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What the Heck is a Heucherella?

What the Heck is a Heucherella?

By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

Hello, campers. Feeling Spring yet? It’s slow here in the Pacific Northwest, but the number of shoppers in the local garden centers is building quickly. 

So… we all know what a Heuchera is. A good number of us know what a Tiarella is. It seems that they have a similar purpose. As a British horticulturist told me, “They cover ground, thus they are a groundcover!” Indeed, they do. Tiarellas do famously in shady, woodland areas. They clump or they travel gardenward with their emerald green leaves with surprising brushstrokes of black, and lovely, foamy flowers.

Heucheras do a great job in the sunnier parts of the garden and deck planters, all in a mesmerizing range of colors and textures. Flowers can be eight inches long or 36” long depending on the variety, and vary from white to a carmine red. The breeders at Terra Nova knew that they could cross, and cross they did! Some of Heuchera’s greatest colors – orange, yellow, and black – were combined with Tiarella’s running ability and broad brushstrokes of blood-red veins and fun leaf shapes. The resultant hybrids showed massive abilities to tolerate high humidity, torrid heat, and rust-resistance. Now we had plants that could make up a hanging basket or an improved groundcover in numerous colors and habits. Let’s peek at a few!

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Heucherella ‘Alabama Sunrise’

Changes color with the seasons! The deeply cut foliage, in spring to midsummer, is gold with red veins. In late summer, the leaves go green with red veins. In fall, the older foliage turns orange pink. Small white flowers. Happiest in half shade, it will reward users from USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 to 9 with flowers from June to July! The 12-inch tall foliage will spread to 20 inches wide in the first season with the flowers held 10 inches above the foliage. Flowers are dense spikes, like a Tiarella. They are also sterile, so no stray seedlings will be seen.

Heucherella 'Alabama Sunrise'

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Heucherella ‘Brass Lantern’

Outstanding vigor combined with brassy gold and red spring color on maple-shaped leaves. Older leaves darken, which provides a remarkable contrast with the new growth, A beacon in the garden. Use this large, evergreen landscape perennial in mixed beds, under high branching shrubs, or in a container. Spikes of white flowers adorn dark stems. Winter color is olive and brown. The best color contrasts with some shade, but proves resilient in full sun. This beauty is hardy in zones 4 to 9. Twenty-inch tall plants will spread to 24 inches and flower at 28 inches tall. Blooms emerge from June to July.

Heucherella 'Brass Lantern'

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Heucherella ‘Buttered Rum’

Glossy, caramel-dipped, deeply cut maple leaves adorn this aptly-named plant from spring to summer. In fall, the cool weather burnishes the leaves to a lovely rose red, a perfect complement to fall-planted containers. Grows into a medium-sized, 15-inch tall mound that's perfect in the landscape. Try it in a vertical planting with contrasting purple-leaved varieties of Heuchera. Zones 4 to 9. It’s quite happy in full sun to full shade and the seven-inch-tall foliage will spread to 15 inches wide in the first season. Petite white flowers are held on shrimp-pink stems. These won't stay on the racks!

Heucherella 'Buttered Rum'

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Heucherella ‘Gold Zebra’

A star performer in Oklahoma's hottest summer ever. 'Gold Zebra' is a plant with a twist. Bright yellow, feathery leaves are boldly marked with dark red. A standout in containers or “front and center” of the border. Pollinators will bound to this 15-inch-wide plant, 18 inches tall in bloom, spreading to 18 inches wide in its first year. Nice bronzing with frost. This hybrid is hardy from zones 4 to 9. Look for blooms in June and July.  Extremely tolerant to high heat and humidity. This adaptable plant grows in full shade to full sun!

Heucherella 'Gold Zebra'

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Heucherella ‘Onyx’

Glossy, deeply-cut leaves in true black on a dense, medium-sized mound make this a great landscape plant. We've been working for years to get a good black Heucherella. This is it. Loves heat and humidity but it is great in the northwest. Happiest in half shade, it will reward users from zones 4 to 9 with flowers from June to July. Shy to bloom – always stays neat and clean. The 10-inch mound spreads to a lovely 16” wide, making it perfect for containers or hanging out at the front of the border. Grows in full sun to full shade. The dark foliage makes a great backdrop for the white flowers.

Heucherella 'Onyx'

Dan Heims is an award-winning author who lectures throughout the world. He was honored by The American Horticultural Society with the Luther Burbank Breeding Award, as well as the Perennial Plant Association’s Award of Merit. He was honored by receiving the Royal Horticultural Society’s Reginald Cory Cup for advancements in breeding.

You may contact Dan at [email protected].

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers

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