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Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials

Heucheras: Versatile, Colorful Natives (page 2 of 3)

by Lynn Ocone

Heuchera for Foliage

One reason for the growing popularity of heucheras is their stunning array of leaf colors, shapes, sizes and textures. Those with showy foliage (often called alumroot) are striking as small-scale ground covers, in perennial borders and in containers. The leaves are also attractive in floral arrangements. These foliage heucheras are evergreen in all but the most severe climates. Foliage does deteriorate as winter progresses, however. Still, these rank high for adding color highlights through much, if not all of the year.

Top varieties to look for include the following:

Heuchera 'Palace Purple' (also called H. micrantha diversifolia 'Palace Purple') was the first to be widely grown for its dramatic foliage. It was introduced to American gardens in 1986 and remains popular for the way its rich purple maple-leaf foliage contrasts beautifully with greens and golds.

Heuchera americana 'Garnet' is notable for leaf color that changes with the seasons from garnet tones to dark green marked with deep wine red.

H. americana 'Dale's Strain' is a variable seed-propagated variety with silver blue marbled foliage.

H. 'Montrose Ruby' is a cross of H. 'Palace Purple' and H. 'Dale's Strain'. It offers dark purple leaves that are mottled with silver.

The Oregon Heucheras

Recent introductions of foliage heucheras from Oregon nurseryman and plant breeder Dan Heims are making a big splash. Some of the top picks among the many he offers are listed here (all are hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9).

H. americana 'Pewter Veil' has pewter purple leaves with charcoal gray veining. The entire 20-inch-wide mound of foliage has a metallic sheen. Individual leaves grow 6 inches or more across. It combines beautifully with Japanese painted fern (Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum')," raves horticulturist Kelly Grummons of Paulino's Gardens in Denver. It complements the purple, lavender and silvery greenish gray of the fern's leaflets.

H. 'Chocolate Ruffles' has ruffled leaves to 9 inches wide. They are chocolate colored on top and burgundy below. The burgundy peeks through the ruffles, giving a two-tone effect. The mounding plant, topped with thousands of tiny white flowers on purple spikes, spreads slowly to about 20 inches wide.

H. micrantha 'Ruffles' forms a 30-inch-wide mound of incredibly ruffled woolly green leaves. Flowers are small and white.

H. sanguinea 'Splish-Splash' is one with showy foliage and bright, showy rose flowers. The variegated 3-inch-wide leaves are marbled white over green with pink veins. The plant grows to 18 inches wide.

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