Friday, June 22, 2012

Heuchera's in Your Garden

I  remember seeing Coral Bells   growing in my grandmothers garden.   They had ordinary green  leaves  with  small pink flowers floating on tiny stems.  Then in my first garden I planted Heuchera Palace Purple, a greenish maroon leafed Coral Bell that had more colorful leaves, white flowers  and was not a challenge to  grow for a beginning gardener.   Over the years Heuchera's, or Coral Bells,  with the help of hybridizers , have evolved into some very incredible  perennials. 

 Heuchera villosa 'Bronze Wave' and Stachys 'Helen Von Stein'

Go into you local garden center and it is not unusual to find at least a dozen different Heuchera (HEW-ker-a)   cultivars.  Once limited to shades of green and maroon, now the color palete includes, yellows, caramel ,cinnamon, peach,  all shades of maroon,  chocolate,  and greens with red veins , red with green veins,  the list continues to grow,  and did I mention that this perennial has flowers too.

Bronze Wave - Foliage is dark with copper, purple and brown tones, blending into a metallic bronze color. The large wavy-margined hairy leaves are 6 to 8” across and make a clump about 24” across and 18” high. 24” wands of pinkish-white flowers are produced from mid to late summer.  

 Heuchera Pewter Veil

Grow them in some sun,  with a little late day shade and the seem pretty happy.  Although  not the best planting I have seen cultivars like "Palace Purple" grown in full sun. Currently I am  growing  "Midnight Rose' in a container ( photo below) with as little as 2 1/2  hours of sun,  planted  along side hostas and ferns.
Over-watering  will rot the roots.  They are happiest, in a decent soil, mulched, with occasional watering, more frequent in the hot summer. In containers,  you will have success with potting soil that is a little coarse and well drained.

 Heuchra 'Midnight Rose' and sedum in hypertufa bowl

The reason that these two unlikely partners do well  in this containers is the growing  medium .
Peat moss, small bark fines, perlite. 

Al’s 5-1-1 Mix is a bark-based mix that also provides great drainage and aeration. This mix is  created by Al from website. The mix composes of 5 part fine bark, 1 part sphagnum peat, and 1 part perlite. This mix is recommended for annuals or anything that only last a few seasons.
The ingredients are:
5 part partially-composed pine bark fines
1 part sphagnum peat
1 part horticulture grade perlite (coarse size)
1 tbsp per gallon of garden dolomic lime

Heucheras look great with many other perennials and annuals in containers. Here are just a few examples.
  • Heuchera with sedum Angelina and festuca Elijah Blue
  • Heuchera with festuca Elijah Blue and lysimachia Aurea (golden creeping Jenny).
  • Ipomoea batatas 'Sweet Heart' aka 'Sweet Caroline Purple' (Sweat potato vine) with Heuchera 'Caramel
  •  Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’ , Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ , Heuchera ‘Mahogany’, Heuchera ‘Lime Rickey’

Heuchera villosa 'Caramel' and Liriope muscari 'Peedee Ingot'

The bold leaves of the Heuchera 'Caramel' contrasts nicely with the fine leaves of the Liriope.  This combination can be found under some trees in the perennial gardens at Longwood Gardens.  With regular watering and mulch these perennials do well under many trees. 

 In fall, the foliage of Heuchera Caramel turns a beautiful  salmon red. Like many of the new cultivars this hybrid does great in heat and humidity and is happy in a wide range of soil conditions. Tolerates a good deal of sun, where the foliage color intensifies. Another good selection for the shade garden Best grown in rich, humus, well drained soil with adequate moisture. Once established, it can take on heat, humidity, even poor soil.

Great Combinations -  Heuchera villosa Beaujolais with  Hakonechloa grass at Longwood Gardens 

 Heuchera  Beaujolais -,  is a super vigorous variety with large 5" burgundy leaves.growing 8-10" x 12-16" , very tall 24" cream colored flower stems appear mid 4a - 9 and is listed a deer resistant plant.  This  Coral Bell is different from other plum colored varieties by its unique color, tolerance to heat & humidity and its vigor.

Another favorite combination for your shade garden is Heuchera  "Plum Pudding" and Japanese Painted fern Athyrium niponicum picutum.  These two will bring attention to front of any shady foundation planting. 

Heuchera americana Marvelous Mable  

Spring foliage begins  purple and eventually  matures through the season to  green with, dark veins and silvery mottling.  White flowers form early in the season.  Because of their low, mounding habit, they can be planted along paths or in containers.
 Height: 8-13". Spread: 17-19". Leaf color: purple in spring turning to deep green through the season. Zones: 4-9. Flowers: Creamy White on 16" scapes.

Heuchera Problems - not really!
No serious insect or disease problems. Frost heaving of roots may occur when winter temperatures fluctuate widely.


 Heuchera americana Green Spice

‘Green Spice’ is a clump-forming Coral Bell cultivar that  has silvery, gray-edged leaves with purple veins (in cool weather) and not particularly showy white flowers. The rounded, lobed, long-petioled leaves  (to 9” tall) which may spread to 16” wide. Tiny, whitish flowers appear in late spring to early summer on slender,  stems rising well above the foliage mound, typically to 24-28” tall. Leaves turn orangish in autumn.

These  are just a small selection of the hundreds of cultivars of heuchera.  They have come a long way from the ones I first found in my grandmothers garden.  Happy Gardening !



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Irene Jennings said...

Thanks for such an interesting and informative post. I have grown some Heucheras from seed and although they are all meant to be the same there is real variety between them. I prefer the purple leaved ones personally.

By: Irene of Seattle Garden Design