Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Heuchera Garden and Some Evaluations

Heuchera x villosa 'Caramel'.

When I first moved here in 2001 I was eager to get a garden going. This was the first time I could truly 'put down roots'. I wanted plants, and I wanted lots of plants and right away. On one well timed trip to Home Depot, I was fortunate to find 'Palace Purple' heucheras in a six pack for about $2. What a steal! I have never found the heucheras sold this way again, but that is okay. I now know how to divide the ones I have, and they have faithfully multiplied from year to year. In fact, they have multiplied and performed so well in my garden that I started a bit of a collection of heucheras. Hey, it can be worse, at least heucheras are small:)

In the fall of 2007 I consolidated and labeled all of my heucheras in my collection. The heucheras were planted in a part of the 'Woodland Garden' and 'Greenhouse Garden'. They have all done well and I do like being able to see all the varieties in one spot. Consolidating these heucheras allowed me to really evaluate each variety of heuchera as well. After nearly two years of evaluating this garden and the plants, I have come to some conclusions about the different varieties of heucheras growing in my garden. Keep in mind these conclusions are based on how these heucheras perform in my Zone 6/7 garden in upper Middle Tennessee. These heucheras may perform differently for you if you are in a different zone. These are only my personal recommendations; like all things on this blog.

First of all every single heuchera is growing in the exact same condition as their neighbors. The same amount of sun, shade, and moisture. No one heuchera has an advantage over the others. Most heucheras are bred for foliage and the varieties are astounding. There are orange, chartreuse, purple, silver, peach, green, variegated, red, and all shades in between of heucheras on the market. Some varieties have performed better than others in my garden, and I'd like to share some observations I have found. Heucheras are bred primarily for foliage, but there is an awful lot to be said for the blooms. Some of the plainest green varieties have the prettiest blooms and I will share with you some wonderful cultivars here based on certain characteristics of each. Remember, these are simply my observations and results may be different for you.

Mocha Mint (left) and Montrose Ruby (right)

My first observation is going to be a general one about the orangy colored heucheras. These include 'Peach Melba', 'Cream Brulee', and 'Marmalade'. I have at one time or another grown all three of these varieties. All three perished during the winter. I have learned not to buy the orangey colored heucheras anymore but did give one more cultivar a try last fall. I purchased a few mark down Heuchera villosa 'Caramel' heucheras. One is pictured at the top of this post. This orangey heuchera has performed admirably this winter. The picture was taken on March 20 and just look how it shines. I can't vouch for its heat worthiness as yet, but for sure if you like the orangey colored heucheras, try 'Caramel' or 'Montrose Ruby'. I cannot guess as to the reason for the other orange colored heucheras' demise, but it surely would have to do with the hardiness of these cultivars.

Chocolate Ruffles (Left) and Palace Purple (Right)

Palace Purple is the classic heuchera. It is the one most folks are familiar with and has been around a long time. It was my very first cultivar of heucheras and while I like it, I think there are much better varieties out there. Palace Purple is an easy cultivar to divide each fall. Simply lift the whole plant and separate the small offsets. Throw away the woody part of the mother plant. Mine have multiplied quite well as you can see from the picture above (Palace Purple is not ruffled like the Chocolate Ruffles and is on the right of the picture). Palace Purple will almost always peter out in the summer. It really looks ratty and stays looking ratty until it is divided in the fall, but it is a good cultivar for beginners since it is readily available.

Mocha Mint

My next recommendation is going to be based on foliage and veining. Many folks like variegation in foliage for the interest it adds to the plant. You can't go wrong with 'Mocha Mint'. It is pictured above. It is one of my favorites for veining and overall color.

'Chocolate Ruffles'

My next recommendation is going to be for winter color, interest, and hardiness. It is 'Chocolate Ruffles'. This heuchera says come look at me! No ifs, ands, or buts, it is a showoff this time of year. The coloring is similar to 'Palace Purple', but just look at the ruffles!
The ruffling on the leaves is particularly pronounced. It is one of the first heucheras to begin growing anew in late winter.

Snow Angel

Snow Angel Foliage

'Snow Angel' is another easy to grow heuchera that looks lovely all year. It is a bit different from the brightly colored heucheras in that it is a green foliaged heuchera, with a bit of dusting on the leaves. It's bloom is also outstanding. If you did not see the blooms and weren't sure what this plant is in a garden, you might not think it is a heuchera. I like 'Snow Angel' very much.

