Lewisia Bright Yellow-&-Orange
Cliff Maids


"One could not pluck a flower without troubling a star."

-Francis Thompson
(1859-1907)

   

Lewisia cotyledon make nice companion plants for rockery sedums which likewise prefer dryer soils. Even when not in bloom, the flat rosettes of leaves have some appeal. And when they are in bloom, wow.

Today the most often used common name for L. cotyledon is its genus name, as most people just call them Lewisias. But it is also known as Bitterroot because the root is edible if boiled, though bitter to the pallate.

Another regional name here in the Northwest is Cliff Maids or Cliff Maidens, alluding to its usual habitat, i.e., rocky outcrops, as well as to its rather maidenly pastel colors most commonly in the range of pink, yellow, & orange.

Granny Artemis & I have a collection of Lewisias lined up along a couple of sun-garden ledges that get almost no water & drain rapidly in the rainy season. For some while we had to keep trimming away an aggressive, succulent Trailing Iceplant from time to time, or the slow-growing Lewisias would be overwhelmed. Eventually I dug up all the iceplant & moved it to an area where it was welcome to go a little rampant, encroaching only on big things like shrubs it could not displace.

The larger plants backing up the Lewisia garden include rock roses, a butterfly bush, sun-loving herbs such as sage & lavender, & sun-loving bulbous perennials such as allium species, & even a few rhododendrons selected for sun-hardiness. But the Lewisias get the spots in front, upon the rock ledges that drain the most extremely well, because Lewisias are easy to grow only if they never experience too much dampness, which otherwise rots them during the winter.

The bloom period is quite long for lewisias, at least from May until July on all of them, but many will bloom earlier in some years, & many others will have autumn rebloom as late as October or even November. The bright orange specimen begins blooming before mid-April, & is still covered with flowers in August, almost continuously in flower.

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Lewisia cotyledon Light Orange

   



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