The Georgia Native Plant Society is pleased to announce that foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) has been selected as the organization’s 2003 Plant of the Year. This charming perennial wildflower is found in rich woodlands throughout the eastern United States, primarily in the piedmont and mountain regions.
Foamflower grows in neat, mounded clumps, 6 to 8 inches tall. Its maple-shaped leaves are covered with soft hairs and are 2 to 3 inches wide and 3 to 4 inches long. The leaves are semi-evergreen and often take on a pleasing bronzy cast in winter.
The leaf shape of specimens may vary from almost heart shaped to deeply lobed. The leaf veins are often attractively tinged with burgundy, and color and pattern variations exist in naturally occurring populations. The nursery trade has employed these variable shape and color characteristics to introduce numerous named cultivars.
Indicative of its name, foamflower bears delicate, airy, white to pinkish flower spikes in spring, which are composed of tiny, star-shaped blossoms. These racemes ascend 8 to 12 inches above the foliage, creating a soft, mist-like effect. The blooms are surprisingly long-lasting, often persisting for well over a month.
Taxonomists have divided the species into two varieties: Tiarella cordifolia var. cordifolia and T. cordifolia var. collina (formerlyTiarella wherryi). The variety cordifolia is stoloniferous and spreads fairly quickly to form a ground cover. In contrast, var.collina grows in clumps. Otherwise, the two are similar in appearance, and both make worthy garden plants; however, var.collina is more southerly in its distribution, and is therefore more tolerant of heat and humidity.
Foamflower prefers a soil rich in organic matter that is evenly moist, yet well drained. Native to woodland habitats, this plant prefers shade or dappled sunlight, though it will tolerate more sun in cooler climates.
The white blooms will brighten dark, shady areas in the spring garden, and the attractive foliage will add year-round interest. In the woodland garden, foamflower is a fitting companion to other native plants, such as Green-and-Gold, Dwarf Crested Iris, Hepatica, and ferns, and it makes an impressive display either en masse or as a specimen plant. Foamflower also easily adapts to the cultivated garden bed, and even to containers, provided ample moisture is available during the growing season. Foamflower is easily propagated from seed or from division of mature clumps.
Prepared by Mary P. Tucker for the Georgia Native Plant Society.
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