You might have missed this groundcover

By Steve Piskor ©2012
Penn State Master Gardener

After the trees, shrubs, perennials, etc. are installed in a landscape, groundcovers generally represent the final layer of plant material to be added.  The gardener looking for something different in a ground cover should consider the genus of plants called Heucherella.  This perennial, a member of the saxifrage family, is a genetic cross between Heuchera (coral bells) and Tiarella (foamflower) and goes by the common name of foamy bells.

Heucherellas combine the beautiful foliage color of heucheras with the lovely flower stalks of the tiarellas.  Foamy bells bloom in late spring/early summer and generally have a compact, clump-forming habit.  Depending on the cultivar, the foliage grows 6 to12 inches high, 12 to 24 inches wide with flower stalks that rise 6 to12 inches above the foliage; the flower coloration is white, cream or pink.  Heucherellas prefer light shade and an organically rich, moist, well-drained soil.

ground cover
Pachysandra is a commonly planted groundcover

This perennial looks spectacular when planted in splashes or drifts and makes a great companion plant with ajugas, carexes, hostas, ferns, hellebores, bleeding hearts, astilbes, lungworts and other shade perennials.


Heucherellas Selections

Heucherella ‘Berry Fizz’ – This selection forms a wide clump of maple-shaped leaves that are deep purple with a glossy bronze sheen and splattered with pink fizz. Sprays of light-pink bell flowers appear in late spring and occasionally throughout the summer.

H. ‘Birthday Cake’ – A dark chocolate mound of dissected foliage is topped with cream colored, 12-inch flowers stalks.  It makes a stunning combination when planted with gold leaved hostas or Japanese forest grass.

H. ‘Crimson Clouds’ – Spikes of light-pink flowers rise from a compact mound of light green foliage with silver veining in this cultivar.  A spectacular show when planted en masse.

H. ‘Day Glow Pink’ – In late spring sprays of brilliant fluorescent-pink flowers rise above the maple-like leaves. The foliage coloration is a beautiful mint-green with dark chocolate veins. 

H. ‘Golden Zebra’ – A real standout in the garden, this cultivar has striking, deeply cut yellow leaves that are marked with a beautiful dark red coloration. The feathery, boldly colored leaves add texture and drama to a woodland area.

H. ‘Kimono’ – The foliage of this cultivar is a mix of silvers, purples, and greens. The narrow, deeply dissected foliage is topped with blooms of creamy-white flowers.


H. ‘Redstone Falls’ – This cultivar  represents an exciting new form for a heucherella.  Its trailing habit makes this vigorous plant an attractive ground cover for creeping over rocks or spilling over the edge of a wall. The coppery-red colored foliage with deep burgundy veins is present during the spring and summer, then transforms in the fall to a mix of reds, oranges and browns.

H. ‘Solar Eclipse’ – The foliage of this cultivar is reddish-brown with rounded lobes that are gently scalloped along the edges. A shocking, lime-green border precisely rings each leaf for a distinctive look.  This is a vigorous grower that forms a dense mound.

H. ‘Stoplight’ – This heucherella has bright yellow leaves that are beautifully accented with red markings in the center and radiating out along the veins. In late spring the foliage is topped with numerous 16-inch white flower spikes.

H. ‘Sunrise Falls’ – This cultivar is another trailing heucherella.  The large leaves are maple-shaped, with a yellow coloration and red veins. When fall arrives, the leaves acquire dramatic red tints in their coloration. 

H. ‘Sunspot’ – The foliage of this cultivar is electric-yellow with wine-red patches in the center.  In late spring numerous flamingo-pink flowers form above the foliage.  As the season progresses, the foliage coloration softens to a pleasant buff.

H. ‘Sweet Tea’ – This cultivar is one of the most brilliantly colored of all the foamy bells. The scalloped 4-inch leaves have cinnamon-russet centers with orange-rose edges. The foliage beautifully complements surrounding garden colors, and presents a very unique, breathtaking show throughout the growing season.

H. ‘Tapestry’ – The foliage of this heucherella has plum-red centers with wide green margins that have a blue tint in spring and summer, changing to a brighter green when fall arrives.  In late spring, flowering stems of warm pink flowers form above the multi-colored and veiled foliage.



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