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On Gardening: Heuchera reaching unparalleled beauty for containers and landscape

Feb. 4, 2019

If you have found yourself down on heuchera or coral bells then I would like to urge you to give them a new cool season shot. All heuchera species are native to the United States but many of us judge the plantís performance in Julyís hot, summer sun, which is definitely not their friend; they are really more acclimated to a shady or filtered light.

Ever since their big splash as the Perennial Plant of the Year in 1991 gardeners have been planting them in the spring and loving them until summerís tired look, and then coaxing them through the winter. Today, producers have transplants ready for garden centers in the fall as a pansy pal. As much as I have loved kale, cabbage, and swiss chard I have to say the heuchera literally takes my breath away with its drop-dead dazzling foliage in full sun.

Thanks to my adventurous color guru son, James, my eyes have become open to not only the mixed container possibilities for the heuchera, but the landscape too. The old man has long decided against telling him what works and what doesnít. I would have said NO you canít have blooming coral bells with camellias and no you canít grow heuchera with yucca. Instead, I now believe we have yet to see all the possibilities with heuchera in the cool season.

As I mentioned above all heuchera species are native to the United States, including the heuchera villosa native in the southeast from Arkansas to Georgia, and north to New York; as is the heuchera Americana, which is used in breeding many of the new cultivars. These two species alone have led to over 80 varieties. There are so many new hybrids coming from breeders all over the world they are revolutionizing our native plant.

One heuchera that has really caused a stir is Fire Chief. I thought it would be impossible to beat Lava Lamp and Carmel in color but Fire Chief is so stunning you would want it even if it only lived a couple of months. Terra Nova describes it as a glowing red wine, which I think is a great description. To see its parentage makes you realize the talent out there working on heuchera.

Heucheras are considered perennial in zones 4 to 9 and tend to be evergreen in warmer climates. They prefer moist, fertile organic-rich soil that drains freely. In the landscape, we promote sun to part sun in the north and part sun to shade in the south.

As I have been touting by planting in the fall in the South, they become excellent component plants for sunny cool-season mixed containers, boxes and even in the landscape as you might do for a flowering-kale, cabbage, or mustard. They will look attractive through the end of June, which is long after kale and cabbage have bolted and flowered.

While I treasure the foliage, know that the plants produce tall airy flowers in pink, coral, red or white. These spikes of blossoms, however, do bring in hummingbirds. The plants reach 16 to 24 inches tall and should be spaced 15 to 28 inches apart or as recommended per its variety tag. In addition to Fire Chief, Lava Lamp, and Carmel, also look for Amber Waves, CrŤme Brulee, Mocha, Palace Purple, Peach Melba, Citrona, and Black Pearl.

No matter where you live there is a season where heuchera will add untold beauty to your containers as well as the landscape. I hope you will revisit the possibilities.

 


Associated Press