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What is a Lewisia Plant and How to Care for It?

Let us take a close look at the Genus Lewisia plants with showcase on the various considerations of its survival even in the harsh conditions and how to care for it.

Focus on a hot pink lewisia flower growing in an impressive evergreen shrub.

Genus Lewisia

If I may channel my inner David Attenborough: I am constantly shocked at the resilience of plants and their ability to grow in some of the most hostile environments and conditions.

Hiking to above the tree line in certain regions of the American west only to find beautiful flowering plants, aways shocks the system to know that flowers can bloom where humans have never belonged.

One of these endlessly impressive plants in the lewisia plant. This plant is a member of the montiaceae genus, and is named after Meriwether Lewis (of the explorers, Lewis & Clark) due to his encounter of the plant in Montana back in 1803.

The Native American community first referred to this plant as bitterroot, as it is a very valuable and tasty source of food that can be foraged all throughout western North America.

Lewisia plants are one of the most charming and resilient flowering plant species you could hope to find. They are perfect for those dry, rocky, and infertile parts on your property where you could never imagine something being able to grow.

So, if you’ve come to this website to find a plant that is kind to beginner gardeners and can handle some desert-like conditions, you have come to the right place.

What do Lewisia Plants Look Like?

This is an amazing coral pink lewisia flower sprouting out of a gravelly soil.

Growth Habit

Starting underneath the earth, lewisia plants growth from a thick taproot and fleshy feeder roots. This type of root system allows the plant to survive those harsh dry, alpine conditions of the American west.

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From here, the plant will grow a basal rosette of leaves that gives way to short and stalky flower stems. Flowers will emerge either singly or doubly on a flower stem. Plant height will vary depending on the lewisia species, though they can reach heights anywhere from 4 inches to over a foot in height.

Leaves

Lewisia plants are fortunate to have succulent leaves. This is common for plants in those dry, alpine regions. Leaves are produced in basal rosettes and will be fleshy, swollen, and leathery to the touch.

Leaf shape will vary slightly from species to species, though they are all succulent leaves. This is a way to help the plant conserve moisture and allows them to be majorly drought tolerant.

Lewisia plants growing in warm regions will be evergreen, meaning that leaves will remain green and persist all year long, whereas in colder regions they will bear deciduous leaves, meaning that they will fall away once winter approaches.

Flowers

And now the piece de resistance: lewisia flowers. Lewisia flowers are perennials in all but the coldest and hottest growing regions. In the far south and far north they will live as annuals.

A lewisia flower is comprised of a rosette of flower petals with pointed tips. They will often bloom in the early spring or late spring and last into the early summer or late summer, and flower petals come in a stunning array of colors like white, pink, yellow, orange, or red.

Where is Lewisia a Native Plant?

An incredibly resilient lewisia plant growing out of a rock in the desert.

Lewisias are native plants to western North America. They grow all over British Columbia, Washington, Southern Oregon, the Sierra Nevada, and are prosperous all throughout western states as well. They are actually the state flower of Montana!

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This is because their first recording came from Meriwether Lewis who discovered a massive field of lewisia plants. This area was named Bitterroot Valley, with surrounding rivers sharing this honorable name.

They grow wild all over coniferous forests and oak woodlands. They can be found in rocky outcrops at high elevations, though will also grow at lower elevations in sunny valleys as well. Lewisia plants can grow in USDA growing zones 5 through 8.

What are some Lewisia Species?

Amazingly beautiful white and orange lewisia flowers growing in a bundle

Siskiyou Lewisia (Lewisia Cotyledon)

Siskiyou lewisia is a wonderful species of evergreen perennial that grows in many western states. L cotyledon plants are perfect specimens for a rock garden planting or against a retaining wall.

Lewisia cotyledon can be identified by its basal rosette of fleshy, dark green leaves. From here rises a 6-12 inch flower stem that bears open sprays of funnel shaped flowers of either pale pink or deep magenta.

