Tiarella (foamflower) are a new favourite shade perennial of mine. In spring they send up short spikes of pretty blooms over top of very decorative leaves. These plants are very tolerant of growing under the trees, and in other shadowy garden areas. All of mine have survived a zone 3 winter with no problems. Of the three that I grow, ‘Sugar and Spice’ and ‘Pink Skyrocket’ are my favourites. ‘Jeepers Creepers’ might just need another year to settle in and produce more flowers.
Above is Tiarella ‘Sugar and Spice’, which gets a good number of flowers. These have been in bloom for over a month now. Each flower spike starts with tight buds, and then gradually the buds open from the bottom. As they open, they produce tiny starry shaped, white flowers. From a distance the combination of pink buds and white flowers have a light pink appearance, living up to their ‘Sugar and Spice’ name. It takes a while for all of the buds to open, and then they appear as very pale pink.
I have one group of ‘Sugar and Spice’ right under the low branches of a pine tree, which you can see on the left of the above picture. Despite the challenging shade conditions, they are still producing these pretty blooms. The other group of ‘Sugar and Spice’ have an eastern exposure, and get an hour or so of light in the morning, and then a bit of dappled light throughout the day.
The leaves of ‘Sugar and Spice’ are cut into lobes, with very dark, almost black, markings down the centre of each lobe. They have a reflective finish, especially the new leaves, which helps them show up even more in a shady nook. The photo above was taken in the rain, but even without extra water, they still have a nice sheen.
Here is a pink ‘Sugar and Spice’ foamflower plant with some white Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) blooms behind. It is a sweet springtime combination that I took earlier in the month.
Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ bloomed for quite a while last year, and they are doing the same this year. Each plant has a large number of these floral spikes. They start as narrow spikes of dark salmon pink buds, and then open to cylinders of light, fluffy pink. The foamflowers are covered in blooms, even in shady conditions.
The leaves of ‘Pink Skyrocket’ are especially deeply cut, with the lobes going almost to the centre. They have a glossy finish, with narrow dark markings down the middle of each lobe. The plant above is next to some Pulmonaria ‘Samourai’ (lungwort) which has the beautiful blue flowers.
The photo above shows the fireworks appearance that is an inspiration for their name. I have two separate groups of ‘Pink Skyrocket’, and both get little direct light, yet they still make a great flower show and have wonderfully healthy foliage. One group is on the north side of a fence, at the edge of a tall pine, with a birdbath behind, and a Hydrangea shrub beside them. The other group is in a bed at the side of the house, next to a tall Aruncus (goat’s beard) with mostly indirect light.
This year my Tiarella ‘Jeepers Creepers’ are later than the others in blooming. I’m not sure if this is their normal schedule, or if it is because they were planted last fall. They also have a smaller number of blooms, even though they are in about the same light conditions as my other Tiarella. It could be that this hybrid is less floriferous, they don’t bloom quite as well in very low light conditions, or they just need another year to get established.
Despite the smaller flower show, the leaves of ‘Jeepers Creepers’ are particularly attractive. They have very nice noticeable markings, that looks really sharp in the shade garden, making them stand out against other solid coloured leaves. Plus they are tactile, being covered in tiny hairs. I have some ‘Jeepers Creepers’ planted between some purple leafed Heuchera and some green Cornus canadensis, and like how the darkest purple centres of the Tiarella look with the more solid purple Heuchera. The combination of light and dark on the Tiarella makes a nice bridge between them.
Each Tiarella plant is about 30 cm (12 in ) tall and 40 cm (15 in ) across. The foliage is semi-evergreen, though not quite as hardy as Heuchera leaves. Still, they kept many of their leaves over the winter, giving a fast start to the garden colour in spring. Tiarella foliage still looks great at the end of fall, when many perennials had already died back. These are another super perennial for extending your gardening time in a short growing season.
You can see how beautifully Tiarella combine with blue flowers. I particularly like them with the Pulmonaria. So far, ‘Pink Skyrocket’ and ‘Sugar and Spice’ are my favourite for their flowers. However, ‘Sugar and Spice’ and ‘Jeepers Creepers’ have the nicest leaves. I can highly recommend Tiarella if you are gardening in the shade. They will grow under trees and shrubs, while producing lovely flowers and showy leaves. Here are more photos of Tiarella and Heuchera.
I’ve added a gallery, so you can see more shots. Just click on any small photo to enlarge it to full size.