Heucheras: ground cover stars

Heuchera with silvery, veined foliageAm I strange to think of heucheras as some of the most useful garden perennials for areas of light shade? Their flowers may be demure, but their often evergreen, variegated leaves provide wonderful ground cover. You may know them by their folk name: coral bells.

This picture was taken earlier in the year at a visit to the Southport Flower Show, but heucheras are still looking just as fresh outside in the garden amongst the fallen autumn leaves while the hostas, Solomon’s seal and many of the other perennials around them fade away into mush.

We’re often advised to plant perennials in small clusters or drifts of the same variety, but I like to grow a few different varieties of heucheras in the same area (perhaps with their relatives, tiarellas) so I can enjoy comparing their different, but complementary leaf shapes and variegations.

You may be offered coral bells with plainish dark green leaves, but breeders have developed many more striking varieties, which I think are more fun to grow, though you may need to turn to a specialist plant nursery to find plants with the most tempting or unusual leaf shapes and variegations. You’ll also find heucherellas – attractive crosses between heucheras and tiarellas as the name suggests.

If you have an area of light shade in the garden, it’s well worth giving some of these trouble-free plants a home. If you already grow them, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!