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Amber Waves Heuchera causes quite a commotion
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
I predict Amber Waves, a new heuchera, will be one of the most sought-after plants this spring.
When I saw Amber Waves in trials last year, I figured it would take a couple of years to get to our state, but I just saw it at a Mississippi greenhouse complex. Our gardeners are fortunate to have such progressive growers as those in the Mississippi Nursery and Landscape Association.
For those of you who are not familiar with heuchera, it is native to the United States and thrives from north to south and east to west. This plant will tolerate extremes in temperatures and produces tall, airy flowers in pink, coral, red or white.
Many have foliage so colorful and ornately shaped that they will cause you to stop dead in your tracks, and you would be just as happy if they never bloomed. Rarely do I find heuchera in the landscape, but it is an outstanding plant that deserves a place in the partially shaded garden.
Heuchera, also called coral bells, is not tricky to grow. A well-drained, organic-rich bed in partial shade provides the best environment for the plant. Amend tight clay soils with 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and till to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Incorporate two pounds of a slow-release fertilizer, such as a 12-6-6, per 100 square feet.
Plant nursery-grown transplants this spring at the same depth they are growing in the container. Space the plants 9 to 15 inches apart.
Feed established plantings in the spring with a light application of a 5-10-5 or 12-6-6 fertilizer. Keep the heuchera watered and mulched throughout the growing season. Remove spent flowers to increase bloom production. Divide mature clumps every three to four years in the fall or with the emergence of spring growth. Replant the young, vigorous divisions and dispose of the old, woody stems.
People often wonder what to plant in the shade. The answer is heuchera, or coral bells. Plant along woodland trails or in front of shrubs. Great combinations can be made with wood fern or autumn fern. Let your artistic nature shine and use with hostas. It sounds gaudy, but I'm sure it will please you.
Amber Waves with its ruffled amber-gold foliage and rose flowers is one of the Heuchera hybrids causing the most commotion in the garden world. Look also for Amethyst Myst with burgundy foliage and an amethyst overtone. Green Spice's silver leaves have dark gray edges with purple veins. Velvet Night's leaves are dark purple and pink with even darker veins.
Heuchera micrantha hybrid Palace Purple is also very popular with its maple-shaped leaves and white flowers. Heuchera sanguinea selections have more green leaves but are perhaps the showiest bloomers. Some of the better choices are Fireglow, Hunstman and Raspberry Regal.
Let this serve as a teaser: Amber Waves heuchera just may be for sale at the three official Mississippi Garden and Patio Shows this spring. The first show is Feb. 22 and 23 at the former Food World building in Gulfport. The second show will be March 8 and 9 at the A & I buildings on the State Fairgrounds in Jackson, and finally on April 12 and 13 at the DeSoto County Convention Center in Southaven. I'll see you there!