I’m thinking I’m going to use Coralbells or Heuchera in a major programme of rescuing a very badly overgrown shade garden this coming spring, I’m going to be faced with what plants I want to put there. I confess I’m not looking to plant old favourites but rather I’m searching out some of the newer and sexier plants.
The number of plants that I’m already lusting over is already way over the top of acceptable gardening passions so let me simply tell you some of the Heuchera or Coralbells that I’m going to find.
Heuchera ‘Dolce Cinnamon Curls’ from Proven Winners
How To Grow Coralbells
First, let me say that this plant is a fine plant for a good soil in part shade.
And the spot in mind (a rather large one I note) has perfect exposure for this plant. I have written before about this plant so let me briefly remind you that this plant thrives in part shade but will tolerate both sun or full shade if kept well-watered.
If you let it dry out in a drought, you’re going to find yourself with a very unhappy plant.
It loves a rich soil, high in organic matter and general pampering so don’t scrimp on the compost, composted manure or peat moss.
I also heavily water the plant all fall to ensure it has a chance to set roots and establish itself before the ground freezes.
Because of its evergreen tendency, it can loose excessive moisture in the fall before it goes fully dormant. Providing enough water is the key to winter survival. I have the hose lying in this garden to remind me and I’d recommend you do something the same. Compost is almost a necessity with Heucheras so if you intend to keep it thriving – water. Not only does it want uniform moisture, it wants a rich soil to go with it.
Heuchera flowers & Landscape Interest
Heuchera really don’t have a flower to write home about so you grow them for their foliage.
This means that you need a variety of foliage colours to create colour contrast and interest in the garden area. Just having one plant isn’t going to cut it.
With that thought in mind, let me introduce you to a few of the new varieties I’m hoping to test out this spring in combination with a few of my old favourites.
Heuchera ‘Key Lime Pie’ from Proven Winners
Planting Combinations and Varieties
The first is ‘Rave On’ because it is reputed to have the best flowers of any Coralbells. If the pictures of masses of bright red flowers are right and not some photographic trick, it might just earn a place in my garden based on its flowers.
Not that my garden is moving south but I hope to have’Southern Comfort’ join the garden. This is an amber foliaged plant that will contrast nicely the darker green varieties. I think if I tuck it next to ‘Obsidian’ a very dark, almost black leaf, that the contrast will bring out the orange-yellow tones in’Southern Comfort’
I’ve grown’Obsidian’ and it is a vigorous growing plant and one of my favourites.
I’m clearly going to need a variegated variety (just because I like variegated plants) and so either’Pewter Veil’ or’Green Spice’, or both, will enter the garden. Again, I’ve had these plants in previous gardens and they’re excellent to grow and easily obtained. They too will require some darker backgrounds to bring out their ligher colour highlights.
So’Midnight Rose’ is on my want-list. I’ve not grown this plant but the maroon-red leaf has caught my interest.
And if want only one yellow plant, the standard has been Heuchera ‘Lime Rickey’. The chartreuse-yellow of this variety will bring out the red tones nicely. The only caution is that’Lime Rickey’ hasn’t been of the strongest growers in my trials. You have to give this plant excellent conditions if you want it to thrive. Abuse it and it will fade away.
‘Tiramisu’ is another relatively new introduction with chartreuse-yellow leaves in both spring and fall if you’re looking for yellow tones. This plant comes with a red mid-rib to add to its attractiveness but I suspect it’s going to be a little hard to come by in our region. I’m working on it.
Heuchera Midnight Rose
If you’re looking for chocolate brown leaves, then I can recommend ‘Cherries Jubilee’ as an older variety but one that has some of the more attractive flowers in the family. In my opinion, they’re still nothing to write home about when compared to other perennials but it is one of the best flowering Heuchera.
‘Sparkling Burgundy’ has black-cherry toned foliage according to the news releases and this has caught my attention. Apparently it makes a short , compact mound so would be perfect at the front of the garden. I’ll have to let you know when I find it.
I’m also told I should trial ‘Vesuvius’ if I want a purplish-brown leaf with bright red flowers erupting from it’s middle. Never having been one to turn down a suggestion, this plant is on my list.
The last chocolate plant that has reached my want-list is’Mahogany’ and only because it is honestly listed as not being very good for flowering but with excellent foliage that changes colour tone depending on the season. It rolls through purple spring tones to summer red, all on the same plant. You have to like a plant that gives you season-long interest all by itself.
Heuchera Pewter Veil
I suspect it will look very good beside the lighter ambers and yellows in the garden.
Mix and Match
Now just because the focus has been on Heuchera, understand that you can mix and match coralbells with other part shade plants. I think the thing you have to consider is that the leaves of Coralbells are going to be the background colour for your garden and to pick other plants that will deliver the flowers.
For example, if you plant ‘Mahogany’ next to Pulmonaria ‘Majeste’ or ‘Diana Clare’ you’d have a dark red tone right next to a sparkling silver leaf and the contrast would be magnificent. The Pulmonaria would deliver spring blooms in blue-pink and the rest of the season would be foliage masterpiece. Both thrive in fertile soils in the part shade.
I also note that if you’re going to be designing containers using perennials that Coralbells are the plant of choice to provide season-long foliage interest and backgrounds for your containers. I’ve grown them this way and they shine in container growing. This spring is about to be a treasure hunt to fill in the new garden area.