Heucheras in the South

browneyedsusan_gw(8a)September 26, 2013

Does anyone have advice for growing Heucheras in the South? I live in central Alabama and have tried to grow them for many years. Most kinds, including villosa hybrids, remain small, even when grown in the shade. However, they seem to thrive in-in full sun-in my sister's Indiana garden.


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I don't have any relevant info for you, as I live in the PNW. However, I found this GW discussion thread from 2010 that may be of some help to you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Heuchera for the South

    Bookmark   September 27, 2013 at 3:11PM
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Flower-frenzy, That was helpful. II am going to pot my Heucheras before they disappear again. I have Mocha, Caramel and Sashay and an unnamed Tiarella.

'd like to hear from people in the South who have been successful with Heuchera, Heucherellas or Tiarellas-I'd like the names of varieties that do well in the heat.


    Bookmark   September 27, 2013 at 4:01PM
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Looks like noone grows them in the south (from the posting level). Either it's too quiet here (chirping crickets) or we should be warned.
I've been watching this thread too...as the vilosa hybrids are really pretty...as are some of the tiarellas and hybrids.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2013 at 3:01PM
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I know there are some southern gardeners here, because I've seen their posts. This forum has been awfully quiet lately, though. Maybe they've all disappeared?

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 3:04AM
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vasue(7A Charlottesville)

Not as far South as you, Susan, but must put in a good word for Southern Comfort. New gallon size early last Spring caught my eye for the peachy apricot light coral tones of its foliage. Picked up two that spent the months between on the sunny hot concrete walk in front of the bed they were slated for when its redo was complete. That walk's in a SE exposure so they had full sun from an hour past dawn till 5 in the afternoon when the house blocked the early evening rays. Hose watered them daily in their pale plastic pots & they looked good right through the heat & humidity, pumping out new leaves through fairly brutal conditions without crisping - quite impressive. Since Halloween, they've been sitting atop the soil just off the walk still in their pots. With the frost, they've darkened to a medium cinnamon shade that's very attractive. Plan to leave them potted, perhaps through Winter, add pea gravel to their planting spots & then plant them high in a bit of a mound in that loamy soil. Can't say how they'll do there, but they've proven they can take intense sun & heavy humidity, so I'm highly hopeful.

When heucheras first came to the local nurseries in the late 90's, tried a few of the purple-green ruffly leaved ones (Palace Purple?) available then. Found they struggled with the Winter wet & freeze-thaw heaving. Took pity the following Spring, potted them up & found they breezed through the heat and the winters that way. They grow so low to the ground anyway that their leaves hide their pots. One was planted in ground on a slight slope for drainage & has done well for some years in full sun with trees providing shade past 4 pm in Summer. Another is still in its bowl-shaped pot nestled on the soil & has done as well as the one planted out, though it receives a few less hours of Summer sun. Fellow local gardeners came to the same conclusions.

Also fell for gallons of heucherella Sweet Tea at an early Summer nursery sale. Knowing that by the time the major overhaul of the same garden bed was done little selection would still be available locally, collected a number of plants to audition for growing there. Sweet Tea didn't appreciate the hot concrete walk as much as Southern Comfort did. Didn't wilt or crisp but didn't throw new leaves. When the temps hit mid-90's with 90% humidity, ST was moved down the walk where high shade occurred after 1 pm & was much happier. So consider ST morning sun/afternoon dappled shade appropriate here & likely further South into your zone.

Stopped by Lowe's in mid-October for pansies & found more gallons of Sweet Tea on the clearance rack at $5 a pop. They were still lush & hadn't yet perished from lack of care, so 5 came home with me. Two are wintering in the porch boxes & have already spread out & settled in. The rest are still in pots sitting in the garden, adding nice touches of color. Hopefully, they'll make a nice broad edge along a sloped curve below a tree.

Stopped by a favorite garden shop last month for a perennial gift plant for a friend. Not much left that fit the bill, but 2 Caramels that still looked fresh & fluffy came away with me. (One for you, one for me - lol - any excuse to trial a plant that still looks good this time of year.) So after years of noticing the many new introductions without being drawn to them, I've added 2 Southern Comfort, 7 Sweet Tea & the single Caramel.

