A rock garden is anything but dreary, as the bitter root shows quite impressively. The purslane plant can even be used for planting planters on the balcony or terrace. The flowers of the evergreen and deciduous plants vary in different colors. The porcelain rose reaches a maximum height of about 20 centimeters, which makes it ideal as a front border planting of sloping and ornamental beds. The North American beauty is used to alpine conditions and has been gaining popularity in our gardens for some time now.


  • Belongs to the spring herb family.
  • Carnation-like, deciduous, or evergreen plants.
  • Leaf shape is fleshy, curled or toothed.
  • Lewisia cotyledon can reach a height of up to 20 centimeters.
  • The 17 species are distributed from Alaska, across North America to Mexico.
  • Numerous hybrid varieties of bitterwort are available in specialist shops.
  • Flower color varies from yellow, pink, white to magenta.
  • The flowering time extends from May to June, late flowering possible in summer.
  • The plant forms capsule fruits with brown-black seeds.

Location and substrate

The plant, which originally came from the west of North America, is ideal for planting rock gardens, walls and roadsides. For the full development of the lush green leaf rosettes and the lush blossoms, Bitterwurz needs a location in full sun, but is also satisfied with places in the light partial shade. However, Lewisia cotyledon is less suitable for underplanting large coniferous and deciduous trees. Because a location that is too dark causes the plant to grow carelessly.

Bitter root is equally suitable for cultivation in pots and ornamental beds. In both cases, the soil should be rich in humus and permeable.

  • Mix lime-free potting soil with humus.
  • Upgrade dry substrate with small amounts of clay.
  • Pebbles or expanded clay loosens the soil.

In order to be able to survive the cold, wet winters in our latitudes without any problems, the substrate must have a high mineral content. It is sufficient if you also work sand or pumice gravel into the ground.

Watering and fertilizing

The plants, also known as porcelain florets, are extremely robust, but still have to be watered regularly in the hot summer time. In order not to damage bitterroot, the roots must never dry out completely. Water regularly in the early morning or evening. This will prevent too much liquid from evaporating in the midday heat. Standing water promotes infestation with root rot. Lewisia cotyledon is more sensitive to waterlogging than other plants. You can counteract root rot by draining the soil. In the case of potted plants, it is advisable to lay a layer of lava chippings or potsherds on the bottom of the container. Even in winter you should water the evergreen species moderately outdoors.

Bitterwort is a frugal plant that does not need excessive amounts of liquid or long-term fertilizers. As a rule, it is sufficient if you loosen the soil regularly and mulch in spring and late summer. Spreading compost or bark mulch has also proven its worth. Plants placed in the tub, on the other hand, should be provided with liquid fertilizer once a month. For an even distribution in the substrate, the fertilizer is added directly to the irrigation water.

Note: Avoid calcareous irrigation water. Because this hampers the metabolism of the plant enormously and can lead to stunted growth and discoloration of the leaves.


Lewisia cotyledon is an eye-catcher in every rock garden. Together with tulips, daffodils, forget-me-nots and other spring bloomers, a colorful picture emerges. When planting outdoors, however, there are a few things to consider: While the perennial, deciduous bitterroot species should preferably be planted in spring, you can still plant the evergreen, herbaceous Lewisia varieties in autumn. Allow the roots of purchased potted plants to bathe in lukewarm water for around 2 hours before relocating them outdoors. This loosens the old substrate and the plants can soak up enough water before they are replanted.

  • The planting hole must be about 5 centimeters larger than the root ball of bitterroot.
  • Prepare the soil with clay, pebbles and humus.
  • Insert the plant and carefully refill the substrate.
  • Cavities are filled by gently tapping and moving the plant.
  • Lightly press the earth down and pour in vigorously.

If you place several Lewisia plants next to each other, make sure they are at least 10 centimeters apart. In this way, the individual specimens can develop optimally and do not compete for water and light. If different plants are cultivated next to each other, you should also pay attention to their special needs in terms of location and minimum distance.

Tip: Young and purchased bitterroot plants should be slowly accustomed to direct sunlight. This will prevent leaf damage.

But the distinctive, low-growing plants also come into their own in a planter or a larger container. However, bitterroot should not eke out a living on the window sill at home. You can accommodate the North American plants decoratively on the balcony or terrace. First create a drainage made of porous, non-rotting material. This layer on the bottom of the container ensures that the plant roots are not exposed to irrigation or rainwater that is standing for too long. Even with bitterroot in the bucket, the location must be light. The minimum is 3 hours of sunshine a day.


Propagation of the low-growing plant is easy and can be done with the help of leaf cuttings and daughter rosettes.Leaf cuttings As the name suggests, this type of cuttings is taken from a single leaf. You can use this method all year round on your window sill at home.

