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Lewisia spp (lew-ISS-ee-uh)

ZBitterroot, Cliff maids, Siskiyou Lewisia

Lewisias are 6-inch-tall plants with small, attractive flowers and long, blade-shaped leaves that are succulent in appearance. The dark green leaves are arranged in rosettes. Lewisias are known as rock-garden plants but are growing in popularity as houseplants.

Lewisias are available in hues of red, pink, magenta, orange, gold, yellow, apricot, white and cream. The blossoms are often striped or bicolored.

Each bloom cycle will last for several weeks. With proper care and favorable conditions, the plants can bloom several times a year. The plants can survive for years, depending on the environment.

Lewisias bloom naturally in late spring and early summer. They usually are available from local growers. Order in advance to ensure availability.

L. cotyledon - This is the most popular species. A showy L. cotyledon hybrid is the ‘Sunset’ strain, which consists of several cultivars in vibrant hues including white, pink, yellow and apricot.
L. tweedyi - This species has 6-centimeter-wide apricot blooms.

LIGHT Bright, indirect light is best for Lewisia plants displayed indoors. Full sun can be tolerated outdoors.
WATER Keep the soil moist at all times during the growing season, but water sparingly during the winter. Overwatering can cause root or crown rot.
TEMPERATURE Cool to average warmth is best for displaying Lewisias. Do not refrigerate them because sudden drops in temperature may result in wilt and blossom drop. Keep the plants cool in winter.
HUMIDITY The plants will do best in areas with moderate humidity. Do not mist Lewisias’ leaves.
FERTILIZER Feed the plants every three weeks during the growing season with a high phosphorus or bloom fertilizer.
SOIL Lewisia plants prefer sandy, well-drained soil. A mixture of equal parts soil, sand, pea-gravel and good compost is best.
GROOMING Cut Lewisia plants back when they have finished flowering to remove faded flowers and leaves. The plants naturally stay fairly compact and neat.
REPOTTING The plants can be repotted in the spring.
ETHYLENE SENSITIVITY Lewisias are not sensitive to ethylene gas.

BLOOMS Remove florets from the stems as they fade.
FOLIAGE Avoid plants that show signs of wilt, rot, mold or yellowing.
PESTS AND DISEASES Lewisias are relatively trouble free. Watch for red spider mites on indoor plants, and control them with insecticidal soap.

WHAT'S IN A NAME Lewisias were named in honor of Capt. Meriwether Lewis, a leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806. The specimens collected by Capt. Lewis were sent to the The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia as dried roots and surprised the researchers by blooming, giving rise to the species name “rediviva.”
FAMILY Lewisias are members of the Portulacaceae, or purslane, family. Relatives include Portulaca (purslane, moss rose), Claytonia (spring beauty) and Montia (miner’s lettuce).
HOME SWEET HOME In the United States, Lewisia plants are native to Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Colorado and Arizona. They also are native to the Sagebrush Plains and Alpine areas of British Columbia, Canada.

Some information provided by:
The House Plant Expert, Book Two, by Dr. D.G. Hessayon
Daves Garden,
North American Rock Garden Society,

Photos courtesy of Nurserymen’s Exchange, Inc.

You may reach “Blooming Plant of the Month” writer Steven W. Brown, AIFD, at or by phone at (415) 239-3140.

Super Floral Retailing • Copyright 2008
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.