Colourful Foliage for Ground Cover

The best attributes of plants are not always their flowers but their interesting foliage and the way that they can be used around the garden to great effect in brightening up a dull area or creating a colourful tapestry of colour and texture.

Some colourful compact clump forming hardy perennials are the heucheras and x heucherellas. They make excellent plants for perennial borders, shady areas when plant choices sometimes feel limited and they make good container plants too.

Heucheras are evergreen or semi-evergreen with colourful maple-like leaves and multiple stems of little flowers. Some flower stems stand out more than others depending on the variety and can be removed if the plant is only being grown for its foliage colour. They all like fertile well-drained soils and will suit situations from sun to part shade.

These versatile low growing perennials make excellent ground cover plants, the fabulous foliage colours and shapes contrast beautifully with other low growing plants like pulmonarias, hellebores and aquilegias.

Heuchera ‘Obsidian’ is probably the darkest of the Heucheras, with its very dark purple, almost black foliage and tiny cream bell flowers in early summer.

H. ‘Marmalade’ looks amazing with its lovely rich amber foliage and pink leaf underside. From May to June it has small red flowers. This one’s suitable for a sunny site as well as part shade.

My favourite is H. ‘Ginger Ale’, with its wonderful mix of ginger-yellow and pink foliage. It bears crimson caramel flowers from July and is great for a sunny or very shady place making it very versatile.

x Heucherella is an intergeneric hybrid of the Heuchera and Tiarella and displays some of the characteristics of both plants; hence it has an x before its genus name to show it’s a hybrid.

H ‘Brass Lanterns is very pretty with vibrant brassy gold and red foliage in spring, later turning to shades of rich chocolate during winter. From June to July it produces stems of white frothy flowers resembling the flower stems of the Tiarella, ideal for part shade.

H. ‘Tapestry’ is another little stunner with maple-like shaped leaves of blue-green with very deep markings of dark purple and silver highlights along the leaf veins. Slender stems of little pink flowers appear from late spring to summer; this one’s suitable for part shade.