Thursday, September 1, 2011

Feature Plant: Heuchera (Coral Bells) - A Perennial for all Seasons

Over the years as a gardener and designer I have become fascinated with the beauty and endurance of heuchera in the garden.  Known originally as a shade plant, newer cultivars of heuchera have proven to be more and more tolerant of a multitude of conditions.   Heuchera have made a significant rise in their appearance in gardens around the world, as newer varieties with dramatic striking foliage are cultivated.  Heuchera can be grown in hardiness zones 4-9 in sun to part shade in a variety of soils.   Heuchera come in a variety of colors ranging from green to chartreuse to yellow, red-pink and burgundy and serve as an excellent accent piece in the garden border, woodland or cottage garden.  

Heuchera 'Palace Purple' Flower
My all time favorite for durability and color is the reliable Heuchera 'Palace Purple', a cultivar with large deep maple-shaped burgundy foliage that lasts from spring until fall and even into the winter months in zones 4-9.  Spikes of creamy-white flowers emerge in late summer that resemble baby's breath.   If kept in part shade, the color of Heuchera 'Palace Purple' will be deeper and more dramatic but when placed in full sun its' color will range from burgundy to possibly an orange-bronze.  'Palace Purple' heuchera prefers a moist yet well drained loamy soil.

Heuchera 'Plum Pudding'
The next variety worth mentioning is Heuchera 'Plum Pudding'.  Plum Pudding is also tolerant in zones 4-9 and should be grown in indirect sun to part shade.  The color of this heuchera is a little more on the plum side as the name indicates.  I find from experience that 'Plum Pudding' is less tolerant of full sun and does best grown in partly shady and moist conditions.  It's low mounding appearance and silvery-plum foliage also makes it an excellent addition in the shade garden. 

Heuchera ' Caramel'
Heuchera 'Caramel'  has become one of my new favorites in the garden and at its second year is climbing highly on my list.  'Caramel' is hardy in zones 4-8 and is more tolerant of sun than its predecessors.  'Caramel' will eventually spread to one to two feet in width and produces light pink flowers in June-July.  This cultivar prefers medium-moist rich soil and will grow in full sun from a northern or eastern exposure.  When in a southern or western exposure it is best to give this plant some afternoon shade.  I have found this perennial to be highly successful in zone 7 and it adds a statement to the garden with its wonderful color.

Heuchera 'Solar Eclipse'
A new heuchera that I just introduced into my gardens this year is Heuchera 'Solar Eclipse'. Showing a burst of color in a shady spot, 'Solar Eclipse' displays broadly scalloped leaves of red-brown bordered in lime green. Hardy in zones 4-9, 'Solar Eclipse' is a vigorous clump-forming grower that also prefers moist rich but well drained soil in part to full shade. 

Heuchera villosa 'Citronelle'

Another exciting variety of coral bells is Heuchera villosa 'Citronelle'.  'Citronelle' is a hybrid stemming from 'Caramel'  making it more durable in high heat and humidity.  'Citronelle' is a medium grower to twelve inches in height with neon yellow lobed foliage and produces white flowers in mid-late summer.  It is hardy to zones 4-9 and to -20 degrees Fahrenheit and prefers to be grown in a moist loamy soil with good drainage.  'Citronelle' will tolerate full sun in a northern or eastern exposure.   I have found that the leaves can scorch if in too much sun so if planting in a southern or western exposure give 'Citronelle' partial shade.  It will perform beautifully and make a bold statement in the landscape with its bright lemon-lime colored foliage.
Heuchera 'Palace Purple' with Grasses and Norway Spruce
Heuchera require minimal maintenance.  The foliage of heuchera starts to emerge in early spring and lasts throughout the entire summer and fall and even into winter making it a perennial for all seasons. Foliage will remain throughout the winter but plants should be mulched for winter protection. An early spring pruning to remove spent foliage will encourage new growth.  Heuchera form evergreen clumps of rounded, scalloped or fringed foliage that grow from 12 to 24 inches in diameter over time.  There are approximately 50 varieties to choose from with new cultivars being developed each year.  Heuchera also attract butterflies and are deer resistant, meaning that deer do not prefer this perennial.

Heuchera 'Solar Eclipse' in Garden with Sedum backdrop
These are a few of the varieties that I have found to be most hardy in my zone 7 northeastern landscape. If there is a heuchera that you have found to be either reliable or not please do share.

I plan on testing as many varieties as I possibly can for this perennial is certainly a welcome addition to this designer's garden.  

As always...Happy Gardening.

Author: Lee@A Guide To Northeastern Gardening Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.

(Updated August 17,2012)


  1. These are wonderful plants. I have so enjoyed them in my garden. I will have to try the new hybrids.

  2. They really do add some nice interest in the garden and the new hybrids can tolerate a multitude of conditions. 'Caramel' is definitley climbing up on my list!

  3. I like to read your post and my garden full of hostas hand heucheras plants.


Thank you for visiting. I love reading your comments and knowing you have been here, and will try to reciprocate on your blog. If you have any questions I will try my very best to answer them. As always...HAPPY GARDENING!


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