GGW Plant Pick Of The Month: Heuchera Wrap Up

– Posted in: Garden Plants

For the premiere of  GGW Plant of The Pick of The Month, heuchera, we got a slew of conflicting and emotional responses. There were a few of us who couldn’t say enough great things about heuchera.

As Nancy said: “A beautiful and versatile plant. I look forward to your pick on the 10th of each month.” Sylvia told us that they do very well in the Southwest of England. Sam wrote: “I am big fan of Palace Purple.” Frances turned us on to a cultivar that she swears by: Heuchera “Stormy Seas’. She originally gardened with it in Texas and moved it with her to Tennessee. Mark told us that he has used heuchera for the past two years successfully: so much so that he decided to line his front walkway with them in a variety of colors. Although Thomak had some major complaints, he admitted that 3 Obsidians have survived his Chicago winters. And Becky talked about the effectivness of using heuchera in the shade.

 It seems that although heuchera is publicized to be a tough little plant, in practice, that just isn’t the case. For the majority of you, heuchera proved to be a finicky plant. Sure, it’s easy to fall in love with one of its many cultivars. Who wouldn’t? It’s a perfect front of the border plant. It comes in a wide swathe of colors. It’s initially just too hard to resist.

But as Nan said on her great post, ‘Heuchera Blues'(listed below), she has tried heuchera more times than she cares to remember and that it still continues to shrink for her.  Dee said that she has a few cultivars that are doing well but that most of the other are dwindling acts. Our friend Ben asks: “Where are they?” Yet, she still can’t give up on them, using one of the chartreuse cultivars as a centerpiece on her deck. Benjamin goes so far as to say: “I hate these things now and they are so darn pricey”.

 Hap gave us some worthwhile advice: become familiar with the parents of the heuchera cultivar in question prior to buying. He also mentioned that several of the commercial cultivars are grown with a slew of growth regulators. It seems that the best policy in dealing with heuchera is to find out which cultivars do well in what climates and conditions. Even if the tag says that it is hardy in a certain zone and does well in partial shade to sun, it appears that this information often doesn’t appear to be valid.

A good rule of thumb is that if you see a cultivar in your climate, or even better, in your neighborhood, it’s a good hunch that it will thrive in your yard under the right conditions. But if you haven’t yet seen a particular cultivar put to use in the landscape, check with a knowledgable retailer to hear from her where in the region it has been effectively used for the past few years, how long it has been selling at her store, and if so, what is the customer feedback on it?

The following folks offered up links to photos, article and information on heuchera.

Becky at:

Frances at:



Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

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Nancy Bond September 8, 2008, 9:50 pm

I’ve never grown them myself, but they’re very beautiful. The foliage can be just as lovely as the flowers.

Frances September 9, 2008, 8:04 am

I think it’s all about finding the right cultivar for your location. There are different parents in these new fancy ones, some more drought tolerant and even sun tolerant than others. It does seem the newest, latest, big thing, ones aren’t very tough. We have some that have seeded about that are mostly silver veined that turn more purple in winter, not a bad combo and they will grow easily without extra water.

VP September 9, 2008, 6:28 pm

And not forgetting this one:

It looks like Heuchera are more successful in the UK, even though a lot of the cultivars we use come from Oregon originally.

Just don’t use those horrible gingery ones…

Sorry about that. Will add it now….and you have offered us some great photos of some of the cultivars. Thanks! Fran

Lisa at Greenbow September 9, 2008, 8:07 pm

Yes, I have had mixed results in my zone 6 garden. Purple Palace has been the work horse. Many other varieties have come and gone. Some taking as long as two years to bow out but gone none the less. I have learned to buy ‘one’ of any variety I want to try just to see if it might take.

That’s actually a great idea to purchase only one plant to see how it fares in your garden before going all out on a specimen. Yes, Purple Palace is by far the hardiest for me and has actually self-seeded itself in all of the nooks and crannies of my steps and around the stone walls. I love it! Fran

Beth in Madison September 10, 2008, 11:56 am

Here in Madison WI, I too have had troubles with disappearing heucheras and thought is just my less-than-constantly-attentive gardening style. I have had more luck with tiarellas and heucherellas. They seem to remain more vigorous and retain their patterning. I grow all of them (heuchera, heucherella and tiarella) in a bed with hostas, ostrich ferns, epimedium and pulmonaria under three large spruces – high shade and quite dry. Anybody else had better luck with tiarella and heucherella?

Your shade garden sounds divine. It’s great that you’re able to grow all of those specimens with dry conditions. I am not the one to speak to when it comes to tiarellas. As much as I love them, from one season to the next, they continue to disappear in one area of my garden. And in another area, they are just about maintaining some sort of existence….fran

Benjamin September 10, 2008, 4:16 pm

Well, two things here, and I’ll try not to get snarky since I ain’t no uber experienced garden, but I was raised by one. 1) I know it’s a pipe dream, but nurseries should sell only proven and tested plants for their area and 2) Though a gardener should get and be informed about a particular cultivar’s parentage and growing success in their region / zone AND how it REALLY performs sans plant tag, this gardener is dismayed at the false advertising and pure lies that appear on plant tags. A blanket statement, to be sure, but at $10-20 for a potted speciman, he expects more as a consumer. Oh, how can plants be part of commerce? Such a cold term. Could it be he demands more, a sacred trust between nursery and gardener unlike any other “business?” Yes.

I do love your attitude and words….they are jewels. It reminds me of what appears to be climaxing this week with the nominees. Truth in advertising is a lost virtue. One would think that the plants we bring home and dream about nurturing would be given to us with the kind of respect and caring they deserve. But it’s not always so. Just to follow your hunch, in case you haven’t yet, compare tags on the same plant, at different nurseries or by different growers. Thanks for your comments. They are appreciated. Fran

Ken from Sweden September 10, 2008, 4:24 pm

Hi Fran!
Heuchera loves the Swedish climate, rain little sun….and more rain ;7
We have a lot of them in diferent colors and shapes.
We just love them for the foliage and the way they make a different in the garden.
Carina take some up from seeds with great success.

Am not surprised that they do well in your climate. Although ‘Palace Purple’ has performed exquisitely for me throughout droughts and in all different areas in my garden, several of the gardeners who posted on heuchera, have had problems with growing them successfully. Fran

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