The Lewisia succulent is a popular alpine plant that belongs to the Portulacaceae family. Known for its colorful flowers and succulent foliage, Lewisia would make a great addition to any rock garden or home interior. However, growing it can be a challenge, especially if you are not familiar with its growing requirements. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to grow Lewisia, from choosing the right location to propagating the plant.
About succulents of the genus Lewisia
Lewisia, also known as Bitterroot, is a stunning plant with colorful flowers that bloom in a variety of shades, from pink and red to orange and yellow. It’s a great addition to any indoor garden, as it’s relatively easy to care for and adds a pop of color to any space.
This genus of succulents is named after American explorer Meriwether Lewis, who first discovered the plant in 1806. The natural habitat of Lewisia species is rocky soil and cliffs in western North America. To date, 19 species and several varieties of Lewisia have been discovered.
Lewisia is a perennial found on rocky outcrops from high to low chaparral, in oak and coniferous forests. About half of the species are deciduous, the rest are evergreens. They are all miniature perennials that form rosettes. At maturity, some species can reach up to 18 in (45 cm) in height. The shape of the leaves varies from species to species. Plants growing in warm regions tend to be evergreen, meaning they persist throughout the year. Species growing in colder regions have leaves that fall off as winter approaches.
From late spring and early summer, Lewisia produces rosette-shaped flowers in various shades. Some species will delight you with large showy flowers, other species reveal smaller flowers.
All succulents of this genus are edible. For example, Lewisia rediviva has a large edible root, and as a result the plant has become a food source for Native Americans. The root is peeled before boiling or steaming.
Some Bitterroot species have also been used for medicinal purposes by Native peoples. Chewing the root is used to relieve a sore throat or to improve the flow of milk during lactation.
Guide to Growing Lewisia indoor
In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into everything you need to know about caring for Lewisia, from choosing the right soil to dealing with pests and diseases. So let’s get started!
The right soil for Lewisia
Bitterroot thrive in a well-drained substrate that is rich in organic matter. Soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 is ideal for these plants. If your soil mixture is heavy or clayey, you need to add organics such as compost. Be sure to add some perlite or sand to improve drainage.
Lewisia, being succulents, love the sun. They will be very happy if they get at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.
However, some species with evergreen leaves prefer to grow in semi-shade as well. Lewisia do best in an open spot protected from the sun during the hottest part of the day. Indoors, the ideal position is east or west, in the garden it is best planted on the north side.
Lewisia can tolerate extreme temperatures, both extreme heat and moderate cold. The succulent prefers temperatures of -20° to 40° F (-7° to 4°C). Outdoors, they are best planted if you live in USDA growing zones 5 through 8. Otherwise, it is best to grow them as indoor plants.
More information about caring for succulents
Because of their fleshy roots and succulent leaves, Lewisia can tolerate long periods of drought. But that doesn’t mean they don’t like moisture at all. Here too, the cardinal rule of watering succulents is to let the soil dry out completely before watering again. Make sure the plants get water on the hottest days of summer.
Lewisia plants grow well in fairly organic-poor soils in the wild. It is not necessary to fertilize them. Although a light fertilizer is sometimes helpful to the succulent.
Pruning and gartering
To keep your plant looking its best, it is important to prune and prune regularly. Pruning, or removing blooms that have died off, encourages the plant to flower more vigorously. Pruning will help keep the plant compact and neat.
You should also remove any dead or damaged leaves as soon as you notice them. This will help prevent the spread of diseases and pests.
This small plant rarely grows to the size required for transplanting into a large container, so it may not need to be transplanted into a new pot for a long time, except to change the soil mixture. Experienced florists also advise against disturbing the succulent unnecessarily, as this may negatively affect the plant.
The preferred season for transplanting Lewisia is spring.
Dealing with Pests and Diseases
Like all plants, Lewisia is susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases. Common problems include aphids, spider mites, and powdery mildew. To prevent these issues, it’s important to keep your plants healthy and stress-free. Make sure they’re getting enough water and nutrients, and avoid over-fertilizing. If you do notice pests or signs of disease, treat them promptly with an appropriate insecticide or fungicide.
How to propagate Lewisia
Growing from seed
Only freshly harvested seeds are used for sowing, as they lose germination very quickly.
- Prepare a container and a loose, moist soil mixture;
- Sow the seeds and cover them with a thin layer of soil;
- The top of the container covered with glass or film;
- The container is placed in a cold place for a month;
- After the first sprouts appear, the container is transferred to the heat. Wait until the seedlings have formed 2 or 3 leaves.
Planting seedlings in the garden is carried out after the last spring frosts. Succulents grown from seeds will flower for the first time only in the second or third year of growth.
An adult plant as it grows forms offshoots that do not have their own root system. If you have decided to propagate the plant, in the spring time separate the rosette with a sharp knife and plant it in the prepared soil in a medium-sized container. Before planting the cuttings, it should be treated with fungicide and a product that stimulates root growth. Put the container with the planted cuttings in a cool place where they should take some time to take root. Once the root system has grown and strengthened, the seedlings can be planted in a permanent place.
Popular species of the genus Lewisia
Tweedy Lewisia (L. Tweedyi)
A very popular ornamental evergreen plant. This variety has been awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society.
It has fleshy, obovate green leaves and pink funnel-shaped flowers with pale yellow stripes.
Siskiyou Lewisia (Lewisia Cotyledon)
A fine example of an evergreen perennial native to many regions in the west. These succulents are ideal for planting in a rockery or by a retaining wall.
Lewisia cotyledon can be easily recognized by its root rosette with fleshy dark green leaves. During the flowering season, a 6-12 inch (15-25 cm) flower stalk rises from the rosette with bunches of funnel-shaped pale pink or dark purple flowers.
Alpine lewisia (Lewisia pygmaea)
You can guess from the name that it only grows in high mountain regions where there is lots of sun and little water.
Lewisia pygmaea can be recognized by its miniature size as well as by its root rosette of thick leaves. They have very short stems with white or red flowers.
Bitterroot (Lewisia Rediviva)
One of the most hardy species of succulent. The epithet rediviva literally translates to “reborn” or “revived,” as they almost always come back to life after being terribly neglected.
Lewisia rediviva can be recognized by its leafless stems. A single white, pink or pale purple flower opens on each flower stalk.
Little Plum (L. Longipetala)
This plant is a beautiful evergreen perennial that is often used as an addition to an alpine garden.
It has a low, fleshy rosette with evergreen leaves and large star-shaped pink flowers. Flowering begins in late spring and lasts several weeks.
Nevada Lewisia (Lewisia Nevadensis)
The plant is native to Nevada. It grows in harsh mountain conditions.
This species is characterized by rosettes of narrow fleshy leaves and tufts of short flowering stems with dwarf white or light pink flowers.
Columbian Lewisia (L. Columbiana)
This is an herbaceous perennial plant that grows in Colombia. The succulent has many fleshy leaves and is memorable for its pale pink or white flowers. An excellent choice for an alpinarium or rock garden.
How often should I water my Lewisia?
You should water your Lewisia when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. During hot, dry weather, you may need to water more frequently.
Can Lewisia tolerate full sun?
Yes, Lewisia can tolerate full sun, but it’s important to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely.
How often should I fertilize my Lewisia?
A light application of a balanced fertilizer in the spring is usually sufficient for Lewisia.
How do I deadhead my Lewisia?
To deadhead Lewisia, simply remove the spent flowers with a pair of clean, sharp scissors or pruners.
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