FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Heuchera americana is a small mounding evergreen wildflower with attractive foliage. Leaves are lobed and almost round and are often highlighted with colorful veins or marbling. Tiny creamy or greenish flowers are held above the foliage in loose panicles. Plants thrive in moist rich woods in shade to part sun.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Heuchera americana is native from Ontario south to Georgia and west from Nebraska to Louisiana.
For the most part, plants are indigenous to rocky open woods, crevices or ledges of basic rock outcrops and calcareous woodlands.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 4-8.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Heuchera americana has fibrous roots and a mounded rosette of attractive colorful foliage. The leaves emerge in a dense spiral from a short central crown or caudex.
Leaves are coarse textured and up to 4” across with long slender petioles. Each blade has a rounded form and 5-9 shallow toothed lobes. Leaves can be tinted in a soothing green hue but are often variegated in shades of purple, bronze or cream.
For several weeks in late spring or early summer, flower panicles are displayed on leafless stalks above the foliage.
The individual florets are about 1/8” long with a greenish, creamy or pinkish tint. They are bell shaped with exerted stamens. After flowering small capsules full of tiny lustrous seed form. The flower and fruit displays are not often showy but they do add a light airy texture.
The mounding foliage is usually 6-12” tall with 18” or greater spread. Flower stalks tower above to a height of 2-3’.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Heuchera americana grows best in part shade or filtered sun in moist well drained humus rich soil.
Plants require good drainage and tolerate drought and rocky soils. The preference is for soils with circumneutral pH.
Plants have shallow roots and a dense crown that rises above ground as plants mature. This tendency can cause the caudex to heave from the ground during cold winters. In northern zones, the addition of winter mulch helps prevent this problem.
In garden situations, remove tattered winter foliage in early spring before fresh new leaves emerge. It is advisable to divide plants every 3-4 years to rejuvenate plants and remove dead and aging growth.
Plants can succumb to crown rot if soils retain excess moisture in winter. They may also contract a summer dieback fungus disease if overcrowding inhibits air circulation.
LANDSCAPE USES: Heuchera americana is a lovely foliage plant that is best used as a Groundcover, Grouping or Mass Planting for a Shade Garden. This wildflower is also used as an Accent, Edging or Container Plant for Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Rock Gardens, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Perennial Borders and Wildlife Gardens.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try planting Heuchera americana with Aruncus dioicus, Carex penslvanica, Helianthus divaricatus, Iris cristata, Phlox divaricata or Polystichum acrostichoides.
Heuchera americana ‘Dales Strain’ or Heuchera villosa would be suitable substitutes if needed.
TRIVIA: Roots contain the mineral substance alum which is a powerful astringent. Foliage is high in tannins giving it a bitter taste and making it unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.
Plants tolerate juglone and can grow well in the dripline of the black walnut (Juglans nigra).
For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=HEAMA2