I love the blooms of my foamflower plant. They look spongy and foamy indeed. They are so pretty to look at, and I wish I ordered more! Ava Abernathy – Lexington, SC
The foamflower, formally known as the Tiarella, is a genus of wildflower and garden plants found in Asia and North America. A native wildflower named after the masses of foamy white to pinkish flowers emerging from long, thin stems forms a dense mound of foliage. These flowers belong to the saxifrage family, and they are undoubtedly the most spectacular aspect of this virtually sturdy groundcover. And even after the long bloom of four to six weeks is over, the foamflower is an attractive year-round perennial to add to your yard. Its semi-glossy leaves often have reddish variegations along with the spots or veins in the center, and in areas with mild winters, the foliage is semi-evergreen, sometimes turning reddish bronze in the fall. Some species of Tiarella include the Tiarella cordifolia or the Heart-leaved foamflower, the Tiarella polyphylla, and the Tiarella trifoliata.
Appearing in airy, foam-like masses that give the flower its name, quantities of foamflowers create quite a show in a spring garden, and they can be found anywhere in shades of pink and white. Foamflower blossoms typically last anywhere between four to six weeks, and after the flowers fade, the dark foliage makes an attractive backdrop for other plants. While its leaves come in various shapes and colors, some foliage is variegated, and often leaves are lobed and deeply dissected, similar to a maple leaf. This attractive wildflower—which spreads through underground stems—forms colonies and makes an excellent groundcover for shady, wooded areas. Its genus name derives from the Greek tiara, designating a turban once worn by the Persians, and refers to the shape of its pistil. Long and slender stamens give the foamflower’s spikes a frothy appearance, and the small, star-shaped flowers occur in compact racemes on six- to twelve-inch stalks rising above a mound of attractive, lobed leaves. While the foamflower’s stem lacks leaves in the northeastern areas of the plant’s range, it bears heart-shaped leaves in the south. Mature foamflowers send out runners, creating sizeable colonies with passing time, and its tiny white flowers are in a feathery, somewhat elongated terminal cluster.
While foamflowers do not usually get the recognition they deserve, this is changing—new cultivars resulting from crossbreeding between the Eastern and Western foamflower plants have begun to sell in recent years. Gardeners now slowly learn some of the benefits of the foamflower in the garden, especially the woodland garden. Growing foamflowers have a relatively lengthy bloom, often lasting as long as six weeks when adequately located. Foamflower care includes regular watering if plants do not thrive in a consistently moist area. Besides moisture, foamflowers are likely to grow in rich and organic soil, similar to their native habitat in the woodlands. Light conditions for foamflower plants must be partial to heavy shade in southern zones, and a couple of hours of morning sunlight is the most that should be available for the plants, although they may be planted in partial sun in areas closer to the north. Their short, mounding habit makes them easily located in areas shaded by taller plants, and pink to white foamy blossoms rise above the mounding foliage, usually a few inches (around two point five centimeters) to a foot in height. The attractive foliage can stand alone when flowers do not sprout on foamflower plants.
The foamflower is relatively easy to cultivate, with several species native to the United States. While they would mostly prefer well-drained soil to survive, foamflower soil needs a good amount of organic matter in it, and the plant needs consistent moisture to thrive. However, if the ground is overhydrated, especially during winter periods, the foamflower is likely to rot.
If you are looking for shady locations such as woodlands, the foamflower presents itself as an excellent choice as it barely needs maintenance. To start it off, you must plant the foamflower in soil rich in humus and organic matter—the ground should be equally able to retain moisture and drain well, as foamflowers do poorly in wet soil. The foamflower also needs evenly moist conditions; although it can withstand short droughts, foamflowers require water during extended dry periods. Finally, as a species native to temperate climate, the foamflower is cold-hardy but unsuitable for hot summer temperatures. Grown in suitable soil, however, the foamflower does not require fertilizer. If it is to your preference, it may benefit from applying a complete fertilizer in early spring before the new growth starts.
You can propagate the foamflower by dividing dense, well-established clumps in the late fall, and then you must plant the divisions one to two feet apart where they will fill the space. Alternatively, you can remove some of the above-ground runners and replant them right away, so you might also apply a rooting hormone to get them established. If you are the patient sort, you can start the foamflower from seed—while germination may be fast, seedlings grow much slower. And remember, perennials do not bloom in their first year, so start your foamflower seeds indoors for about two months before the estimated last-killing frost. Finally, if you intend to take advantage of the foamflower as a groundcover that fills empty spaces, it is best as a landscape plant. At the same time, it is also well-suited to growing in containers so that you can use drained potting mixes without too much fertilizer.
The foamflower has seen new developments in recent years, and one of the most important ones is its ability to crossbreed with coralbells. Its crossbreeding advantage has created the new intergeneric hybrid heucherella, also known as foamy bells. New hybrids offer many beneficial traits from their parents, such as showy foliage and more prolific blooms. Among the new foamflower, hybrids are many varieties that can thrive as container plants with striking foliage and trailing stems. In addition, other types of foamflowers are available, such as the ‘Elizabeth Oliver’ foamflower and the ‘Heronswood Mist’ foamflower. The ‘Elizabeth Oliver,’ which grows up to fifteen inches tall, makes substantial low clumps of deeply lobed leaves streaked with red veining and its spires of pink buds open blushing white. Meanwhile, the Heronswood Mist bears white and pink-specked foliage on fifteen-inch-tall plants.
Other companion plants that can give the foamflower a striking dynamic would be phlox flowers, Japanese painted ferns, Solomon’s Seals, and bluebells. Phlox are some of the bounteous summer flowers any large sunny flowerbed or border shouldn’t be without, and some of its subspecies include the garden phlox and the meadow phlox. The Japanese painted fern is one of the most elegant ferns available for your garden, washed with striking silver and burgundy markings without being overly showy. Solomon’s Seal has gentle arches and creamy bells that dangle from its stems, and it adds height and grace to shaded gardens in spring. Finally, bluebells are a dreamy sight to behold amongst wildflowers, perhaps because their blooming period only lasts for a considerably fleeting moment.