Heucheras (also called Coral Bells or Alumroot) are perennials native to North America. Heuchera send up stalks with tiny bell-shaped flowers ("coral bells") in the spring. However, they are mostly grown for their colorful foliage. Their low-mounding habit makes them a good plant for borders, paths, rock gardens or woodland areas.
Traditionally, heuchera leaves were limited to colors of either green or burgundy. Breakthroughs in breeding have led to the introductions of heuchera in a wide variety of colors, including pinks, purples, reds, and yellows, with many that undergo color changes throughout the season. When mutations (parts of plants different from the rest of the plant) and sports (new plants) started to show up in gardens and nurseries, plant breeders realized that heuchera had potential for a wide variety of colors. These new colors renewed interest in heucheras. The new breeds of heuchera tend to be from the Heuchera villosa family. H. villosa is a heuchera found in the southeastern U.S. and can withstand humidity and heat better than other heucheras.
Heuchera plants are now available in so many sizes, colors and textures that there is a spot for one in almost any garden. Heucheras are easy-to-grow perennials that require very little care. They require an occasional fertilizing and every several years, like most perennials, they may need to be divided or reset in the ground.
Coral bells used to be confined to the back part of the shade garden to add a touch of color. The new hybrids come in such a beautiful range of colors that you may want to move them to the front of the border. Many still prefer a shadier location in the garden for year-round color, but some of the new hybrids can tolerate full sun. The leaves' color is affected by the amount of sunlight. A simple rule is that a lighter colored heuchera prefers more shade (to prevent leaf burning) while the darker heuchera can tolerate more sun. This is not always true, so be sure to check the planting instructions for light requirements. Heucheras like rich, well-drained soil, and heavy soil will need to be amended before planting.
The number of possible color combinations with the new heuchera hybrids is amazing. The variety of colors in leaves and veins is wonderful for experimenting with different color combinations. Putting the chartreuse ‘Obsidian’ or 'Hollywood' would highlight both plants. Similarly, the deep veins of yellow 'Electra' will pop when planted next to the dark leaves of 'Hollywood'. As 'Electra' fades to chartreuse later in the season, the combination will continue to amaze. For a gardener with a larger shady area to fill, a collection of pastel heuchera would be a wonderful way to fill a shady spot with color all season long. Many of the heucheras change color as the seasons change, resulting in dynamic landscape all season long.
If you are already a hosta gardener and are interested expand into other shade plants, heuchera make wonderful companion plants. Like hosta, heuchera are low maintenance, have a mounding form and are not invasive. Plus, like hosta, after several years, they can be divided into more plants.
There are many wonderful ways to combine heuchera and hosta in your garden.
There are numerous way to combine hosta and heuchera in your landscape, and these suggestions are just the beginning!
See our heucheras for sale for more ways to bring coral bells' year-round color to your landscape!