Rating Heucheras

By Susan Littlefield

Some plants seem to catch the fancy of plant breeders and inspire them to develop a mind-boggling array of cultivars, so many that a gardener is often at a loss when it comes to choosing among all the riches. How to decide on one variety or another, when there are so many to select from? That may be the case with heucheras these days. Every season seems to bring forth a host of new cultivars with leaves in an amazing array of hues and patterns, for they are often selected for their colorful leaves, as well as some for their delicate sprays of flowers.

To help gardeners wade through the bounty, in 2012 Mt. Cuba Center in northern Delaware began a three year evaluation of 86 heuchera cultivars that have either H. villosa or H. americana as one of their parents. As they noted, this barely scratches the surface of the number of varieties available, but it is a start in winnowing out the best of this exciting genus.

Although the trial is not yet complete, the center has posted interim ratings based on data collected in 2012 on their website. While the ratings may change as the plants are evaluated over the longer term, these initial data will give some indication of how the plants perform. Performance is based on growing conditions in the mid-Atlantic area, of course; gardeners in other areas should keep their own growing conditions in mind as they review these ratings. Some of the top rated Heuchera cultivars of 2012 included 'Apple Crisp', 'Berry Smoothie', 'Berry Marmalade', 'Cajun Fire', 'Purple Petticoats', 'Dale's Strain', 'Obsidian', 'Guardian Angel', and 'Spellbound'. And stay tuned as the data for the two succeeding seasons is gathered and posted, along with a final evaluation.

To read more about the Mt. Cuba Center Heuchera Evaluation, go to Trial Garden Research.

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