My favorites are the Southern Comforts for the colors of their leaves & their willingness to take intense sun & humidity. An Easy Does It floribunda rose sits front & center of that walkway bed & I loved how the shades of SC harmonized, so they'll be planted either side to shade her feet. Don't know where Caramel will land yet - plenty of time this Winter to ponder that one.

Believe the key to success with all these includes starting with no smaller than gallon plants, sun/heat/humidity considerations & equally important - good drainage in the Winter wet. Potting them can solve the later challenge.

Here's a couple picks of Southern Comfort that echo the looks that snagged my heart & please me greatly.


Here is a link that might be useful: Southern Comfort

    Bookmark   December 3, 2013 at 1:40PM
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Those Southern Comforts look amazing...my other choice was Sweet Tea (lol...seems we like the same).
I will probably try to get me a good POT (learning from you) this spring and keep it potted (strange as that sounds). Do you recommend overpotting early in the year to give it time to fill/spread before winter (and drainage issues), or do you keep in appropriately sized pots ? Ie how fast will they grow and fill out ?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 7:20AM
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vasue(7A Charlottesville)

How fast will they grow? Starting with a good healthy plant in decent potting medium (not that greenhouse mix that's so light it's useless for home growing), pretty fast for the Sweet Teas. The porch boxes are a foot high by a foot deep & 3 feet long. Planted a gallon smack in the center of each by its lonesome the last week of October. Six weeks later they've expanded from 1'x1' to 2'x2' & trail nicely over the front & back, leaviing only 6" of soil exposed either side of that 3' box. I'm definitely impressed! They've filled in as well as lengthened, with lots of new redder leaves from the center & look very full & happy. Glad now I didn't find the pansies this Fall to fill the boxes as I ususally do (viola Imperial Antique Shades), or they would have been swamped. Although bummed over not snagging those pansies, as they are so beautiful blooming through the snow till early Summer, it's worked out well with just the Sweet Teas centering each. Nice leaf color for Autumn & holiday season, too. Not bad for the what to do with an empty porch box question & here you go what about this answer. Unexpected serendipity!

Keep in mind that we had an extended Indian Summer blinking on & off, not continual but some mild stretches in between the cool. The Sweet Teas don't receive much rain due to the porch roof overhang, so kept them watered as needed on the moist but not soaked principle, with warm water when the soil was still frosty but open. The light tan stucco house wall & two sets of French doors windowpaned on their top halves bounce the seasonal Eastern light so the back of the Sweet Teas not facing the garden still filled out as well as the front. The soil in those boxes is neither heavy nor light & is enriched with homemade compost dug in every year when it's replanted, so mimics the fertile, moist, well-drained woodland soil conditions recommended for this clan.

With regard to the old Palace Purple-type that's been in its bowl-shaped planter - that bowl is a foot round by 8" deep & tapers to maybe 8 or 9 inches at the base. Originally a mixed "color bowl" bought in Autumn with a low variegated sage & an unremembered third component plant, removed & planted all but the heuchera the following Spring. Given the room to grow alone in the bowl, filled it by Fall & has continued on through the years apparently satisfied if not actually content. The one planted in the garden in those years expanded to the size of the one in the bowl & has stayed that way, too, though it might have grown larger if not for its neighbors in that mixed perennial planting.

Since the Southern Comforts are still in their original gallon pots, yet unknown how quickly they're likely to grow. If I were to leave them potted, they'd go into 2 gallons or better yet the bowl pots of the same volume. Their history of putting out new growth suggests they are vigorous & should have upgraded them to larger pots by now. Plan to do so during one of the mild spells we usually get here in Winter. Often disregard recommendatons of repotting into the next size up container. Depends on the vigor of the plant & find those eager to grow usually do fine going immediately to double or triple size containers. If I were acquiring a pretty pot for these, would find one for the mature anticipated size to use as a slip-pot rather than buying next larger sizes repeatedly, propping the plant in its growing pot atop something to raise its height in the meantime. Potting along any perennial, tend to use the same type of mix as the porch boxes, adding in soil straight from the garden for those that will be planted out later. Combine that mixture from separate ingredients, starting with organic topsoil or even potting mix with very little peat & adding vermiculite, perlite, compost & sometimes sharp sand or gypsum till the consistency is right for the plant. Usually fairly rich but free-draining, able to hold moisture without sogging or drying quickly, grainy enough to foil compression & retain air channels. Like to cover the soil with sheet moss, leaving base of the plant free, to minimize splashing the soil under the leaves or out of the pot or compacting the soil in rain or watering. Also provides some insulation from heat & cold while letting the soil breathe. Just hairpin it in place along the edges of the pot.