Bitterroot (Lewisia Rediviva)

Lewisia rediviva is known for being one of the toughest lewisia species. Its latin epithet, rediviva, translates literally to “revived” or “reborn”, as they seem to bring themselves back to life after being horribly neglected and appear as being dead.

L rediviva can be identified firstly because it is the state flower of Montana, and secondly from its leafless stems (which is unusual for the family). Each stem will bear a single flower of either white, to pink, or lavender.

Little Plum (Lewisia Longipetala)

Little plum! The cutest name for a flower one could ever imagine! Little plum plants are wonderful evergreen perennials that are the perfect addition to an alpine garden.

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Lewisia longipetala can be identified by its low, fleshy rosette of evergreen leaves, and large, star shaped flowers that are a gorgeous cotton candy pink color. They bloom in the late spring and last many weeks.

Nevada Lewisia (Lewisia Nevadensis)

Lewisia nevadensis is a plant that is native to (you guessed it), Nevada! It grows in harsh mountain habitats, in places you would never imagine a flower could bloom.

It can be identified by its rosettes of narrow, fleshy leaves, and bundles of short stems that bear small flowers that are either white or light pink and seem to have a shine to them.

Beautiful bright orange lewisia flowers growing in a bundle.

Tweedy Lewisia (Lewisia Tweedyi ‘Rosea’)

Lewisia tweedyi is a very popular ornamental plant and it is both evergreen and perennial, meaning that it provides garden interest all year long! This cultivar was awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society.

The tweedy lewisia can be identified by its fleshy, obovate green leaves that give rise to sprays of incredible, rose colored, funnel shaped flowers with pale yellow stripes.

Columbian Lewisia (Lewisia Columbiana)

The Columbian lewisia plant is a herbaceous perennial plant that grows prosperously in Columbia. Growing from short and thick taproots, lewisia columbiana grows many fleshy succulent leaves and inflorescences of pale pink flowers or white flowers. Grow lewisia columbiana in a rockery or alpine garden.

Alpine Lewisia (Lewisia Pygmaea)

The alpine lewisia is named so because it only grows in high alpine regions that receive a ton of sun and not much water. Because of this, they are also nicknamed the pygmy bitter root because of their stunted growth.

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Lewisia pygmaea can be identified first by its petite size, as well as its basal rosette of thick leaves. They have very short stems that bear either white flowers or red flowers.

What are the Growing Conditions of the Lewisia Plant?

Now that we’ve gone over some delectable species, some cool info about the plant, and you’ve been baffled by its beauty, I’m sure you’re eager to learn how to grow your own!

Well, you are in luck my nerdy gardener. Lewisia plants are uber friendly to beginners. You can basically plant one, walk away for a year, and it will be the star of your rock garden.

Though certain aspects of their growth requirements may seem picky, they are by no means high maintenance. Here are a few tips and tricks about how to keep lewisia plants happy:

These are bright purple lewisia flowers growing low to the ground in a rock garden.

Soil Type

Lewisia plants only grow wild in certain places, and the best way to keep them happy is by trying to mimic those outdoor conditions — and the first step to that is creating the perfect soil type.

Lewisia plants need to live in soil that it very well drained, more so than any plant you’ve ever cared for. They respond very well to sandy soil or sometimes even straight gravel. They are not at all tolerant to water logged or packed soil, so keep that in mind!

Additionally, these plants are used to living in nutrient poor soils in the wild. They can tolerate medium fertility, and also prefer soil that is more neutral or acidic on the pH scale.

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Sun Exposure

Lewisias, being succulents, are sun loving creatures. This means that they will be very happy if they get the chance to sunbathe for a solid 6 hours or more every day!

However, there are some species with evergreen leaves that actually prefer to exist in partial shade conditions as well. Just do a little bit of research to find out what the best place would be.

Usually, a plant that receives full sun in the morning and partial shade in the afternoon will perform just fine.

Water Level

One reason why gardeners in western North America love lewisia plants is because they can grow in pretty desolate sites, and are wonderfully drought tolerant. They are a must have plant for New Mexico and Nevada landscaping.

