Tiarella for Beautiful Flowers and Leaves in the Shade

Tiarella 'Pink Skyrocket' foam flower mostly open
Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ foam flower mostly open

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.

Tiarella 'Sugar and Spice' foamflower up close detail
Tiarella ‘Sugar and Spice’ foamflower up close detail

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.

Tiarella 'Sugar and Spice' foamflower with pine needles
Tiarella ‘Sugar and Spice’ foamflower with pine needles

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.

Tiarella 'Sugar and Spice' foamflower close up of leaf markings
Tiarella ‘Sugar and Spice’ foamflower close up of leaf markings

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.

Tiarella 'Sugar and Spice' foamflower with Convallaria
Tiarella ‘Sugar and Spice’ foamflower with Convallaria

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' foam flower in front of birdbath
Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ foam flower in front of birdbath

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.

Tiarella 'Pink Skyrocket' foam flower with Pulmonaria flowers
Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ foam flower with Pulmonaria flowers

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.

Tiarella 'Pink Skyrocket' with buds at top
Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ with buds at top

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.

Tiarella 'Jeepers Creepers' foam flower with bloom
Tiarella ‘Jeepers Creepers’ foam flower with bloom

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.

Tiarella 'Jeepers Creepers' foam flower wet leaves
Tiarella ‘Jeepers Creepers’ foam flower wet leaves

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.

Tiarella 'Pink Skyrocket' pink flowers with pulmonaria blue flowers
Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ pink flowers with pulmonaria blue flowers

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.

You can read a more about these Tiarella and 5 other foamflowers  that I grow in this more detailed article. As well, there is more about Tiarella ‘Neon Lights‘.

I’ve added a gallery, so you can see more shots. Just click on any small photo to enlarge it to full size.

27 thoughts on “Tiarella for Beautiful Flowers and Leaves in the Shade”

    1. Rebecca, some of the Tiarella have been hybridized for improvement in both the flowers and the leaves, so they make nice garden specimens, but they still have a woodland feel, too. I still have trouble with the commenting on your blog.

  1. Hi Northern, How fun to see your tiarella (and pulmonaria)!! Love the pulmonaria blossoms with the one little tiarella blossom alongside. :-) Happy Blooms and Gardening to you!

    1. Shady Gardener, I know how you like Tiarella, too, and have some beautiful ones. That one Pink Skyrocket started flowering after the others, and only had the one little bloom so far, so it appreciated the Pulmonaria lending it some blue flowers. :)

      Amy, They need a moderate amount of moisture, and might need some supplemental watering if it’s very dry. We’ve had a wet spring, so I haven’t had to top them up much, and they are competing with tree roots. They handle tree shade very well, though. A perennial that can handle dry shade well are the Epimedium. I have E. ‘Lilafee’, which gets pretty purple flowers in spring, and has moderately attractive foliage.

      Sheermadness, these hybrids have been bred by Terra Nova to be extra showy. They bloomed for a couple of months last year, but they were new and I wasn’t sure of their natural bloom time, though I think they are longer blooming than some. I’ll know more this year when I see how long these ones last.

  2. I am currently looking for plants that will do well in a bed under a large mayday tree. It tends to be shady and dry. Would these do well in dry shade? They have such beautiful blooms and foliage!

  3. Hi! Love the pictures. I have one Tiarella but it’s not nearly as pretty as yours. I’ll have to see if I can find out which it is. How long do your Tiarella typically bloom? Do you know if some are some more long lasting or reblooming?

  4. Thanks so much for the bishop’s hat idea. It wasn’t something I had considered for that spot but it does seem like a good match for that spot. I also love the groupings that you do with ferns as well. The folliage shows so well, but I was wondering if you have found them to be prolific spreaders or any that you have found you would not recommend?

    1. Amy, I haven’t had a problem in zone 3 with any of the ferns I’ve used. Matteuccia strupthiopteris (ostrich fern) can spread more in warmer zones, but here it has only increased a bit, definitely not a problem. I like them for their height. The Athryium (lady ferns) will grow over time and make a nice sized, lush clump, but they are not a problem either. The smaller Japanese painted ferns won’t grow larger than 30 cm (a foot) or so, and I wish they would get larger. Royal ferns can get much larger in warmer zones, but here mine never grow more than 60 cm (2 feet) at the most. The sensitive ferns spreads a bit, but is no bother here.

