If you are choosing plants for a foliage garden, may I recommend you find the heuchera aisle at your local nursery or garden centre. These plants come in shades of vibrant lime green, rich chocolate brown, deep purple, fire engine red, and more. Leaves may be solid or variegated. I think heucheras are perfect for borders and containers, as a groundcover, and to complement other foliage or blooms in a garden.
I fell in love with heucheras a few years ago when I was choosing plants for an autumn container. I was going with what I referred to as a moody palette—purple, blue-green, black, you know, the colour of a bruise—and I found a beautiful heuchera with a silvery blue-green variegated leaf that when flipped over, was a delicate shade of purple. That was the first of my collection.
Heucheras are native to North America and may also appear as “coral bells” on a plant tag or sign. They are also referred to as alumroot. Hardy from zones 4 to 9, heucheras are often recommended as shade plants, but apparently those with darker leaves will tolerate full sun. Be sure to read the plant tag when you’re shopping. Two of mine are in full sun and one gets a bit of dappled shade under my weeping mulberry. All of them are thriving.
There are all sorts of interesting heuchera varieties and hybrids these days. My heuchera collection currently stands at three—the moody one, a caramel-coloured one, and a rich dark reddish brown one called ‘Palace Purple’ that I got at a plant sale. I don’t have the variety names for the other two, unfortunately. A new discovery I made this year at the California Spring Trials in the Terra Nova Nurseries booth: mini heucheras. Apparently they were introduced in 2012, but I haven’t seen them at any of my local garden centres. They’re part of a series called LITTLE CUTIE.
I’ve added another Terra Nova variety that came out last year—’Champagne’—to my list. It’s a lovely chartreuse colour. And in 2018, keep an eye out for ‘Forever Red’. I’ve also fallen in love with ‘Appletini’ (as shown in the main image) and ‘Silver Gumdrop’ from Proven Winners.
Gardeners buy them for their foliage, but heucheras have really lovely flowers along stems that shoot up from the plant—which the pollinators enjoy—usually in late spring and early summer. I’ve seen a hummingbird hovering around one of mine. Deadheading those flowers will encourage more blooms.
To plant, dig a hole that’s wider than the roots. Plant so that the crown is at ground level and cover with soil. One thing that I’ve found is that heucheras like to heave a bit after the winter. I had to completely replant one this past spring as I found it sitting on top of the soil in early spring. If there is any dead foliage, it can be pruned back in early spring, too.
Do you have heucheras in your garden? And do you pronounce it hoo-kera or hue-kera?