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Heuchera - Growing Guide
Such is the range and diversity in leaf colour of new Heuchera introductions each year that it is difficult to keep up. At Chelsea 2019 alone around 20 new varieties were on display. Breeders and tissue culture laboratories can produce these plants in great numbers very quickly so our catalogue and website is being updated and changed each year as impressive new coloured leaf varieties appear and old favourites disappear into obscurity. Looking at the RHS Plant Finder in detail suggests that over 737 different varieties of Heuchera are available today from UK nurseries.
Heuchera are evergreen or semi evergreen perennials which originate from the Rocky Mountains in North America. The original wild species are far removed from the more exotic leaf colours which multiple hybridisation and breeding has created today. However all Heuchera have woody rootstocks and form mounds or clumps of rounded or heart shaped leaves with broad veining. Those varieties with very dark, variegated or coloured leaves make excellent foliage plants. All Heuchera in reality!
The choice of which foliage colour suits you and your own garden is entirely yours. Heuchera make excellent groundcover or plants to edge or break up a herbaceous border. They mix well with summer bedding plants and look good on their own in containers. The flowers appear in early to mid-summer on upright stalks of loose racemes or panicles. The flowers themselves are tubular or petal-less in a range of colours from red to pink and cream to greenish white. While the flowers are attractive to bees and are good for cutting it is the standout leaf forms which make these plants so popular.
Most varieties are fully hardy and tolerant of frost but some varieties will lose more leaves in winter than others. The woody rootstocks of Heuchera tend to push upwards to and above the surface of the surrounding soil. As such they will benefit from an annual mulch in the autumn. The life span of the newer varieties is limited if they are left untouched. As the rootstocks emerge above the ground so, in time, it is sensible to lift, divide and replant them in late summer or early autumn with the crown just above the soil surface. It may be easier simply to replace with new young plants.
Heuchera thrive in sun or shade in fertile, moist, well drained soils. Those varieties with light pink, yellowish or variegated leaves may scorch in full sun. Vine weevils are the greatest enemies of Heuchera both in pots and in the garden but whole plants will rot off in waterlogged situations over winter.
Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ was the RHS plant of the decade 1983 to 1992. It has certainly stood the test of time and is still deservedly popular today.
H. ‘Chocolate Ruffles’ is similarly well known and has also stood the test of time. How many of the colourful varieties available today will still be popular in 10 years’ time is hard to say with such a flood of newcomers every year.