NEWS, Va. — Fancy foliage on little-known, under-used
plants called heucheras can add drama to your fall and
as near-freezing temperatures descend on your yard,
heucheras stand up to the challenge. In fact, just like
cool-season collards, heucheras seem to perk up and look
better with some chill in the air.
horticulturists like the plant and use it often, and
garden centers nationwide stock it regularly. The
National Garden Bureau — www.ngb.org — spotlighted
heuchera as the Perennial of the Year in 2012. The plant
is cold hardy in Zones 4-8.
love heucheras," says Eric Bailey of Landscapes by
Eric Bailey (www.landscapesbyericbailey.com) in
southeastern Virginia. "They are wonderful plants
that add a lot of interest in the garden."
Richmond, Va., where the weather tends to be cooler than
southeastern Virginia, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
gardeners say heucheras hold their foliage color
are fantastic additions to perennial borders as well as
mixed containers," says Grace Chapman, director of
horticulture at the botanical garden (www.lewisginter.org).
like them because they have such striking foliage colors
and light, airy flowers."
Grace uses heucheras in designs, she adds pops of either
burgundy or chartreuse to punctuate the
landscape. Great burgundy, and almost black tones,
can be found in Frosted Violet, Plum Pudding, Palace
Purple, Black Beauty and Silver Scrolls. Brighter tones
appear in Citronelle and Caramel, she says.
are very adaptable to many different, often harsh,
environments," she says.
of them prefer part shade to full shade, but cultivars
such as Autumn Bride (green foliage with white flowers),
Miracle (chartreuse leaves fade to dark red with a
bright margin) and Frosted Violet (dark purple foliage)
can take morning sun if planted in moist soils."
is a variety of heuchera for just about every gardening
region in the country, according to Mt. Cuba Center, a
Delaware plant research and testing site on the East
Coast, and Terra Nova, a plant developer and breeder in
Oregon on the West Coast.
Cuba Center is doing extensive research on 87 different
cultivars of heuchera, which is native to many parts of
the United States. Open to the public Fridays-Saturdays
April-November and by appointment, Mr. Cuba Center is
just a 30-minute drive from the famed Longwood Gardens
in Kennett Square, Pa.
Cuba Center, which is 500 acres of natural lands and 50
acres of display gardens, is the former home and family
estate of Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland, who
loved native plants and offered tours in the late 1980s.
It became a public garden in 2001. It’s well worth the
drive to see its natural beauty in comparison to the
more formal garden settings at Longwood.
2002, when the site became a nonprofit organization, the
cut-flower garden of roses, peonies, bulbs and other
herbaceous plants, was transformed into a trial garden.
In 2011, the trial garden was expanded to 15,000 square
feet to accommodate extensive sun and shade trials of
native plants, according to a news release. In 2006, Mt.
Cuba completed a three-year evaluation of eastern North
American asters and has done the same with native
heuchera study is ending its second year, and data and
pictures from the second trial year will be added to the
website this winter, according to George Coombs,
assistant research horticulturist. The final report will
be published in 2015, after the third and final year of
evaluation. Reports on all trials and information on
plant introductions can be found online at .
heuchera likes moist, but well-drained soil, according
to George. Prolonged periods of water-logged soil can
quickly lead to root and crown rot.
also learned that heucheras really benefit from a late
summer clean up," he says.
from the spring flush tend to get worn, faded, and begin
to deteriorate by the end of summer. Removing the worst
leaves from around the base of the plant can really
improve their appearance for the fall season’s new
flush of growth."
heuchera are sold as being tolerant of light conditions
ranging from full shade to full sun, George continues.
tested each of our 87 cultivars in the sun. Almost all
survived this two-year period, but very few looked good
enough to recommend planting them in full sun. Full
shade to part shade is best. However, the bright
chartreuse cultivars need to be in full shade for most
of the day. Even a little bright sunlight can bleach the
recommends heuchera for the home garden because their
foliage changes color throughout the year. This
generally coincides with temperatures — plants look
one way in cool weather and another in warm weather.
Light intensity can also affect color patterns.
be aware that the color you see at the garden center may
not stay exactly the same all year long- but that makes
them all the more interesting," he says.
matter what heuchera you choose, it must have good
drainage, according to Dan Heims, president and co-owner
of Terra Nova Nurseries and co-author of "Heucheras
and Heucherellas: Coral Bells and Foamy Bells."
nature, heuchera are found in vertical locations,
typically with some moisture at the roots or on a forest
floor with good drainage and some moisture beneath the
compost layer," he says.
will cause rot. Wet kills."
also needs to be reset every two to three years, he
advises. It is very beneficial to do one of two
things: either dig a plant up, divide it, richen the
soil and replant, or simply mound improved soil to the
tips of the "necks" of the plant. Early
spring is the best time to do this, or when soil is
is highly desirable. Many heuchera are used to
having a fall leaf mulch which adds an insulating layer
as well as providing a nutritional benefit. Compost
or bark mulch can be placed over plants as long as they
are not completely covered.
choosing a heuchera for your yard, do your research and
find what variety is best for your climate. Terra Nova’s