Key Lime Pie

'Key Lime Pie' is a good all around chartreuse cultivar of heucheras. It sure helps that it is a Proven Winner cultivar too. I love the Proven Winner plants and do try to buy them whenever I can. Another chartreuse cultivar is 'Citronelle'. Both 'Citronelle' and 'Caramel' are Heuchera x villosa hybrids and are very hardy in the garden. They are also very vigorous-a bonus! 'Citronelle' is a bit more yellow and larger than the 'Key Lime Pie'.

I also grow other cultivars but I will not bore you with their pictures right now, maybe at a later date. The cultivars I grow (list format) are: Montrose Ruby, Amethyst Mist, Canyon Duet, Cascade Dawn, Key Lime Pie, Firefly, Fireworks, Mocha Mint, Palace Purple, Regina, Snow Angel, Cathedral Bells, Vanilla Spice, and an unnamed (I assume the species type) heuchera. I leave you with the regular old unnamed heuchera pictured above. It is the first to show buds and will be in bloom soon. Nothing fancy about the foliage but it sure has a sweet red bloom.

What is my favorite heuchera? I don't have any particular one in mind, I like them all and all have special qualities about them. The entire genus of heucharas is easy to grow, long lived, and great evergreen plants in any shade or part shade garden. You can't have too many really-that's why I have a bit of a collection.

If you have experience with heucheras, which one is your favorite and do you have any special tricks to highlight heucheras....

in the garden....

After nearly two years of blogging and over 600 posts, we now have a 'spammer' I guess I would call it. The spammer has a great concern with zombies and for some reason has chosen to make comments concerning his/her fascination with zombies on this blog-anonymously of course. Which is most amusing. This is not acceptable so I have changed the settings. I am sorry to all my good blogging friends who may be affected by this change.

If anyone else has had problems with these kinds of strange comments or knows who this person is, please email me offline.


  1. hi tina, it looks beautyful, its a nice plant. Liebe Grüße aus Bremen von Kathrin

  2. Thanks for such an interesting and informative post. I have grown some Heucheras from seed and although they are all meant to be the same there is real variety between them. I prefer the purple leaved ones personally

  3. Good morning Tina, I love heuchera and have had a bit of a collection as well. One really strong performer is Raspberry Ice. We got a bunch at the Learning Garden as throw- aways from Tech. After putting many many many into the LG a few went home. It has awakened earlier than others and in the garden is one not nibbled on by deer or bunny or whomever. I had 'Midnight Rose' and the voles got it. (I think-- hasn't been seen for a while) One that has some striking blooms that last a long time is 'Cherries Jubilee'. I put 'Key Lime' in the front porch containers (didn't want to lose those to the voles as well) Another week or two will tell which of the Heucheras are going to make it again.
    sorry to hear about the spammer.

  4. Hi Tina, business first, I too get the zombie comments and have put them in the spam folder so now wordpress weeds them out. The zombies they are speaking of are giant sunflowers, this is a seed company, Dave's seeds or something like that.

    Now to the heucheras. I have had the same luck as you with those cultivars and will now only buy ones with villosa in the genetic makeup. Those are bred from our native ones and can withstand the heat and humidity of our summers and scoff at our winters. Another of those grown here is Brownie, but I think it is nearly the exact same plant as Mocha. Citronelle has done so well and the color really lights up a dark space, as the others sometimes blend in too well with the mulch. If the red leaf ones can get back lit, though, they positively glow. Silver Scrolls does well too, although the leaves seem to get smaller each year. The one you gave me, something Regal? is doing well with extra water. They all need a little extra water the last couple of summers. Loved your analysis. :-)

  5. These are cool, I've followed you all talking about them and I must pick one up soon!
    I hope your commenter doesn"t travel my way, fer sure he'll be speaking about posessed dolls with glowing eyes!

  6. Tinagirl ! Sorry about the spammer crap .. I am a huge heuchera fan and have quite a few myself AND still want more : )
    That was a great find at Home Depot .. I must have an eye out for something like that myself !
    My front garden is the place where heuchera really shine with the hosta .. they truly are beautiful plants and I can't imagine not having lots of them !!