  5. So many beautiful photoes! ‘Pink Skyrocket’ is a beauty. Tiarella is a good plant in the shade. I have most of mine in the sun, but they thrive there as well.

    1. Marit, Tiarella are versatile perennials. I appreciate their hardiness, and willingness to grow in so many sites. ‘Pink Skyrocket has the thickest and showiest flowers of the ones I grow.

  6. You just have a one of the best taste, what comes selecting plants. :)

    Here in Finland Tiarellas are doing great – easy and well flowering plants.

    1. Gartenzauber 2008, I’ve been planting many Heuchera, Tiarella and Heucherella over the last few years, since I’ve been smitten with their beauty in the shade.

  7. Just found your blog. Great photos of some of my favourite shade plants. I’m adding quite a few Heuchera, Tiarella and Heucherellas to my own small plot this year. Some of the foliage is quite spectacular. How well they’d do in a Zone 3 climate I don’t know – but it will be interesting to follow your progress with them.

    1. Trainer John, my Heuchera, Heucherella and Tiarella from previous years have done really well, and overwintered through typical zone 3 winters. A few Heuchera have heaved up from the ground after the winter, and I have dug them in deeper. Many of them in the back garden get a leaf mulch from the trees before winter which helps to insulate them. I’ve added many more Tiarella this year, since they are outstanding plants in the shade.

  8. Just last day I purchased 3 of the “Sugar and Spice” as I am always on the lookout for interesting plants that perform well in (too much) shade and it is my understanding that “Sugar and Spice” is one of the best foamflowers.

    I will plant them today and cross my fingers that they winter well as they are not inexpensive.

    1. 21Rouge, I grow a number of different Tiarella, and so far ‘Sugar and Spice’ and ‘Pink Skyrocket’ are my two favourite for their many long lasting blooms. ‘Pink Skyrocket’ flowers last even longer than ‘Sugar and Spice’. I have about 6 other types of Tiarella, and really appreciate their ability to flower in shade, while the decoratively marked leaves add interest when they are not in flower. They have done well in competing with tree roots, too. As other perennials start to fade back in fall, the Tiarella foliage will look good right up until covered in snow.

  9. Delighted to stumble into your blog. Our backyard looking out from the family room has beautiful trees & therefore very shaded. I have quite a bit of ferns growing in the woods but your site gave me the idea that I can even make it even look more beautiful with Tiarella. Before I start, could you suggest on any particular kind that would take “wetland” better. The area I want to plant them in is really not a wetland but water can linger a bit during successive rainy days. Appreciate any suggestion & again, happy to come by your site.

    1. Aleng, Tiarell are adaptable, and mine have been fairly tolerant, but I’ve heard that they don’t like poor drainage over the winter, if that is what you have. They do like organic soil that is moist. You could try a few as a test for the site, to see how they do. I think the Tiarella would look great with your ferns, and would add some lovely blooms to the foliage.

      A perennial that enjoys a moist shady site would be Astilbe.
      Filipendula (meadowsweet) would thrive in a damp area, too.

  10. Thanks for the information. Got Astilbe, houttuynia & bleeding heart planted in the same area. But the marking on the Tiarella leaves is something else. I was told that Filipendula needs sun to thrive?

  11. Hi, Came across your page while looking for information on deadheading after blooms have faded. I planted the Tiarella last Aug. and bought them for the beautiful leaves. What a surprise this Spring to find them blooming. A real bonus! I had them next to a perennial…Jack Frost…that I also bought for the lovely silver/green leaves. Which I didn’t know flowers a beautiful blue flower like forget me nots. My Spring garden looked like a Fairyland! My question?? Should I prune spent stems to bottom or to a lower leaf?

    1. Fenwick gardener, with Jack Frost you should prune the finished flowering stalks right to the base, since the small leaves on them will just deteriorate after blooming and won’t look nearly as good as the full leaves at the base of the plant.

      Tiarella and Brunnera Jack Frost are really bonus perennials, since you get the wonderful foliage all season and then the beautiful spring flowers. I also appreciate that the leaves look good for so long, when other perennials have started to fade in fall.

  12. Happy first day of Summer! Thank you, and I assume that I should cut off the spent flowers of the Tiarella right to the base also!

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