Foamflower – the plant for shaded gardens

Foamflower

A gem for shade gardens, foamflowers (Tiarella spp.) have beautiful, deeply lobed foliage with splotches of maroon, purple, red, or black. Some foamflowers spread by runners and make excellent ground covers, while others are clump-forming with handsome, neat mounds of foliage. Planted under trees, this native woodland plant holds its own when competing with tree roots, as long as the soil is moist. In spring, fluffy spikes of white or pink flowers rise above the foliage. During cool fall weather, foliage turns tints of red or bronze.

Common name: Foamflower

Botanical name: Tiarella spp.

Plant type: Herbaceous perennial

Height: 4 to 24 inches tall, depending on cultivar

Zones: 3 to 9, depending on cultivar; some do well in Zone 3 only with good snow cover.

Family: Saxifragaceae

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Deep to part shade
  • Soil: Well-drained, cool, slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter
  • Moisture: Medium wet

Care

  • Mulch: Add a thin layer of organic mulch around plants to help maintain soil moisture.
  • Fertiliser: If needed, add a balanced fertilizer once a year.
  • Pruning: Cut spent flower stalks to highlight foliage.

Cultivars

  • ‘Cygnet’ (pictured) has spikes of pink flowers in spring. Deeply lobed foliage is dark green with black centres. It grows 19 inches tall. Zones 4 to 9.
  • ‘Eco Running Tapestry’ has white flowers and maple-shaped leaves. It’s a spreader and grows 12 to 18 inches tall. Zones 4 to 9.
  • ‘Heronswood Mist’ has leaves with cream, pink, and green variegation. White flowers in early summer have nice fragrance. A clump-forming plant, it grows 10 inches tall. Zones 4 to 9.
  • ‘Maple Leaf’ has green foliage with touches of red. White flowers have a hint of pink. Clump-forming, it grows 12 inches tall. Zones 5 to 9.
  • ‘Oakleaf’ is a fast-growing, clump-forming foamflower with dark green leaves and pink flowers. Grows 10 inches tall. Zones 4 to 8.
  • ‘Pink Skyrocket’ has stunning pink flowers and deeply lobed green foliage with a central black blotch. It’s clump-forming and grows 8 inches tall. Zones 3 to 9.

Garden notes

  • Good companions for foamflowers in a shady perennial garden include lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.), fragrant Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum), wild ginger (Asarum europaeum), and ferns.
  • Use as a border plant in a mixed flower bed.
  • Plant in moist areas along ponds and in woodland gardens.
  • Don’t plant foamflower in soils that stay wet in winter.

Pests

  • Slugs and rust occur occasionally, but both are fairly rare.

Propagation

  • Sow seeds of species in spring.
  • Divide hybrids in spring.

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