  7. On your advice :) I bought 3 for the partial shade area in back. (not sure the types as the tags are on the potting bench outside) Right now..they are beautiful. My only concern is that I have read several things lately that say heucheras will not grow in clay soil. I amended the soil with peat moss years ago, then sand this year hoping that would help. I hope so--I'll take a picture soon as they are really pretty!

  8. That was loads of information packed in a single post. I haven't had chances to grow them, of course because we don't get it here. I later learned that they're native to North America. Do you use it in your food? Or may be in salads? How does it taste?

  9. Kathrin, Danke!

    PG, I too like those purple ones. Do you have a particular favorite?

    Janet, I will look for 'Raspberry Ice'. I have seen 'Midnight Rose' and love the speckled leaves. Very nice. Those voles, wish we could wave a wand and zap them all.

    Frances, Thank you very much on the zombie comments. It has bothered me as Sitemeter says the 'person' comes in directly to the blog. I will research and see if there is something I can do. Probably doubtful since they must have our web address in their bank. Very, very annoying. I think I gave you 'Prince of Silver', not sure. I have not had to water any of mine-ever. A really good thing. I love that 'Caramel' because it is so vigorous. I have it out front and it lights up the area. Positively shines. I know they have a few others besides 'Caramel' and 'Citronelle' so I too will be looking for them. I think I may have run out of room here so not too many more on my list:) Thanks again, very helpful to me this morning!

    Dawn, You are very funny! That's the way to handle it. Yes, you must get some heucheras. I know you've seen them?

    Linda, I am betting they will be fine in your garden-clay or not. I would watch them a bit this summer though as I know Texas gets quite a bit hotter than here and maybe more dry. Might need supplemental watering. I'll look for the picture! I do so hope you like them.

    Joy, Yes, they are great with hostas. I have mine paired with a few, plus some corydalis, arum, and hellebores. They are a rainbow-all the time in the garden. So nice.

    And thank you everyone for your sympathy with the 'spammer'. Frances has solved it. I am a bit bothered about it-to say the least-since I have several friends who comment anonymously on here. We all know who they are and now that will not be possible until I can change it back. Fortunately we have email and they understand.

  10. Hi Chandramouli, You could maybe convince your local nursery grower to get them? That would be neat-if it worked. No, I don't eat them. I am pretty sure they are not edible-just very pretty to look at. I especially like they are evergreen.

  11. Tina, a very interesting post. Chocolate Ruffles is one of my favourite as well. The next one I would like is Key Lime Pie. We can grow most of these as we don't get very cold winters or very hot summers. My all time favourite (at the moment) is Marmalade which shines for me all winter and divides really easily. I will definitely be buying some more Heuchera this year.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  12. Very good post.......I love personal observations like this, gives me something to consider.

  13. No zombies here, Tina, other than me who looks a little like a zombie after just waking up:)

    Tina, I am going to have to bookmark this page and check it out before buying another heuchera. Thanks for all this wonderful info! For example, I didn't know you could divide heucheras, so I may try that this fall.

    I've been growing some heucheras for a little under two years, so I'm not sure yet about how they will all perform. I should go out and check them again before writing this, but so far this spring the Palace Purple and Plum Pudding (I can't tell them apart) have done very well for me. They both looked great last summer, but then we had no problem with rain, either. Last year I purchased a cheap collection of "coral bells" (that's all that was on the tag) from a mail order company, and they arrived, about 3 inches tall. They all survived; we'll see how they do this year. Their foliage is nothing spectacular, of course, but I do like the red blooms in the summer. I was enticed by the "Creme Brulee" last summer and another similar hybrid whose name escapes me now--it remains to be seen if they have made it through the winter.

    All this started with the idea to border my shade garden with "coral bells." Now I've caught heuchera fever!:)

  14. A great summary on your heuchera experience. I think I lost all of my 'Peach Flambe' as well... hard to say since the rabbits ate them down in the winter. The purple continue to be the most robust. I'm trying to save an 'Amber Waves' that was fabulous, but then got undermined by some crabgrass. I dug up the heuchera completely, removed the offending grass and have replanted in a recovery zone.

    Great post!

