pacific Northwest, that caught my fancy several years ago. I first saw Lewisia (Common names: Cliff Maids, Bitterroot) on the Spring Hill website and I knew I had to have it. 'Little Plum' came to live in my garden, but it didn't live very long.

This was early in my gardening days, before I learned about growing zones. It was before I learned about clay soil vs. sandy soil. Before I learned about good drainage. It only takes a few garden losses before you are motivated to do some research to try and figure out why a plant didn't thrive in your garden.

Lewisia in my garden in 2008

Lewisia is a succulent type of plant for zones 4-8 (mostly, depending on species) that likes average to poor soil and excellent drainage. The crown of the plant is subject to rotting, so using a pebble or sand mulch helps keep moisture away. It's a great rock garden plant, which is where I now have mine growing. Yes, I tried again, once I learned what lewisias need to grow well.

Lewisia in my garden in 2008
I got a few new lewisias last week at a plant sale (Lewisia cotyledon 'Rainbow Mix' and Lewisia longipetala 'Little Peach'). I planted them in a mix of sand and compost and elevated the planting area. I used pure sand around the crown of the plants. They'll get sun most of the day, although they prefer some afternoon shade. I think this will be fine in my northern garden.

Lewisias can also be grown as a houseplant. This one was a winner at the
Philadelphia Flower Show this spring.

The L. cotyledon is only hardy to zone 6, so we'll see how it does in my zone 5b garden. I've successfully grown several zone 6 plants over the years, but Lewisia can be somewhat difficult in the best of circumstances.

(Yes, we're trying to  kill the white  mulberry tree...)

Lewisia in my 2008 garden.
Like most rock garden plants, lewisias aren't large. At maturity, they're less than six inches tall and 6-9 inches wide. I've seen plants that are somewhat larger though. They bloom in late spring and early summer, with occasional light rebloom later in the season.

Here's a bit of trivia regarding Lewisia: They get their name from Merriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark), who collected them during the Lewis & Clark Expedition in the Pacific Northwest during 1804-1806.

Lewisia blooming in my garden in May 2011.


myomyohi said...

These are beutiful! I will be looking for these next year. Thanks for introducing me to something new.

Darla said...

How pretty is this!

FilipBlog said...

I like the first picture with the different colours.


Lona said...

I have had my eye on that flower all summer but have not heard how it did here in Ohio. Now that I see that they have grown for you I am going to have to try them. I love the Rainbow colors. Thanks for the tips about the sandy soil Kylee. I now know just the spot for some in the garden.

Kathleen... said...

The colors in your first photo are amazing! I'm pleased to read that there is a learning curve w/these, as I've ordered, planted...and summarily killed these gorgeous plants myself! ;-)

I've recently begun a succulent garden and may experiment to see if a new lewisia would fare nicely there.

Thanks for the great article!

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