Lewisia—Plant of the Month April 2020

Finally, a plant with a botanical name and a common name that make sense:  Lewisia. These lovely compact, evergreen perennial plants are named after their discoverer, Meriwether Lewis, half of the famous  “Lewis & Clark” exploration  team.

Lewisias are found in the Rockies, Cascades, and Sierras in fairly alpine conditions (cold winters with rocky soils).  Happily for us in Chico, they thrive here in the Sacramento Valley too as long as they are given quick-draining soil (75% potting mix and 25% perlite or pumice seems about right) and water when dry.  We grow ours (L. longipetala the only evergreen species) in an un-glazed terra-cotta pot in full sun autumn, winter and spring with afternoon shade in summer.  If it hasn’t rained we water it twice a month in winter and once or twice a week in summer.  There are several hybrids and cultivars of L. longipetala, ours in the photograph is the hybrid ‘Little Plum’ which has short flower stems compared to other varieties. 

Kept happy, Lewisias will have a large flush of flowers in spring, then smaller repeats later in the year.  Offsets/babies can be separated once they have plenty of roots.  There’s no need to go mountain climbing to enjoy these beauties, they are as close as your back door if you so desire.  I hope you give them a try too and let me know how you like them.

Happy gardening,
Grant (gem6363@icloud.com)