  15. Mornin' Tina, what a great post. I love Heucheras and all of the info you gave is great to know like which ones aren't as winter hardy. I only got my first one last year but just love it - Plum Pudding which will be pictured on my post this morning. You know me the purple/pink nut so it's a winey color with silver in the leaves too. It made me a baby I'm going to plant at the opposite end of the garden as it's Mama. I love your Mocha Mint, Chocolate, Ruffles and Snow Angel. I agree I didn’t think Snow Angel was a Heuchera when I first saw your picture. Thought you were moving on to something else. Thanks for the great post.

  16. Love the heucheras! I almost bought a 'Snow Angel' at the Expo the other day but decided instead to get the 'Mystic Angel.' The have some very similar traits. Of course the rabbits had to test it but must not have found it very palatable. Sorry to hear about the spammer!

  17. Good morning Tina. No zombies on my blog yet;) Someone did try posting links to a Japanese porno site on my comments--all written in Japanese. It was a one time thing.

    Heuchera, I have several bought on impulse. Marmalade has survived two zone 4/5 winters here, altho it isn't as vigorous as Palace Purple or Stormy Seas which it sits between. It remains about half the size. I like your Angel Snow. I will look for that one locally.

    IMHO heucheras are a problem to site. Too much shade and the colors don't stand out. Too much sun and the leaves fade and burn. If I had just the right spot with semi or open high shade they would work better.

  18. Morning All,
    Tina, sorry about the spammer. They can be a nuisance.
    I love all the heucheras. I have a couple but they don't seem to like it much here. I do have them on the East side of my home as that is the shady side. I guess maybe if I mulched them they would be better. I have them with my hostas.
    Need to head out to the garden.

  19. Great post today Tina on one of my favorite foliage plants for the shady areas of the garden. Even though Palace Purple says it will take full sun I find that it does best in part sun (which means morning only). My favorite purple variety has to be Plum Pudding, it has much deeper & richer color than the Palace Purple & is much hardier. Thanks for sharing your observations since I am always looking for more varieties to add to the garden. Snow Angel & Mocha Mint are definitely going on my must add list this fall. :)

  20. You gave me my first one Tina and I added a new one this year! I plan to add more as I find them at bargain prices. Headed off for more gravel to spread. Arg, but beautiful day to be in the garden whether spreading gravel or pulling weeds! :-)

    Phooie on the spammer....

  21. Good morning Tina- Heuchera are beautiful plants but I must admit I didn't know there were do many different species of them. You have a wonderful collection. I made the mistake of planting in full Idaho sun when I was 'new' and have never replaced them. Maybe this year. I do love that Key Lime Pie one.

  22. Sylvia, Hello there and thanks for stopping by. Those heucheras are definitely good plants. You can't have too many:)

    Darla, I think personal observations are helpful. Of course conditions vary but really how much info do you get from tags? Glad it helped you a bit.

    Rose, Way to put it all in perspective for me! I was a bit down, feeling better now. Especially since I am hearing I'm not the only one with problems with this darn spammer. Sometimes life can be a bit intruding when all these marketers have access to mail, phones, blogs, email-you name it. Coral bells are perfect for lining a garden. Yes, divide in the fall. Probably late September for you. The roots need to get reestablished prior to hard freeze. It is very easy. Do not be afraid. The offsets will small at first, but by spring are nearly full grown and all will bloom. I have not divided the new villosa hybrids so not sure how they'll do, but most are quite easy. Saves money down the road with lining the garden.

    Cameron, If 'Amber Waves' succumbs, go ahead and get 'Caramel', an excellent cultivar that shines. It is robust too. Like Frances, I am really liking the villosa hybrids. Glad you liked the post. I have another similar one next week on tulips. Long posts they are though. Time consuming.

    Linda, Yes heucheras are so variable but is pink and purple are your colors, you are in luck! So many of them and they can't be beat. 'Snow Angel' is so different, but fits in a bit-it plays nicely at least even if it clashes with the others:)

    Dave, I've not heard of 'Mystic Angel' but if it similar to 'Snow Angel' you got yourself a keeper. This one is very fun and very un-heuchera like, though the bloom is the same-red and pretty.

    Marnie, Glad no zombies have found you. I too had that Japanese poster. So frustrating to me! It is great your 'Marmalade' survives winters for you. You must have it perfectly sited. I think you are right about bright shade. Definitely not too much sun, though in the north they may take more.