  • Separate a sturdy leaf from the plant.
  • Cut through at the intersection of the leaf veins.
  • Place the leaf on a sandy, poor substrate.
  • Keep evenly moist.
  • The location for cultivation must be warm and light.

As soon as strong roots and new shoots have formed, you can move the young plant into humus-rich soil.

Daughter rosettes
Separate the small daughter rosettes from the bitter root with a sharp knife. Plant each rosette separately in a small container with poor soil and keep moderately moist. After a few weeks, your own roots will develop. Then you can move the plant in the garden or in a larger planter.

Propagation by seeds is tedious and costly. Due to the origin of the plants, bitter root is one of the cold germs and must be stratified before sowing. To do this, you can either plant the seeds directly outdoors in autumn or store them in the refrigerator for about 6 weeks. In the latter case, sowing can be done at home. For germination itself, it is unimportant whether the container is in a light location. As soon as the first shoot tips appear, however, you should move the nursery box to a bright place.

Tip: Some types of bitterroot are not particularly long-lived and only last around 2 to 3 years due to incorrect care. Take precautions and propagate the plants in good time.

To cut

A pruning is not necessary with the robust Lewisia. You should only remove parts of plants that have faded. Often the plant then forms a less frequent secondary flowering. On the other hand, you can prune wilted or dead shoots all year round. Evergreen bitterroot species mostly keep their dark green leaves over the winter, new leaves only form in spring. However, you do not have to help here. Incidentally, withered, fallen leaves are a valuable fertilizer for the plants and do not have to be disposed of in the compost.


Surely surviving the cold winter months is a delicate matter for Bitterwurz. Many of the 17 Lewisia species can easily cope with double-digit minus temperatures. However, porcelain florets are extremely sensitive to moisture, especially the cold, wet winters in our latitudes that affect the plants. A protective layer of bark mulch, brushwood or compost can also have a negative effect. Because the material binds moisture, the roots of the plants can hardly tolerate it. There are a few tricks you can use to get bitterroot safely through the winter:

  • Dig up bedding plants and overwinter under a roof.
  • Place potted plants in the basement or garage.
  • Plant in a protected area near the house.

Pests and diseases

Damaging insects are rarely found on the American mountain plants. Even the less picky aphids often avoid bitterroot. The rosette-like leaves of the plants are on the menu of snails. If no precautions are taken, the slimy garden dwellers can destroy entire plants in one night. In order to successfully combat the unpleasant animals, you can fall back on a variety of measures.

Snails are nocturnal and come out of their hiding place at dusk. During this time you can collect the animals in large numbers. Snails avoid certain plants such as tomatoes and lavender. Transplant your beds with these plants so that the always hungry contemporaries cannot even get to the tasty plants. The removal of a copper-containing sheet has also proven its worth. The material has a toxic effect on the snails. Chemical agents are not recommended. Because in the long run these are not only extremely expensive, but can also be fatal for other animals and insects.

Porcelain florets are extremely sensitive to waterlogging. Drainage of the soil is therefore essential when planting. If hose fungi have already attacked the roots of bitterroot, you can only limit the damage. Immediately transfer the affected crop to dry substrate. As long as there are still enough healthy roots, the plant can regenerate itself. Prevent root rot by watering only moderately.

frequently asked Questions

Can bitter root be used as a medicinal plant?
Lewisia cotyledon itself is not known to have any effective, medicinal ingredients. Often, however, another plant called “bitter root” can be found, which is used against a variety of ailments, such as asthma and digestive problems. This is the yellow gentian, Gentiana lutea L., often popularly referred to as “fever root”. In order to correctly identify the individual plants, you should not rely solely on the “German species name”. Only the Latin name gives you certainty which plant you are looking at. This is especially true when visiting a nursery or garden center. Some dealers tend to give the plants their own additional names, which can confuse the inexperienced hobby gardener.

Can I also cultivate bitterwort on the windowsill?
In order to experience the porcelain rose in its full glory, you should treat the plants to a sunny location in the open air. Closed rooms usually do not meet the light requirements of the plants. In order to successfully care for Bitterwurz within your own four walls, there are some important tips:

  • Choose a flat, wide planter.
  • A bright location is required.
  • Avoid close proximity to radiators.

My plant has a sticky surface, where does that come from?
Insects sucking cell sap leave behind a sticky secretion, the honeydew. This material settles on the surface and underside of the leaf and is often the first indication of pest infestation. Examine the bitterroot closely to locate and pinpoint the pests. Spider mites usually only appear in dry indoor air in winter, while aphids can occur all year round. Both types of insects can be combated with simple home remedies, such as hosing down the shoots or temporarily increasing the humidity. Even if a pest infestation is rare, you can promote the resistance of the plant. Water bitterroot regularly with a diluted stock of nettles or field horsetail.

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