Pots themselves better light than dark, as the dark absorbs too much heat & can cook the roots unless the material of the pot is very thick or insulated. Often slipped the planter pot into a thicker pot such as clay to moderate the temp & provide stability. Have used bubble wrap around the sides but not bottoms of pots before slipping them into larger pots for insulation, too. Used to place clay shards to cover the drainage holes, but ants can find their way past those into the pot itself. Now cut landscape fabric to fit the bottom to prevent that & it works well.

Based on Sweet Tea's current performance, I'm betting the mature size will be at least 3' wide & the foliage at minimum 2' tall in suitable soil & conditons. From watching the Southern Comforts & googling around, guessing they'll reach at least 2' across. Tend to disregard commercial growers' size estimates, depend on other gardeners for more accurate info when planning & to plant spaced with mature form in mind rather than crowd, but that's me.

Stuck inside while an ice & snow storm plies this dreary day, keeping an eye on the garden through the windows, must say the heuchs look very pretty with their shiny coating, a very holiday look. "Let It Snow" playing on the radio & daydreaming of gardens in leaf & bloom, these plants give good cheer. Much appreciate evergreens that aren't just green & add harmonies during the warm months, too. Fingers crossed, these are sure looking like winners so far!

This post was edited by vasue on Fri, Oct 17, 14 at 17:47

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 4:06PM
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Thanks for all the input. I will try "Southern Comfort" and "Sweet Tea" next year.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 11:11PM
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I plan on a big pot of Sweet Tea (err should that be a big jug?) as soon as they become available. I would usually mail order, but think it's likely I'll see some locally. I haven't paid much attention to the heucheras but I have noticed they are around.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 7:13AM
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ilovetogrow z9 Jax Florida

I am in the South and the advice is think "annual". They will do ok until august but have gotten smaller for me or disappeared. Rain everyday is not their friend nor the humidity. Both Southern Comfort and Sweet tea have done so so for me. They are not readily sold here and I will not be ordering any more. I will put my money into more hostas, yea, or a less expensive annual. Paula

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 9:48AM
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Ok, I have Sweet Tea, now to figure out if I want to retain in pot or plop in the ground. I'm convinced the pot would be being more kind to the plant, however, ground is less likely to dessicate if forgotten for a couple of days....

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 1:07PM
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vasue(7A Charlottesville)

Hedge your bet & go with a pot for now. Those Sweet Teas in the porch boxes doubled their root mass over the Winter, so thinking a pot twice the size it came in would do well. You could always use one of those bowls - wider than tall - and sit it on the ground in the garden. The leaves will hide the bowl & perhaps give you the best of both options.

Really liking the Sweet Teas for the way they looked good through the unusually cold prolonged Winter & delayed cool Spring here. Made it through heavy snow & ice storms, laying down & straightening up again numerous times. The last time they decided not to bother to stand again, but the leaves still looked colorful. As Spring is slowly getting underway (dogwoods & azaleas just coming into bloom a month behind norm), they've bulked up daily & sent up bloomstalks. Notice them every day on the porch, and they never looked ratty nor needed a trim. They've put out fresh growth while their old foliage looks like a petticoat spread low around the edges. Seemed as if a child under a blanket of leaves slowly sat up & gave the blanket form. Gradual & graceful - very well behaved without awkward moments. The cold foliage gave a cinnamon appearance & the new growth shows more distinct shadings of amber & sienna with glints of dull ruby & olive green. Thinking I'll just add small trailing annuals at the ends & call it a permanent planting. Like them that much!

Never did get those typical warm spells over Winter, so the heuchs in their original gallon pots set out in the garden were neither repotted nor planted. They lost their leaves late into this difficult Winter, taking the full brunt of the weather unlike their kin on the more protected porch, but all are leafing out quickly now in this cool Spring. The Southern Comforts releafed first, the Sweet Teas second & Caramel last over the course of two weeks & chilly nights. Really giving them credit for their endurance & rebound, considering some well-established broadleaf evergreens & various shrubs took a deep hit.