Though thanks to those fleshy feeder roots and succulent leaves they can tolerate extended periods of drought, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate some moisture every once in a while!

It’s a good rule of thumb to allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. It’s also important to make sure that lewisia plants receive water in the hottest periods of the summer.

Something cool about succulent plants is that they basically tell you when they need water! If the regularly swollen and fleshy leaves of the plant start to become a little bit wrinkled, you’ll know it’s time to water!

These are gorgeous light pink lewisia flowers growing in an open dry field.

Temperature

Lewisia plants are also very valued as ornamental plants because they can tolerate some extreme temperatures. The can handle both high heat and bitter cold, and they will exist happily outdoors in USDA growing zones 5 through 8. Otherwise, it may be best to keep them as indoor plants, or to grow them in containers so that they can be brought indoors once the Canadian winter pays its yearly visit.

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Fertilizer

Lewisia plants are used to existing in some pretty nutrient poor soils in the wild. This means that they don’t need to live in fertile soil in your garden either. Though they will sometimes benefit from a light fertilizer, it is by no means necessary.

Pruning

Since there really isn’t all that much to a lewisia plant, the only pruning that needs to be done is deadheading. By removing the spent flowers, this will enable the plant to grow new flower heads, providing spectators a sequel of flower blossoms!

Another manner of pruning you can do is actually snipping off offsets. This is the easiest way to propagate a new plant: by dividing it!

Intolerances

Badaboom! As you can see, though lewisia plants don’t have the same growing conditions as the other plants in your garden, they don’t require all that much from you (except for perfect drainage). Simply remember that they can’t tolerate living in clogged soil and that they should never be over watered!

How are Lewisia Plants Used?

An amazing bouquet of orange lewisia flowers growing close to the ground.

Edible Plant/Medicinal Plant

As if the lewisia plant weren’t already cool enough, knowing that it is both nutritious, delicious, and medicinal make it all that much cooler!

Every part of the lewisia plant is edible, but the part most commonly eaten is the root. Lewisia roots are commonly known as bitter root, because they have quite a bitter taste until they or boiled down.

Lewisia root has traditionally been used simply as a carb, to help relieve sore throats, and it is also said to help encourage milk flow in breastfeeding mothers! Neat, huh?

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Ornamental Plant

The lewisia plant is a very good plant to know about it if you live on a property that has been forgotten about. It can be very tricky to amend soil that has been neglected, and luckily the lewisia plant prefers to live in those types of conditions!

They are an amazing choice for rock garden planting, alpine gardens, a rockery, and they even make a great border plant for dry gravel paths.

These are cheerful and happy flower heads of the lewisia plant in full bloom

FAQs

Are lewisia plants hardy?

Considering that they are a succulent plant, lewisias are surprisingly cold hardy! They have no trouble getting through bouts of frost and can survive throughout the winter thanks to those deep and tough taproots.

Can you grow lewisia from seed?

The easiest way to grow lewisia is by snipping off offsets and planting them in separate pots, though they can also be grown from seed. They require a period of cold for proper germination, and under the right conditions, germination can occur in 14-30 days.

Are lewisia plants deer resistant?

Lewisia plants are moderately deer resistant. This means that though they are not first choice of snack for deer to nibble on, they will definitely take a bit if there isn’t anything tastier in the area.

What are the damaging agents to lewisia plants?

The biggest issues that lewisia plants face are infestations of slugs and snails, and plenty of issues if they are planted in soil that is too packed or if they are over watered.

Are lewisia plants succulents?

Lewisia plants are fortunate to have succulent leaves. This is common for plants in those dry, alpine regions. Leaves are produced in basal rosettes and will be fleshy, swollen, and leathery to the touch.

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Leaf shape will vary slightly from species to species, though they are all succulent leaves. This is a way to help the plant conserve moisture and allows them to be majorly drought tolerant.

Lewisia plants growing in warm regions will be evergreen, meaning that leaves will remain green and persist all year long, whereas in colder regions they will bear deciduous leaves, meaning that they will fall away once winter approaches.

