How to Grow Lewisia Plants

Guide to Growing Bitterroot

Members of the Lewisia genus are small hardy perennials. They have rosette leaves that carry stiff stems.

Atop of these stems Lewisia has cup shaped flowers of white, pink, purple or red; these come into bloom from spring through to the first months of summer.

One of the common names for Lewisia is Bitterroot.

Lewisia rediviva
Lewisia rediviva - Bitterroot by Brewbooks.

Lewisia Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Bitterroot, Lewisia: Cantelow’s; Shortsepal; Columbian
Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
Height: 2 to 12 inches (5 to 30 cm).
Native: Northern America.
Growing Region: Zones 4 to 8.

Flowers: Spring through to early summer.
Flower Details: White, red, pink, purple. Cup-shaped.
Foliage: Rossette. Suuculent. Evergreen. Herbaceous. Rounded. Narrow.

Sow Outside: Surface. Towards the end of autumn or early in winter using fresh seeds. Spacing 2 to 8 inches (5 to 20 cm).
Sow Inside: Germination time: one to two years. Temperature: 50 to 60°F (10 to 16°C) in the light. Mix seeds in a moist growing medium, place in a freezer bag, then stratify by refrigeration for five to six weeks. Once germinated allow to grow for one year. Transplant outdoors in the spring.

Requirements and care: Full sunlight or light shade. Soil pH 5.0 to 8.0. Gritty soil, Moist soil. Can survive in dry soils. Very susceptible to crown rot; overcome this by moving the crowns so that they are about an inch (2.5 cm) above the ground and surround/mulch with gravel. Plants prefer a moist soil, but when watering do not splash plants. Propagate: from rosette runners in the summer.

Miscellaneous: Lewisa rediviva is the state flower of Montana. Bitteroots were ate as a delicacy by some native American tribes including the Shoshone.

How to Grow Bitterroot - Lewisia

Bitteroot can be grown from seeds outdoors by sowing fresh ripe seeds on the surface when available (late autumn/ early winter). They can grow in either sunny or lightly shaded areas of the garden that have a rich, gritty and moist soil. Ideally the pH that Bitterroot grows in will be of pH 5 to 8.

If you first plan to start Bitteroot off indoors, be aware that they are quite hard to grow. The seeds should be first imbibed by placing the seeds (within soil) in a black plastic bag, then placing in the fridge for five weeks. Seeds should then be sown out at a temperature of 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (50 to 59°F). They can take anything from one to two years to germinate. They should be allowed to grow for a further year before transplanting outside.

Small species of Lewisia should be spaced at about 5 cm (2 inches) apart and larger ones up to 20 cm (8 inches) apart. If you require more Lewisia then plant the aerial rosettes that the plant produces in the summer; this is much easier than growing bitterroot from seed.

Caring for bitterroot, Lewisia Plants

Once growing Bitterroot and other Lewisia are quite difficult to look after. Plants are susceptible to crown rot, so set the crowns about 3 cm (1 inch) above the soil, and fill the gap between the crown and soil with stone chippings.

It is important to protect the Lewisia plants from overhead water, so try to grow under a crag in the rock garden. Additionally it is important to make sure that they have an adequate supply of water, so water from below to keep the soil around Lewisia moist.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Lewisia plants. You may also enjoy my gardening guides on how to grow Zinnia, Clematis plant, and Gaura plants.