To most garden designers, leaf form and colour is the key to a successful scheme – the stalwarts who stick it out after the fleeting splendour of spring or summer flowers. This year I have enjoyed using more Heuchera, now available in a variety of tones, their beautiful foliage adding colour and texture over much of the year.
Named after an 18th century botanist, Johann Heinrich von Heucher, (I believe it’s pronounced with a “k” sound and not a “ch” … HeuKera). Its common names are “alumroot” or “coral bells”. These herbaceous perennials are all native to North America. The roots have been used in traditional medicine there as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory and to stem bleeding.
They are loved by garden designers because of :
- their striking ruffled foliage
- the huge range of colours now available
- generally pest-free (vine weevils can be a nuisance but try Nemasys vine weevil killer).
- they will grow happily in containers as well as beds
- tolerant of position in the garden
- colour and form lasts through the seasons
There are around 40 species but since the arrival of Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ in 1980, the hybridising of Heuchera sanguinea has gone into overdrive so that there are many cultivars available today. Foliage can be matt, glossy or veined with a dazzling display of colours – lime-green, black-purple, brown, gold, orange and there are the delicate flowers as a bonus.
Place the dark foliage Heucheras to enhance the colours of their neighbours such as Cosmos Chocamocha or Alchemilla mollis and the bright lime greens to add a bit of fizz to your borders.
Some attractive cultivars :
- Heuchera ‘Caramel’ : lovely scalloped leaves, gold coloured in spring; very sturdy habit.
- Heucherella ‘Sweet Tea’ , a hybrid of Tiarella and Heuchera : deeply lobed burnt orange leaves, strikingly veined; good for shade.
- Heuchera ‘Obsidian’ : striking purple-black shiny foliage with white flowers in June.
- Heuchera ‘Delta Dawn’ : striking gold lime foliage with red veining
- Heuchera ‘Key Lime Pie’ : lovely dramatic light green foliage
What Heuchera like:
- Moist, well-drained soils
- Part shade, though some tolerate full sun.
- Good air circulation
- A mulch in autumn to protect their shallow roots
- Division every 2 to 3 years to maintain vigour
Heucheras are good mixers
~ in shade, they look good with hostas, ferns, astilbes and dicentra.
~ in sun, they mix well with hardy geraniums, stipa, achillea, astrantia and iris.
There are so many to choose from in such a range of shades that you’ll always find a spot for one.
I am certainly a fan but for the “hopelessly addicted”, you can always head for http://www.heucheraholics.co.uk
(All photography mine; feel free to use any of Jardin‘s images but please credit and link back)
- My plant of the year. (jardindesign.org)
Brilliant! I think you have come up with the perfect plant for a space I have under a tall Eleagnus ( with a proper trunk). It is quite dry there though….would the Heuchera be happy? Love the photos and the fabulous varieties. Thank you.
Thank you Karen. Heucheras dislike heavy wet soils more than anything. Give them a good start in that dry space with compost; they will like the fact that it’s free draining but won’t like drying out completely. Heuchera ‘Sugar Plum’ (silvery-pink flowers) might look good with the Eleagnus but lots of lovely colours to choose from.
Some of the new varieties I absolutely love, especially the dark reds, but some are so washed out that they look distinctly unhealthy ! They are though, in the main, fab garden plants.
Thank you Jane and I agree about some of the varieties – I tend to go for the more vibrant colours but depends where I need them. I think they are improving all the time.
im doing a report on foliage plants and i need some info.
If you can give me more details perhaps I can point you in the right direction.