This post was edited by vasue on Tue, Apr 29, 14 at 11:29

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:17AM
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You have me thinking I need to go back and buy Sweet Tea. I stood there at the nursery with Southern Comfort and Sweet Tea and put the Sweet Tea back. Hmmmm.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 7:27PM
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vasue(7A Charlottesville)

Between the two, Southern Comfort would have been my first choice, too. If you're thinking of adding another, Sweet Tea has a look & form distinct from the first. Comfort presents rounded leaf edges, those peachy colors & a nosegay effect, as if the leaves are held by an invisible hand or ribbon beneath the foliage. Sweet Tea has a less refined, more exuberant woodlander personality to me, with longer notched leaves & a multi-layered depth of form. Liking how its subtle earthtones bring the solid green foliage of taller neighboring plants into focus, giving the whole greater definition. Very pleased with both!

Here is a link that might be useful: Sweet Tea

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 11:57AM
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Thank you vasue. There are so mant to choose from. I'm going to go back today and if it's there, it was meant to be. The real test will be to not come home with several. It's becoming an addiction.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 1:56PM
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vasue(7A Charlottesville)

Ah, yes - the kid in the candystore effect - so many choices that all look delicious. Helps to have a good idea of how you want your garden to look & feel - visual, textural, scent & mood - before you venture out in search of new possibilities. Will this one add its unique charm to enhance the whole? Then there's just plain lovestruck - my heart beat faster when I first spied Southern Comfort. I'm so smitten with a gardenia & a hibiscus that I overwinter them in the house & let them Summer in the garden, knowing they couldn't survive outdoors year-round. What we do for love...

Addiction is a strong concept. Personally consider gardens as a passion of mine. Long ago realized I'm in love with gardens & gardening, which began with the first lilac bloom in early childhood. A fairly benign affliction, all things considered. An appreciation & response to the wonders of Nature, combined with the creative urge to satisfy the soul with beauty, underlies the heart & purpose of gardens for me. My life is deeply enriched by this enduring love song.

You'll find your balance choosing companions for your garden. As long as your spare cash, your garden space & your stamina accomodate your enthusiasm, it's okay to go a bit nutty upon discovering a family of plants new to you. Be thankful you're not crazy for trees with a tiny garden or tropicals in a cold clime. Enjoy exploring the possibilities & creating your unique garden.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 4:17PM
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Well, I can personally attest now that my Sweet Tea is about 1/2 the size it was when purchased in May.
This was my first heuchera, and really a heucherella, glad I didn't go big on them :)

    Bookmark   September 24, 2014 at 5:56AM
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I tested Heuchera "Sashay" and a noid Tiarella in pots and in the ground. They all overwintered but the plants in the pots looks much healthier than the others. I am now growing several Heucheras and Tiarellas in pots under trees, in Birmingham, Alabama.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2014 at 4:21PM
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vasue(7A Charlottesville)

Glad you've found success with yours, Susan! Expect the heat & humidity in your neck of the woods are no less than here, if not greater. Pots do seem the best bet, at least until the plants are mature. The older Palace Purple types (planted & potted) did fine through the ordeal of last Winter & are as large as ever. The Sweet Teas planted in the porch boxes a year ago are still thriving & unexpectedly bloomed for months on end. Let their seeds fall into the garden below & curious if new plants will show up there. Wonder if they'll come true if they do? Still haven't planted the ones repotted into the garden. Storm blew away part of the roof this Summer(!) & the redo should finally start this month. Since the old shingles will be torn off & cause a mess, delaying replanting that bed till afterwards, hoping less to protect during the turmoil.

Dbarron, sorry yours are shrinking! Did you go with heuchs inground in in pots? In either case, think it's important to replicate their natural soil conditions - likely even more important in ground. Crumbly soil that holds moisture & air in equal amounts without waterlogging, like their woodland floor origins provide, would be ideal. Overly sandy or clay-based soil might be enriched with compost or such to help mimic those conditions. If yours are planted out, still time to pot them. Let us know...

    Bookmark   October 17, 2014 at 5:38PM
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