Are lewisia plants perennials or annuals?

Lewisia flowers are perennials in all but the coldest and hottest growing regions. In the far south and far north they will live as annuals.

Should a lewisia plant be grown in a pot?

Lewisia plants can grow very happily in a pot as long as it is big enough. They have large and deep roots that can quickly become cramped.

Can lewisia grow indoors?

Lewisia can happily grow indoors as a house plant as long as they are placed in a sunny, south facing window. These plants are not very hard to please!

When do lewisia flowers bloom?

And now the piece de resistance: lewisia flowers. Lewisia flowers are perennials in all but the coldest and hottest growing regions. In the far south and far north they will live as annuals.

A lewisia flower is comprised of a rosette of flower petals with pointed tips. They will often bloom in the early spring or late spring and last into the early summer or late summer, and flower petals come in a stunning array of colors like white, pink, yellow, orange, or red.

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How should a lewisia plant be pruned?

Since there really isn’t all that much to a lewisia plant, the only pruning that needs to be done is deadheading. By removing the spent flowers, this will enable the plant to grow new flower heads, providing spectators a sequel of flower blossoms!

Another manner of pruning you can do is actually snipping off offsets. This is the easiest way to propagate a new plant: by dividing it!

What USDA growing zone can lewisia grow in?

Lewisia plants are also very valued as ornamental plants because they can tolerate some extreme temperatures. The can handle both high heat and bitter cold, and they will exist happily outdoors in USDA growing zones 5 through 8. Otherwise, it may be best to keep them as indoor plants, or to grow them in containers so that they can be brought indoors once the Canadian winter pays its yearly visit.

Does a lewisia plant prefer full sun or partial shade?

Lewisias, being succulents, are sun loving creatures. This means that they will be very happy if they get the chance to sunbathe for a solid 6 hours or more every day!

However, there are some species with evergreen leaves that actually prefer to exist in partial shade conditions as well. Just do a little bit of research to find out what the best place would be.

Usually, a plant that receives full sun in the morning and partial shade in the afternoon will perform just fine.

Do lewisia plants need fertilizer?

Lewisia plants are used to existing in some pretty nutrient poor soils in the wild. This means that they don’t need to live in fertile soil in your garden either. Though they will sometimes benefit from a light fertilizer, it is by no means necessary.

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How often should a lewisia plant be watered?

One reason why gardeners in western North America love lewisia plants is because they can grow in pretty desolate sites, and are wonderfully drought tolerant. They are a must have plant for New Mexico and Nevada landscaping.

Though thanks to those fleshy feeder roots and succulent leaves they can tolerate extended periods of drought, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate some moisture every once in a while!

It’s a good rule of thumb to allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. It’s also important to make sure that lewisia plants receive water in the hottest periods of the summer.

Something cool about succulent plants is that they basically tell you when they need water! If the regularly swollen and fleshy leaves of the plant start to become a little bit wrinkled, you’ll know it’s time to water!

What is the ideal soil type for lewisia plants?

Lewisia plants only grow wild in certain places, and the best way to keep them happy is by trying to mimic those outdoor conditions — and the first step to that is creating the perfect soil type.

Lewisia plants need to live in soil that it very well drained, more so than any plant you’ve ever cared for. They respond very well to sandy soil or sometimes even straight gravel. They are not at all tolerant to water logged or packed soil, so keep that in mind!

Additionally, these plants are used to living in nutrient poor soils in the wild. They can tolerate medium fertility, and also prefer soil that is more neutral or acidic on the pH scale.

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Are lewisia plants edible?

As if the lewisia plant weren’t already cool enough, knowing that it is both nutritious, delicious, and medicinal make it all that much cooler!

Every part of the lewisia plant is edible, but the part most commonly eaten is the root. Lewisia roots are commonly known as bitter root, because they have quite a bitter taste until they or boiled down.

Lewisia root has traditionally been used simply as a carb, to help relieve sore throats, and it is also said to help encourage milk flow in breastfeeding mothers! Neat, huh?