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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes – Plants That Change Color Through The Seasons

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes – Plants That Change Color Through The Seasons

By Dan Heims, President, Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries

Channeling David Bowie’s 1971 “Changes,” Terra Nova Nurseries has bred five well-known plants that change color throughout the year. Though it is known that other Terra Nova offerings, like Heuchera ‘Forever Purple’ and Heuchera ‘Forever Red’, showcase consistent season-to-season color, there are a few color-changing plants in Terra Nova’s catalog that are endeared by many for their unique fall color. One of these plants, Fatsia ‘Spider’s Web’, was an extremely rare acquisition from Sensei Masato Yokoi (in Tokyo) that previously could not be found in any garden centers. Each year brings more thrill as the plant’s more subtle variegation “turns on” in the winter and brightens to a flashy white in the Oregon winter landscape. Brilliant fall colors, too, emerge from Mukgenia NOVA 'Flame' as cooler temperatures set in, with orange and red colors emerging in late summer. Heuchera ‘Zipper’ flashes its warm colors, which intensify in the cool seasons, over über-ruffled leaves. Heucherella ‘Sweet Tea’ is a southern favorite with intense, warm colors. Terra Nova’s catmint, Nepeta ‘Purple Haze’, waves through shades of glaucous-blue and, most importantly, provides a calming foil for other intensely hued varieties.

Many times, customers may enter a garden center asking for plants that put on a show year-round. With these Terra Nova plants for fall color, garden center customers can receive the value-added option of seasonal differences, as these plants give gardeners multiple appearances throughout the year.

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Fatsia 'Spider's Web'

Named by Mr. Hirose, a Japanese variegated plant author living in Iwakuni, Japan, this desirable and rare evergreen has white splashing and dotting on broad, palmate leaves. Its variegation changes with the seasons and as the plant ages. Fatsia ‘Spider’s Web’, which is a USDA Zone 7-9 plant, will ultimately grow to be 5’ tall and 5’ wide, and it will be better branched than fatsia japonica. This plant prefers to be kept in partial- to full shade. Fatsia ‘Spider’s Web’ is drought-resistant, but it prefers even moisture, while occasionally drying out between waterings. It has lovely globular flowers on inflorescences that emerge in very early spring, providing nectar and pollen to early-emerging pollinators. It also does well in large containers and can be used as a houseplant.

Learn more: https://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/fatsia-spiders-web/

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Heuchera 'Zipper'

Gardeners will love this plant because of its brightly colored, seriously ruffled leaves. Heuchera 'Zipper’ has leaves that are well-colored all year, but they change from orange in spring and fall to a golden amber in summer and winter. Despite these color transitions, the leaves of Heuchera ‘Zipper’ always have their magenta backs showing. This ruffled form was bred with H. villosa, which contributes to the larger leaf size and better heat and humidity tolerance. Height is typically 12” tall, or 18” with flowers. The ruffled breeding of Heuchera ‘Zipper’ creates great cold tolerance, and it is happy in USDA Zones 4-9. It is a great container plant for fall color and interest.

Learn more: https://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/heuchera-zipper/

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Heucherella ‘Sweet Tea’

A welcoming drink and plant for all gardeners! Heucherella ‘Sweet Tea’ produces welcoming spring leaves that look like cinnamon stars. The large, palmately cut leaves darken in the summer and lighten up again in the fall. Its H. villosa breeding gives it a big, bold habit, and it shows very well in southern gardens and other areas with high-humidity summers. An instant and hardy classic for containers and the garden, this USDA Zone 4-9 perennial attains a foliage height of 20”, with 27” tall flower spikes through May. Heucherella ‘Sweet Tea’ is happiest in morning sun and afternoon shade. It looks great in containers with complementary-colored echinacea or coreopsis.

Learn more: https://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/heucherella-sweet-tea/

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Mukgenia NOVA 'Flame' 

This breakthrough hybrid is a remarkable combination of its shared bergenia and mukdenia heritage. While Mukgenia NOVA ‘Flame’ gets its dark pink flowers from its bergenia heritage, its mukdenia genetics are responsible for its jagged leaf-edges and great fall color. This cool and lovely intergeneric cross forms a mass of foliage under 10” tall and 13” in bloom. Its flowers emerge in April through June, and its thick, leathery leaves last longer than mukdenia in the fall. Long-lived and good in containers, the Mukgenia NOVA ‘Flame’ is happiest in the front border, and it performs well in any amount of light exposure. Hardy parents have yielded a plant that is happy in USDA Zones 3-9. 

Learn more: https://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/mukgenia-nova-flame/

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Nepeta 'Purple Haze'

This delightful hybrid catmint is a fabulous addition to any sunny garden. Nepeta 'Purple Haze' forms a silvery mat with unique purple-blue flower spikes that look like Buddleias. The plants have a clean habit and bloom all summer long. This perennial requires little maintenance because it rarely gets messy! Nepeta ‘Purple Haze’ can be used at the front of borders and mixed beds, as groundcovers on banks, or in a rock garden. It is a very versatile plant that can provide a foil for bright flowers or bright foliage. In height, Nepeta ‘Purple Haze’ is much lower than Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’, reaching only 7” tall over mats that can spread 30” wide. Pollinators go crazy over the flower spikes that emerge on the full sun Nepeta ‘Purple Haze’ from June to October.

Learn more: https://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/nepeta-purple-haze/

Dan Heims is a published author of two books and lectures around the world. In 2003 he won the Reginald Cory Memorial Cup from the Royal Horticultural Society. He was awarded the Award of Merit by the Perennial Plant Association in 2019, and the Luther Burbank Award by the American Horticultural Society in 2020.


All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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