Colorful varieties of Heuchera are available at local garden stores; it's time to plant beets; the 23rd Annual Spring Plant Sale at the Species Rhododendron Botanical Garden will take place 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 4, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, April 5.

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Give your Heuchera (coral bell) a new lease on life.

Every time I visit a local nursery I’m amazed to discover new varieties of Heuchera with ever more spectacular colored foliage. These all-season perennials look great in container designs, hold their own through most of the winter, and the flowers of many varieties are highly attractive to hummingbirds.

The one problem I’ve found with Heuchera is that after a few years in the garden, some varieties develop long bare stems with leaves only on the top, giving the plant an unattractive palm tree look. Fortunately, cutting the stems down to about 1/8 th inch from the ground easily solves the problem. When you see what remains after this operation, you’ll be convinced I talked you into murdering your plant, but don’t panic.

Encourage new growth by working a half-cup of alfalfa meal or organic flower food into the soil around the plant, and keep the soil moist. Within three weeks, you’ll be amazed to find your Heuchera bigger and more attractive than you’ve ever seen it. As an added bonus, remove the spent leaves from the stem you cut off, and plant it so only the leaves on top remain out of the ground, in a shady moist spot in your garden. The stem will root, and by next spring, you’ve got yourself a new Heuchera, free of charge.

Plant beets now

I love veggies, but I’ve never been a beet fan. Growing up, I had to clean my plate and despised when the beet juice meandered over to the mashed potatoes turning them all red. OK, I admit that beets are loaded with vitamin C and other nutrients, but if the truth were told, I grow them for the greens that are high in Vitamin A and delicious in salads. Beets like sweet soil, so incorporate lime every year. Sow the seeds ¼ inch deep, 2 to 4 inches apart, in a sunny location in loose, well drained soil, and thin to 4 inches apart when seedlings are a couple of inches high. Harvest the beets when they reach the desired size. The best beet to grow for greens is ‘Bull’s Blood’ (available from Ed Hume’s Seeds) featuring delicious dark-red leaves that add a colorful touch to any salad.

Shop for plants, explore a garden

The 23rd Annual Spring Plant Sale at the Species Rhododendron Botanical Garden will take place 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Weyerhaeuser Corporate Headquarters in Federal Way. Parking and admission to the sale and garden are free.

Shop first. As cool as the garden is, you won’t want to miss out on the chance to score rare and unusual plants including trees, shrubs, alpines, ferns, perennials, and both popular and hard-to-find rhododendron species and hybrids from specialty nursery vendors from all over the Pacific Northwest. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit Rhododendron Species Foundation & Botanical Garden. For more information, visit or call 253-661-9377.

Ciscoe Morris:

“Gardening with Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on King 5.