Before the heuchera revolution, this lowly plant came in any color you wanted as long as it was green. Even the flowers and the leaf shape were truly insignificant. On the positive side, it was a workhorse plant that performed well even in dry shade. Heucheras are native to the United States and they require less maintenance than other perennials in areas like not having to be constantly divided for success. The potential was there if only it could be more flashy and less boring.
The first sport (a naturally occurring mutation) of note was discovered in England in the late 1980’s. ‘Purple Palace’ , named after Kew Palace, sported rich, deep purple, ruffled leaves and went on to be the Perennial Plant of the Year in 1991.
At the same time, Dan Heims who was starting Terra Nova Nursery in Canby, OR, also stumbled upon a variegated seedling with red flowers which he named ‘Snow Storm’. Heims is now known for having the largest and most prolific breeding program in the world of heucheras.
But it was that chance seedling that was a catalyst that shattered the green only perception of heuchera. That catalyst has led the way for the explosion of new colors, leaf shapes and textures we’re witnessing today.
I’ve asked Ken Wood, the nursery manager at Family Tree in Shawnee, KS, to give me his top 10 heuchera hybrids. He informed me that the assignment would be easy because the list is already in his head. I took it from there.
Giant 9″ leaves on a 14″ tall and 2′ wide plant. Similar to H. ‘Caramel’ in height and sienna color. As evening draws closer and the air temperature becomes cooler, the leaves take on a coral-orange hue.
Dimensions are 12″ high and 12″ wide. Deep purple stems host white flowers. The ruffling is so pronounced you can see the bright purple undersides of the leaves.
Lime-yellow leaves with white blossoms help this sport of ‘Caramel’ stop traffic in your garden. This variety is more heat tolerant than other heucheras It is clump forming making it a great ground cover. If you’re using it as a ground cover, cut the blossoms off early so the plant puts all its energy into clumping leaves. 12″ high and wide plant.
Creamy colored bell shaped flowers stand out against the near-black leaves. Great for edging or containers. Blackout sports creamy flowers on an 18″ tall and 12″ wide plant.
Its large 5″ rose-pink leaves darken to pink-purple with soft pink flowers. Performs well in our summer heat and maintains its color throughout the season. 18″ tall and wide plant.
Beautiful red veins on a golden leaf are stunning and cooler temperatures bring on more of a chartreuse background. Very different from anything I’ve seen to date. 6-12″ tall and 9-12″ wide
Giant 8″ leaves are peach colored with silver veining at first and intensifies to a rose purple. Tolerates heat and humidity well. I even found a source declaring this variety works in full sun. But this kind of advice might work in Oregon but not out here on the prairie. 14″ high and 24-30″ wide plant.
Big 5″ burgundy leaves with a silver overlay and deep-purple veins. This is a salt tolerant perfect for edging sidewalks.12″ high and wide plant.
Large silver leaves with green veins. Design possibilities with Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ could be interesting. 8″ high and 12″ wide plant.
Deep rose-purple leaves with a silver sheen, dark veins and a vibrant purple undersides. 12″ high and wide.