'Autumn Bride' coral bell
There are lots of different kinds of coral bells (Heuchera), but all are native to North America and they all are evergreen. Most of them bloom in spring and early summer. However, Heuchera villosa, which has the common name alum root, blooms in late summer and early fall.
All coral bells do best in shaded areas that get two to four hours of direct or filtered sun. They need well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter and moderately moist, such as you’d find in the fringes of woods, where these plants grow in nature.
'Southern Comfort' coral bell
© Terra Nova Nurseries
The flowers are showy, especially when coral bells are planted in clusters. This kind of group planting also creates a showier mass of foliage color. There are several late-blooming cultivars to consider: ‘Autumn Bride,’ ‘Caramel,’ ‘Georgia Peach’ and ‘Southern Comfort,’ just to name a few.
Many of the late-blooming types get fairly large — usually about 3 feet tall and wide. Once established, they are drought tolerant. The fall-blooming H. villosa is hardy in USDA Zones 3 through 8 and is one of the best heat-tolerant coral bells for the garden.
This species blooms about six to eight weeks from August to October. Sometimes in winter, freezing and thawing may push coral bells out of the soil. In spring, press the plants back down to the ground and they’ll be fine. Snip off any weathered leaves.
This Japanese sedge (Carex conica marginata) is a small, graceful plant that is absolutely no fuss. It has narrow, deep-green leaves with white margins and although it has flowers, they are not particularly showy. Sometimes listed as ‘Snowline,’ ‘Variegata’ or ‘Hime kansuga,’ it makes an excellent border plant, ground cover or can be planted in clusters or used in a rock garden.
The miniature, clump-growing grass gets about 6 inches tall and has a spread of 15 inches. It thrives in shade with soil that is evenly moist. This plant is hardy in USDA Zones 5 through 9. In spring, snip any weathered leaves as necessary.
'Bath’s Pink' dianthus
© Monrovia Nurseries
This evergreen perennial retains its needle like foliage throughout winter. In spring, pink, white or violet flowers cover the tidy mat, which makes creeping phlox a perfect companion for tulips, daffodils or other bulbs.
Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata), needs full sun and well-drained soil. It can be used as a ground cover, in a rock garden or allowed to cascade along the side of a stoop or wall. It gets about 4 inches tall and has a spread of 2 feet. Once established, creeping phlox tolerates dry soil.
After it blooms in spring, shear back about halfway. This encourages new growth and improves the plant’s vigor. Creeping phlox is hardy in USDA Zones 3 through 9.
'Bath’s Pink' dianthus in winter
© Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Blue-green grass like leaves hold their color throughout winter. The mat is about 2 inches high with a one- to two-foot spread. From the leafy mat, the plants sprout fragrant, fringed flowers in late spring and early summer.
The flowers are 6 to 10 inches tall. The flowers bloom for about a month to six weeks.
Cheddar pinks (Dianthus gratianopolitanus) are so tough, they practically grow on pavement. When the plant has stopped blooming, cut off the spent flowers. Cheddar pinks may bloom sporadically throughout summer. No-fail cultivars to consider: ‘Bath’s Pink’ or ‘Firewitch.’