Northern Shade Gardening

Heuchera Foliage in Fall

Thursday, October 7, 2010 Category: Perennials

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' two plants

Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’ two plants

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.

Heuchera 'Mint Frost' with fall purple

Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’ with fall purple

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.

Heuchera 'Mint Frost' purple leaf with green band in fall

Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’ purple leaf with green band in fall

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' fall foliage

Heuchera ‘Green Spice’ fall foliage

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' leaves in fall

Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ leaves in fall

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.

Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' with violet pink colour

Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ with violet pink colour

You can see in this photo that ‘Plum Pudding’ has a little more more violet  pink tone in the Autumn.

Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' backlit leaf showing red

Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ backlit leaf showing red

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.

Heuchera 'Cinnabar Silver' fall foliage

Heuchera ‘Cinnabar Silver’ fall foliage

Here is another backlit shot, but of  ‘Cinnabar Silver’, showing the red fire starting along its veins.

Heuchera 'Cinnabar Silver' pretty leaves

Heuchera ‘Cinnabar Silver’ pretty leaves

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.

Heuchera 'Cinnabar Silver' pretty red flowers

Heuchera ‘Cinnabar Silver’ pretty red flowers

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' silver and purple leaves

Heuchera ‘Raspberry Ice’ silver and purple leaves

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.

Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' silver purple leaves

Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ silver purple leaves

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.

Heuchera 'Raspberry Ice' two plants in fall leaves

Heuchera ‘Raspberry Ice’ two plants in fall leaves

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.

Heuchera leaves and flowers collage

Heuchera leaves and flowers collage

15 Responses to “Heuchera Foliage in Fall” »

  1. Marit :
    October 7, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I love your heuchera photos. There are so many sorts of heuchera, so it is a nice collector plant.
    Heuchera and ferns are two good neighbours!

  2. Marie :
    October 7, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Very nice heuchera photoes :)

  3. Kathleen :
    October 7, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    What a gorgeous red spike on ‘Cinnabar Silver.’ I love your Heucheras. I just bought a new one “Electric” (at least I think that’s right) ~ it’s a lime green color with red veining. They sure are great plants.
    What a short growing season you have! 3 1/2 months goes by in a flash.
    In your comment to me regarding the Japanese Anemones, I think getting blooms might be an issue knowing that. There are some years they don’t make it here (if we have an especially early frost) but our growing season is definitely longer. That certainly is a consideration for any perennial you purchase, isn’t it?
    btw, I am planting striped squill bulbs because of the beautiful blooms I saw in your garden. :-)

  4. Northern Shade :
    October 7, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Marit, I have started collecting many more of them this year, as I love how they look all year (when not covered). I’ve added several groups of my favourites around the garden, along with Heucherella. It’s fun to try out the different types and compare them. I really like the texture contrast of lacy ferns next to solid Heuchera leaves, too.

    Marie, there is a lot of variety in Heuchera, as well as subtle variations in the plants. Some of my current favourites have both nice leaves and flowers.

    Kathleen, when you see how they pair well with other plants in the garden, they are very endearing, and as Marit mentioned, they become very collectible, since there are so many variations now.

    There were 3 and half months without frost, but luckily other hardy plants extend the season. I planted lots of early spring bulbs that started flowering at the beginning of April and through May, and some hardy perennials like Helleborus, Brunnera and Pulmonaria get the garden going fast, too. I’ve tried adding lots of perennials that don’t disappear after the first fall frost as well, so there is a fair amount of green still. However, the tender annuals are gone, and the wimpy perennials, like Hosta, Athyrium and some others have mostly disappeared. I’m very big on perennials with evergreen foliage now, like Heuchera, Heucherella, Tiarella, Helleborus, Asarum, Dianthus and some Campanula.

  5. Joy :
    October 8, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Hello there Northern Shade !
    I love seeing your heuchera : ) they will always be a favorite plant of mine in the garden. There are so many different cultivars now the range of colour is amazing ! I have to say Peach Flambe and Pinot Gris have been rather remarkable with their colour variation and “thrive” factor through some tough weather/moisture conditions this year .. I can count on them to look gorgeous no matter what : )
    Great post and pictures !
    Joy
    PS .. just getting caught up a bit with visiting blogs finally ;-)

  6. Northern Shade :
    October 8, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Joy, so far I have been very pleased with how hardy my Heuchera have been. I’ll see how some of the new ones do over the winter, but nothing seems to bother them, and the leaves always look great.

  7. The Garden Ms. S :
    October 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    The heuchera add so much to the autumn garden. And then they are there waiting in the spring! Such a great plant. :)

  8. Northern Shade :
    October 9, 2010 at 7:57 am

    The Garden Ms. S, I made two extensions to my front garden bed this week, adding both Heuchera and Tiarella to them. As the Hosta are fading away, these new sections still look very fresh.

  9. Monica :
    October 10, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Hi, thanks for your comment at my blog :). I just love your Heuchera. I haven´t so many different sorts but it going to be more of them I think …
    Tjingeling
    Monica

  10. Northern Shade :
    October 10, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Monica, if you are gardening in a cold climate, they are fantastic for the many months of colour they provide. I’ve added many more evergreen perennials, as well as ones with very early or late flowers, to have some interest in the garden as long as possible.

  11. Sisah :
    October 11, 2010 at 1:36 am

    Last autumn I also bought some Heuchera because I wanted this colourful performance of Heuchera’s leaves in my garden like you show here on your photos. I don’t know what went wrong, but my plants look really wimpy. As I was reading they are drought-resistant, so I planted them under the pine tree in our garden, maybe the summer here was to dry for them. I don’t know. Maybe they recover now when autumn rains are starting-…I hope.
    Crocus speciosus is very hardy, we also have strong winters here and they all survived.C. speciosus is native in Caucasus, northern Turkey & Iran and hence hardy down to zone 3.
    Viele Grüße
    Sisah

  12. Ruben :
    October 11, 2010 at 5:58 am

    Thank you for your comment on my blog. Wow, a comment from Canada you don´t get every day, to say the least. ;-) I like your blog very much, and I´m glad you drew my attension to it. A very interesting post about Heucheras, and very handy as well. I was pondering, which one would be best in combination with coral and red colored flowers. Maybe one with dark foliage.
    Have a nice day!
    /Ruben

  13. Northern Shade :
    October 11, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Sisah, I’ve found my Heuchera to be fairly tolerant, but I do give them supplemental water also. Some of mine are under spruce and pine, and some are under deciduous trees. Some of the latest cultivars have been bred to be more sun tolerant; I suppose they handle dryness even more, but mine are for shade. They’ve all grown into nice sized plants. The central crown can tend to pop up over winter, so I cover them with Autumn leaves, and our snow cover helps insulate them from the freeze thaw cycle that might raise them up too. If they are raised out of the ground in spring, you can dig and bury them again.

    Thanks for the additional information about the Autumn crocus. I’ve been thinking of adding them around some of the perennials that die back early.

    Ruben, the ‘Cinnabar Silver’ would be great in a red and coral scheme, with its brownish red flowers. It is more compact, too, so it can fit under low branches, shrubs or tall perennials. I have it under some low spruce branches, and it looks nice against the dark needles. The leaves are a lighter purple with more silver, so it reflects more light.

  14. Copperbeech :
    July 4, 2013 at 4:35 am

    I am interested in how “Havana” performed for you this season? For how long in the summer is it in bloom? (I am considering using it as a border in a very shady garden.)

  15. Northern Shade :
    July 5, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Copperbeech, the Heuchera ‘Havana’ haven’t come into flower yet. I’ll have to post a photo update when they do.

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