    Lola, You have a great day in the garden. Get that one tree cleaned up so you can plant something new. I'll be heading that way too.

    Racquel, Yes, shade for sure. They get so ratty looking in the summer. Heucheras are easy to grow and what a bonus for my shady garden. You are at least the third person who has mentioned 'Plum Pudding'-bodes very well for the cultivar. I'll check it out.

    Skeeter, Yes! You have 'Mocha Mint' and I know you'll add many many more. There are some fantastic colors out there. Your front garden would love them.

    Heather, Yes they are so fun. Tons of varieties. Too many to count and more all the time. 'Key Lime Pie' is nice but given a choice, go ahead and get 'Citronelle'. A Very vigorous hybrid with brighter more yellow color. Yes, even full Idaho sun is maybe too much. Put them in a bit of shade to brighten those areas and add year round interest.

  23. Gotta love those plants with food names. The Key Lime one looks especially scrumptious. Last spring when we were living in IL, I bought a cheap Heuchera in a pot at Wal-Mart (not identified as to cultivar, of course) and planted it in one of my herb pots. It survived the move, and I've added it to my hosta/fern bed on the north side of the house. It's maroon colored with ruffled leaves. I'm thinking it looks kinda lonely there by itself with all of those hostas and ferns. I might have to find a companion for it one of these days. Thanks for the great tips, Tina.

  24. I love heucheras, though some get too fried in my garden. Saving tags would have allowed me to tell you which ones. And so many heucheras have yummy food names!

  25. Snow Angel and Mocha Mint look like my favorites. Does the Mocha Mint have a minty smell. If it does then I guess I could choose just one...Mocha mint!

    Funny Dawn.

  26. You have quite a collection Tina. I only have 'Palace Purple' in my garden (like many gardeners) but I like many of the different varieties. I've also planted some in my containers, for the foliage interest but don't usually keep them at the end of the season. I have no idea why?? Last fall I did set a bronze leafed one (can't remember the name) out in my garden so I'll see if it survived the winter. Good to know which ones you like & do well. I'd say you have a lot of experience.

  27. I aonly have one. But, Tina, I think this year will be the year of the heuchera. I saw a completely black one the at Lowes. You will have to add it to your collection.

  28. Great post! All I have in my garden so far is the species and Heucherella, but I very much like the foliage effect. I love the look of Mocha Mint.

  29. It seems to be spammer season at the moment :(

    So glad you posted about my signature plant Tina! I'm not sure if it's hardiness that's the problem with the Heuchera like 'Caramel', 'Amber Waves' etc. To be that colour their ability to photosynthesise is lessened as there's less pigment, so they need to be in ideal conditions in order to do well. These are my least favourite of the colours available, as they often look so sickly.

    I love 'Chocolate Ruffles' and 'Plum Puddin' (sometimes 'Pudding'). I also love 'Lime Rickey' - similar to 'Key Lime Pie', but over here in the winter the leaves go a lovely buttery yellow. 'Obsidian' and 'Licorice' are my favourites from the very dark range.

    I bought Dan Heims' book at Christmas - a great read if you haven't got it already.

  30. Tina I'm glad I read this before I left to go plant shopping! I've been seeing 'Caramel' a lot lately and I think I will look for 'Key Lime Pie' too. I love all of your varieties, I think the the tall spikes of red flowers on some of the green leaved varieties are one of the hummingbirds favorites. Great post!

  31. Tina, Hi...I was out in the gardening checking out the heuchera and I can report back that the most successful are any with villosa parentage: Autumn Bride, Brownie, Frosted Violet. Not sure about H Green Spice's parentage but is doing wonderful and I am on the fence with Midnight Rose, H villosa Citronelle and Beaujolais! We'll see if they improve this summer! The key to surviving here seems to be well drained soil during the winters....and summers can be brutal to these guys if they don't get some extra moisture! A delightful post Tina...this plant seems to interest many of us! I am going to get more Brownie...big brown maple shaped leaves add just the right touch to the too green garden!


  32. I LOVE posts like these that give me real-life information about plants that I probably won't find elsewhere. Thanks!

