Heuchera foliage (coral bells) looks fabulous all season, since they are evergreen. As other perennials start to loose their leaves and flowers in Fall, the coral bells continue to look good, and some develop additional Autumn colouring. Here are five of my favourite Heuchera leaves, livening up the shade garden. All of these ones have hints of silver.
Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’ has subtle foliage for most of the season, in a light green with a hint of silver, and slightly pronounced colour along the veins, while the edges are banded in a medium green. However, when the cold weather starts, ‘Mint Frost’ gets dramatic colour changes of purple, red and gold along the veins, and then all over. The best thing is that they don’t lose their leaves after the colour change, like most plants would, so you get to enjoy the colourful leaves for a long time. They can make this transformation due to late spring frosts, as well as in the Fall. I like the green summer shades and the brighter colours induced by the cold weather equally well.
These ones are just starting to develop the red lines along the blades for fall and some have turned completely, but you can see how fresh the green foliage looks, too. Soon the leaves will be an all over red, purple or even orange colour. ‘Mint Frost’ is best planted for the decorative foliage, since its tall spires of flowers are insignificant. There is more about ‘Mint Frost’ here.
Look at how the purple leaves of ‘Mint Frost’ still have the green rim around them, a cool effect. This plant doesn’t seem to have a predetermined Fall plan, it just wings it with whatever it feels like changing to. Last year, they turned more gold and orange, but this year they are purple. They are either very capricious, or have been reading the fashion magazines for the current trendy colours. I guess purple is in this Fall, and gold is out.
Heuchera ‘Green Spice’ (also called ‘Eco-improved’) has a light green colour to the foliage with very distinct purple red markings following along the veins all season. Leaves with contrasting colours along the veins are some of my favourites, as they make more beautiful patterns than random blotches. Like ‘Mint Frost’, ‘Green Spice’ has a darker green band around the edge. They are decorative enough to grab your attention, but with the green background, they also blend well with other plants. ‘Green Spice’ looks super with silver, green or purple leafed plants.
Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ have dark purple leaves, with silver overtones. The undersides are a solid purplish red. This is another really nice Heuchera for a section of the garden with purple colouring. The dark colour is very dramatic, and the silver shimmer keeps them from looking gloomy. I have some next to a purple leafed Actaea racemosa (bugbane), and they coordinate well. Plant ‘Plum Pudding’ for its foliage, as the cream coloured flowers are not noticeable. There is more about Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ here.
You can see in this photo that ‘Plum Pudding’ has a little more more violet pink tone in the Autumn.
The ‘Plum Pudding’ leaf is backlit here, making it look like its veins run with hot lava, as the red colour on the other side shines through.
Here is another backlit shot, but of ‘Cinnabar Silver’, showing the red fire starting along its veins.
Heuchera ‘Cinnabar Silver’ has fantastic silvery green leaves with purple overtones, There are very dark markings along the leaf veins. The patterns formed by the dark markings are very attractive against the lighter background. These plants coordinate nicely with either silver or purple foliage, and make a nice bridge between purple and silver plants. There is more silver grey and less purple on these blades than ‘Plum Pudding’. ‘Cinnabar Silver’, though, has beautiful flowers of red, which are extra showy. It is also a little more compact than the other Heuchera.
Although this is mostly about the Heuchera foliage, I had to add in a picture of the wonderful red flowers on ‘Cinnabar Silver’. This photo was taken in October, after some early frosts. You can see more pictures of the ‘Cinnabar Silver’ flowers here.
Heuchera ‘Raspberry Ice’ is another coral bells with a silver and purple scheme. These plants have green leaves with lots of silver overlay and some purple. There are pronounced dark lines along the veins. The scalloped edges give a slightly ruffled look to the plants. ‘Raspberry Ice’ is one Heuchera that has beautiful flowers too, with bright pink blooms. If you are looking for fantastic foliage and pretty flowers, this is a good choice. There is more about Heuchera ‘Raspberry Ice’ here.
You can see that I especially like the Heuchera foliage with grey or silver tones. It gives the plants a little extra sparkle in the shade, and brightens up the darker areas, with more light reflection. Dark colours tend to recede into the shade, so adding some light colours makes them more noticeable.
I’ve grown to appreciate Heuchera foliage more and more as the leaves of other perennials start to decline or drop in the Fall. In the short growing season of zone 3, the garden has less time to flourish in between winter snow seasons, so having some decorative plants that show off at the beginning and end of the gardening year increases the enjoyment of the garden.
This year, we had our last spring frost on May 31 and our first fall frost in the middle of September. That left three and a half months in between with no frost, so you can see how perennials with evergreen foliage are important for lengthening the garden interest. The Heuchera look great, right until covered up by the snow. The garden also gets started quickly in spring, as soon as the snow melts to reveal the evergreen leaves. Most of the them are in good condition, after resting all winter, and the plants just need a little tidy. I’ve added many more Heuchera, Tiarella (foamflower) and their cross, Heucherella (foamy bells), this year because I’ve been so impressed with this ability.
Since these perennials have somewhat stiff leaves, with a distinct scalloped shape, they look good as a contrast next to the fine texture of Astilbe or ferns, or the even larger leaves of Hosta. I also have some beside the long fuzzy leaves of some Pulmonaria. Their mounds of shapely leaves add some texture contrast to the shade garden.
With the wide variety of leaf patterns, it is easy to find a Heuchera that coordinates with your other garden colours. I’m particularly fond of the silvery green and silvery purple ones, and find they fit easily into a garden bed scheme. Best of all, the fancy foliage stays around all year, so your shady garden never looks bare. Here are some Heuchera with attractive flowers, too.