Container Gardening · Garden Design · Perennials

Heucherella: Best of Heuchera & Tiarella

If you need a compact, mounding plant with a lot of pizzazz for the garden or containers, look no further than foamy bells. Heucherella is a cross of two genera – Heuchera (commonly called coral bells) and Tiarella (aka foamflower). They get their spectacular foliage color – apricot, bronze, coral, purple, chartreuse or silver – from their Heuchera mother and their deeply lobed leaves, center coloring, and impressive flowers from their Tiarella father.

This blend of two valuable plants is ideal for a partly-shaded position in the landscape. Cold hardy to Zone 4, Heucherella grow best in rich, well-drained soil generously amended with organic matter. They can tolerate a lot of sun as long as the soil is slightly, but consistently, moist. Dry soil coupled with too much sun results in scorched leaves. Best foliage color is achieved in morning sun and filtered light in the afternoon.

Foamy bells boast tiny, pink or creamy white, star-shaped flowers tightly arranged in panicles on stems up to 20 inches tall. Blooming in late spring to mid-summer, they offer nectar to hummingbirds while charming gardeners. Removing spent flowers not only encourages additional blooms, it also keeps plants looking their best.

Foamy bells have better garden manners than their Tiarella parent, sometimes avoided because of its spreading nature. Heucherella require little maintenance except some winter mulch applied to prevent frost heaving and division every few years. They are not bothered by insects or diseases and are unpalatable to rabbits and deer.

There has been a cornucopia of cultivars introduced over the last ten years or so. Here are just a few.

Alabama Sunrise is grown for its bright golden foliage until mid-summer when it fades to chartreuse. In fall, leaves take on shades of coral and orange. Red veining contrasts dramatically all seasons. Plants grow 12 inches tall and 20 inches wide. Stems sporting white flowers reach 20 inches.

Burnished Bronze boasts large, satiny, dark bronze leaves. Creamy white flowers on 18-inch stalks glow against the dark foliage. Imagine this one partnered with a chartreuse hosta – wow!

Dayglow Pink is noted for its abundant brilliant pink flowers on 16-inch stems. Its leaves are mint green with chocolate markings. Grow this along a pathway where it is easy to snip some flowers for bouquets.

Golden Zebra is one of my favorites. Dramatic, deeply lobed, bright yellow leaves are heavily marked with deep red centers. Tall wands of white flowers bloom in late spring.

Pink Fizz is a little cutie – just 8 inches tall and 18 inches wide. She shows off her bright pink flowers over soft green leaves with purple veining.

Solar Eclipse is a hit the brakes when you see it kind of plant. Reddish-bronze leaves are margined with a lime green border – each leaf is its own solar eclipse. White flowers bloom well above the spectacular foliage.

Sweet Tea is a unique variety of foamy bells. Leaves colored in shades of apricot, orange, cinnamon and peach grow lovelier as summer gains momentum. It grows up to 20 inches tall and 24 inches wide.

I am excited about a new series of Heucherella, called Fun and Games, and can’t wait to plant some in my garden.

Heucherella ‘Eye Spy’ – Photo courtesy of Proven Winners

I spy with my little eye…Eye Spy with its bubblegum pink flowers. Spring foliage is amber yellow with burgundy veining; summer foliage is chartreuse subtly overlaid with silver. It grows up to 10 inches tall and 20 inches wide.

Heucherella ‘Hopscotch’ – Photo courtesy of Proven Winners

Hopscotch is similar in size, but displays creamy white flowers. Foliage emerges dark bronze-red in spring and then softens to green with burgundy centers in summer.

Heucherella ‘Leap Frog’ – Photo courtesy of Proven Winners

If I could only have one new variety, I would choose Leap Frog. Flamboyant lime green leaves with irregular deep burgundy centers fade to purple-veined green foliage in summer. Flowers are creamy white.

There are many ways to use foamy bells in the landscape.

  1. Create textural contrast when they are partnered with fine foliaged perennials like ferns, bugbanes and astilbes.
  2. Weave a tapestry of color when they are planted in drifts with hostas.
  3. Plant them as a vibrant carpet in a shrub border.
  4. Line the edge of a perennial garden.
  5. Add season-long swaths of color to mixed borders.
  6. Let them play the filler role in containers.

If you have yet to plant foamy bells in your landscape, choose a couple of these varieties and garden with me!

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