Plant of the Week: Heartleaf foamflower

Spring is here on the High Line! Tucked into the shadier areas of the High Line you will notice clumps of these magical looking flowers meandering their way through the garden beds. Native to the Eastern regions of North America, from as far north as Canada to as far south as Georgia, Tiarella cordifolia is a small perennial herbaceous plant most commonly used as a ground cover in the garden. Each plant will send out runners and spread rapidly, forming a dense carpet of foliage. Its name, 'Tiarella' refers to its fruit which resembles a Tiara in shape. 'Cordifolia' refers to its heart shaped foliage.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.
The interest in the Tiarella cordifolia peaks in the spring where its spikes emerge with dozens of miniature star shaped flowers. After its flowering cycle is complete the foliage will remain all year round as a ground cover and as the weather gets colder, its color transitions to dark red or yellow. Foliage is evergreen and will persist through mild winters. Harsh, cold, wet winters, however, can negatively impact the health of the plant.
Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.
In its natural habitat, Tiarella cordifolia is typically found in moist, mossy, deciduous and mixed forests. Its flowers present a food source for many species of bees; that said it is also quite popular with our High Line bees! Its roots help to stabilize the soil around riverbanks and on sloped terrain, helping to reduce soil and bank erosion. Native Americans also took interest in the leaves and roots of the Tiarella cordifolia, as they believed it to have healing properties. It was used in a variety of ways including a mouth wash for mouth sores, a natural antacid and a diuretic. It was also used to create tonics.

Tiarella cordifolia belongs to the Saxifragaceae family. The Saxifragaceae family contains some 600 species of perennial herbaceous plants, some of which can also be found right here on the High line. Saxifragaceae can be found distributed throughout the northern cold and temperate regions and have adapted to a wide variety of conditions from bog habitats to rock faces. Most Saxifragaceae however, are well adapted to the moist, shady, woody areas that Tiarella cordifolia makes its home. Plants of the Saxifragaceae family often share similar traits, including lobed alternate basal leaves and monoecious flowers that emerge on tall leafless spikes.

Late spring favorites Astilbe chinensis 'Vision In Pink' and Heuchera 'Frosted violet' also belong to the Saxifragaceae family and many similar characteristics can be seen when compared with the Tiarella cordifolia. Photos by Ayinde Listhrop.

Tiarella cordifolia prefers to be planted in rich, moist but well-draining soil. Prefers full to part shade and is tolerant of acidic, neutral and alkaline soils. Can be propagated easily by dividing runners or crowns in the spring or fall. Seeds may also be harvested from ripened fruit and planted immediately or sown in the spring.

USDA zone 4-8

You can see Tiarella cordifolia on the Northern Spur Preserve and 10th Avenue Square at 16th Street and the Chelsea Thicket between 20th and 30th Streets.

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

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