Great Plants for Northern Gardens: Day 30, Heuchera

purple petticoats heuchera

‘Purple Petticoats’ heuchera offers a two-toned leaf colors.

Whew! We’ve made it through the month of November identifying 30 (actually a few more than that) great plants for northern gardens. We’ll finish up with a wonderful perennial to grow for its foliage — coral bells or Heuchera.

Like coneflower, heuchera has been the subject of a lot of breeding work, resulting in dozens of new varieties with unusually shaped and colored leaves. (Check out the website of TerraNova Nurseries for many new heuchera.) Heuchera is native to all parts of North America, but there are several different species of heuchera and while some do well as far north as USDA Zone 3, others do not.

Heucheras like fertile, well-drained soils with partial sun or shade — morning sun and afternoon shade is perfect. Those are the ideal conditions, but they are fairly adaptable. However, they do not like wet or heavy soils. Another one of heuchera’s good characteristics for northern gardeners is that deer do not like them.

Heucheras are flexible design elements in the garden. They can be edger plants along a sidewalk or a standout plant in a rock garden. They look nice under trees or among other shorter perennials. They can be used to great effect in containers, providing the “filler” of the thriller, filler and spiller combos that many container gardeners seek.

For northern climates, Ed Lyons of the University of Wisconsin recommends cultivars of Heuchera x villosas, which comes in colors such as ‘Caramel’, ‘Citronelle’ and ‘Brownie’. For colors that change throughout the season, try Heuchera ‘Marmalade’, which has leaves which change from green to reddish pink to full-on orange. ‘Paprika’ is the name of a new heuchera with foliage that goes from pale amber to an orange tone to a deep reddish color that looks a lot like paprika.


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