Heuchera: Color My Shade Garden

While representing the Arboretum in Harrisburg last week, a gentleman asked me what plant he could place in his shade garden that might add some color. I immediately thought of Heuchera. A great plant for dry shade, plant breeders have been working with Heuchera the past few years and they have developed and released some amazing new colored foliage.

The most common color of Heuchera seen in the garden is a deep purple. Breeders have released several different tones and textures of this purple foliage. Known for having the darkest foliage of the Heucheras, H. ‘Obsidian’ provides a great contrast color in your shade garden. H. ‘Midnight Rose’ flaunts purple foliage speckled with bright pink spots. H. ‘Plum Pudding’ displays foliage true to its cultivar name: a plum color.

Breeders have also gone beyond the purple foliage. They have released attractive colors like H. ‘Ginger Ale’. The foliage is ginger color with pink coloration on the undersides of the leaves. The ginger then fades to tan as the summer progresses. These tones combine well with most plant colorations.

Another unique coloration of foliage is H. ‘Caramel’. The foliage unfurls in an apricot shade. Just as the cultivar name suggests, the foliage changes to gold/caramel with attractive red undersides, similar to the tones of the color caramel.

Someone must have been very hungry when they named heucheras. In addition to cultivar names like ‘Caramel’, there is: ‘Chocolate Ruffles’, ‘Creme Brulee’, ‘Key Lime Pie’, ‘Licorice’, and ‘Marmalade’. A great dessert and one of Andrew Bunting’s favorite Heuchera cultivars is ‘Tiramisu’. The chartreuse foliage has a heavy smattering of brick red coloration that extends out from the midrib of each leaf. The leaves lighten to chartreuse and develop a light silver overlay during summer.

Here at the Arboretum, we have observed that some cultivars last for a long time in the garden and others are rather short lived. For example, cultivars like: H. ‘Velvet Knight’, H. ‘Plum Pudding’, and H. ‘Autumn Bride’ have been in the garden about ten years, while other selections seem to only survive for two to three years. We have noticed that the cultivars of H. villosa are longer lived than other selections. New cultivars of H. villosa which are showing promise are ‘Caramel’, ‘Tiramisu’, and ‘Citronelle’.

You can view Heuchera at the Scott Arboretum in the Terry Shane Teaching Garden, on the north side of Kohlberg Hall, and in the Sibbett Garden. To learn about the abundant offerings of the Heuchera genus, I recommend Heucheras and Heucherellas: Coral Bells and Foamy Bells by Dan Heims and Grahame Ware. This book can be found in the Scott Arboretum library.

If you would like to try H. ‘Caramel’, it is the free plant with advanced registration for Sunset Sippin’: Swamp White Oaks and Whirlwind Wit. Join us for cocktails and friends in the garden on Thursday, June 12 from 6 to 8 pm and take home a Heuchera for your garden. Advanced registration ends today at 3:30 pm.

Categorized as Garden Plants, Happenings

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