  33. A helpful post, thank you. I have only one heuchera and I don't know which it is - not the purple one anyway. I fancy the mint one you show too. Thanks again

  34. Wonderful Tina, what a collection you got. I didn't know that there were so many different Heucheras.
    I love the Mocha Mint and the Chocolate (t)ruffles :-) sound like icecream flavours to me.

    xoxo Tyra

  35. I wasn't aware there were so many heucheras. I had a pretty reddish one last year. But I took it out of a pot and put it in the ground and it promptly died. So now I have a green one, which is blooming red flowers at the moment, in a pot. It's staying there.

  36. Hi all! Seems like there are tons of fans of the heucheras. Glad you all chimed in and I could share a bit. VP-had no idea heucheras were your signature plant-nice to know!

    You all have a great night!

  37. Hi Tina~ Looks like you have quite a lovely collection Huecheras. I didn't realize there were so many varieties.

  38. I picked up a Tiramisu Huechera today! Now I have three different ones so I guess you can say I have a collection!

    Great day spent in the garden and a bit more to do tomorrow...

  39. Hi Tina - inspired by your post I returned to Dan Heims' book last night for a little late night reading. A little snippet which might help people having problems with keeping Heucheras:

    Heucheras come from mountain crevices, so you need to provide similar conditions for your Heuchera - good drainage, moderate moisture retentive soils and preferably cool nigh time temperatures. The warmer the summer nights, the more critical good drainage becomes - some Heucheras in the deep South will go into 'suspended animation' until cooler weather arrives. Some Heucheras are also adapted to woodland conditions and if these from part of your Heuchera's parentage, then they will be more shade tolerant.

    See - it's a fascinating book, which also brings home the message you need the right place for this plant, though they do have some neat adaptation for more adverse conditions!

  40. My current favorite Heuchera is 'Raspberry Ice.' It's got it all - dark foliage, showy pink flowers & a long bloom time. It has also survived for many years in my garden. This past winter was especially hard on my Heucheras & Heucherellas, but 'Raspberry Ice' was unaffected. I got a Villosa hybrid last fall, 'Citronelle,' that I will be comparing to 'Lime Rickey.' I lost one of those over the winter, and the remaining ones don't look so good, so 'Citronelle' is already outperforming it. I think I'm going to have to get more of the Villosas.

  41. Karrita-Thanks! There are TONS of heuchera hybrids out there for sure.

    Skeeter, Yeah! the heucheras! They rock!

    VP, I am going to look for Dan's book. Now a days the only books I buy are for specific types of plants so heucheras will surely fit in. And thanks so much for the information. It will help me for sure.

    MMD, 'Raspberry Ice' sounds so yummy! I'll have to check it out. You will like 'Citronelle' I think. 'Key Lime' has been reliable but I love the yellow of 'Citronelle'.

    back to the house...

  42. I love your heurcha post...great info and photos! I notice you are in middle Tennessee...I am in Crossville, which direction are you?
    Linda (considerthelilies)

  43. Consider the Lilies, Hello and welcome. Always great to meet a fellow Tennessee garden blogger. You have a lovely blog and I see you grow that Caramel too. What a great plant and great bunch of plants. So glad you liked my post. I am in the Clarksville area about 3 hours NW of you I think. I've heard many good things about Crossville. In fact, at the Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs convention here in Clarksville last year I met a few gardeners who live and retired there. I've visited before too, on my way to NC. Your weather is a bit different than ours, but still nice. Enjoy all the rain. I am loving it.

  44. I'm drooling over all the different heucherias. I added a species that's native to some islands off the coast (H. maxima), and I feel good about planting a native species, but the plant is all-green in its leaves, and the flowers are little white things. Interesting, but not anything splashy like the modern hybrids out there. I could probably sneak a hybrid or two into the mix...

  45. I love heucheras! It won't be long before I have even more heucheras than hostas in our shady garden.

    I've found that although they're mostly evergreen, the bunnies here love the foliage on the villosas and devour them over the winter. They come back fine, but don't provide much winter interest in my garden. Chocolate Ruffles, Autumn Bride, and Caramel were all eaten down to the crowns, but all are coming back as strong as ever.

    They leave the non-villosa varieties alone here, apparently their foliage must not taste as good to them.

  46. James, There is something really good to be said about good old fashioned plain green heucheras. I like them too. Some of the hybrids can be a bit much.

    Linda, Bummer on the bunnies eating your coral bells but yahoo for them bouncing back!