Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Heuchera Mania

I’ve become mildly obsessed with Heuchera.  I purchased my first Heuchera in 1995; I can’t remember the name of it.  It did well in my garden in part-shade until my boyfriend (now my husband) whacked it down thinking it was a weed.  I had serious concerns about marrying him after that, but his many other good qualities prevailed.  Today he only gardens with direct supervision.

Heuchera 'Caramel'
A couple of years ago I bought a couple of Heuchera ‘Caramel’ plants at a plant sale and tucked them into my current garden, which is mostly shade.  Last year I noticed how well they were doing – and how wonderful they looked with my hostas (another obsession,) so I bought ‘Palace Purple.’  (See note below!)

Heuchera 'Palace Purple'
This year, at the Dixon plant sale, I went crazy and bought  ‘Alabama Sunrise,’ ‘Delta Dawn,’ and three ‘Berry Smoothie’ plants!

Heuchera 'Delta Dawn'
Heuchera 'Berry Smoothie' under a Japanese maple
Heucherella 'Alabama Sunrise'
But something was different about ‘Alabama Sunrise.’  The tag on it said “Heucherella,” not “Heuchera.”  What is up with that?  So I did some research and here’s the deal.
Heuchera, known as Alumroot and Coral Bells, is in the Saxifragaceae family, which also includes Astilbe and Tiarella, commonly known as Foamflower. 

Tiarella 'Sugar and Spice'
There are at least 50 species, but the majority of the plants that we see for sale in garden centers are hybrids of H americana.  For instance, my ‘Palace Purple’ is the result of crossing H americana with ‘Purple Palace,’ a plant found in a royal palace in England which is believed to be a H micrantha x H villosa hybrid.
Remember I said that tiarella is in the same family as heuchera?  Well, someone crossed tiarella and huechera and voila:  heucherella!  Would you be surprised to learn that the common name is Foamy Bells? (Coral Bells + Foamflower = Foamy Bells)

Some interesting Heucherella history, straight from Wikipedia:

x Heucherella was first bred in France in 1912 by Emile Lemoine, who created a sterile hybrid between Heuchera x brizoides and Tiarella cordifolia.  It was later named Heucherella tiarelloides.  ‘Bridget Bloom’ was bred in the 1950s by Percy Piper, at the suggestion of Alan Bloom.  It is a cross between Heuchera ‘Freedom’ with pink flowers and Tiarella wherryi.  It was brought to Blooms of Bressingham in 1955 and had the market to itself until 1983, which was when ‘Rosalie’ appeared (Kemper, William T.)  These two flowers have pink petals that look a lot like the heuchera and tiarella, and some reddish purple markings on their dark green leaves.  Around 1987 the ‘Tinian Pink’ and the ‘Tinian White’ where both created by Charles Oliver of The Primrose Path.  These go by the names ‘Pink Frost’ and ‘Snow White’ in the trade.  After that, people have been looking for possible new combinations and making new heucherellas.

Where a heucherella grows well depends on its breeding lines.  Heucherellas bred with shade loving heucheras will grow best in shade or part shade.  Those bred with sun loving heucheras will perform better in part shade to full sun.  Most heucherellas have the strongest colors when grown in partial shade (preferable afternoon,)

Like hostas, heucheras, tiarellas, and heucherellas are grown for their foliage, not their flowers.  And what foliage!  My oh my!

Terra Nova collage

1. Heucherella 'Alabama Sunrise'
2. Heuchera 'Electric Lime (Available in 2010)
3. Heuchera 'Mint Julep' (Available in 2010)
4. Heuchera 'Berry Smoothie'
5. Heuchera 'Georgia Peach'
6. Heuchera 'Purple Petticoats'
7. Heuchera 'Sashay'
8. Heuchera 'Southern Comfort'
9. Heuchera 'Ginger Ale'
10. Heuchera 'Cinnabar Silver'
11. Heuchera 'Shanghai' (Available in 2010)
12. Heuchera 'Midnight Bayou' (Available in 2010)
13. Heuchera 'Obsidian'
14. Heucherella 'Sweet Tea'
15. Heuchera 'Midnight Rose' Select
16. Heucherella 'Tapestry'
17. Heuchera 'Sugar Plum' (Available in 2010)
18. Heuchera 'Paris'

Terra Nova Nurseries is a leader in heuchera hybridization.  They're in Oregon, wholesale only (boo-hoo), but I bet your local nursery would be able to order something that you want.  

I've ordered a couple of books to learn more about heucheras, so stay tuned.

Oh, another addition, this time from Lowe's:

Heuchera 'Midnight Rose'

Note:  One of the books I ordered is Heuchera, Tiarella and Heucherella - A Gardener's Guide by Charles & Martha Oliver.  Here's what they say about Palace Purple:

'Palace Purple' was selected in England from a seed lot from North America but degenerated into a mediocre seed strain, and had its Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society rescinded.  However, it is still popular and is widely used by out-of-date landscape designers.



  1. I just stumbled upon your delightful blog. What an amazing find. So much terrific information, and inspiration in one site. Thank you so much for sharing your passion and knowledge!

  2. Love how you compiled all of this useful information! ! Can't wait to start adding to my collection. Thanks!

  3. As a beginning gardner, I have spent ALOT of time on google trying to find plants that fill my vision, work in my zone, aren't poisonous, bloom coordination, bug repellant, hummingbird/butterfly attractant blah blah blah. I really like your blog. Helpful on so many levels. Thank you for the picture with the numbers and the names. Making me achieve my "vision" so much easier. Good job


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