Foamflower Plant Profile

Attractive Spring-blooming Native Groundcover for Shady Locations

Foamflowers in bloom

Christophe LEHENAFF / Getty Images

The foamflower is a native wildflower that got its name from the masses of foamy white to pinkish flowers that emerge on long, thin stems from a dense mound of foliage in the springtime. The flowers are undoubtedly the most spectacular aspect of this trouble-free groundcover. But even after the long bloom of four to six weeks is over, foamflower is an attractive plant year-round. Its semi-glossy leaves often have reddish variegations along the veins or spots in the center. In areas with mild winters, the foliage is semi-evergreen and sometimes turns reddish bronze in the fall.

Botanical Name Tiarella cordifolia
Common Name Foamflower, Allegheny foamflower, False miterwort
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size One to three feet height, six to 12 inches spread
Sun Exposure Part shade to full shade
Soil Type Loam enriched with organic matter
Soil pH 4.5 to 7
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White with pink accents
Hardiness Zones 3 to 8
Native Area Eastern United States and Canada
Masses of foamy white to pinkish flowers gave foamflower its name
Masses of foamy white to pinkish flowers gave foamflower its name. Adrian Burke / Getty Images 

How to Grow Foamflower

If you are looking for a groundcover for shady locations such as woodlands, foamflower is an excellent choice. It is a native wildflower that spreads quickly by runners and forms dense mounds of foliage. Foamflower is especially attractive when mass-planted. It can also be combined with groupings of other shade-loving perennials like hostas, ferns, Solomon’s seal, and coral bells.

While foamflower requires little maintenance, snipping off the spent flowers after the bloom will give the plant a neater appearance.

Light

Foamflower needs part shade to full shade. If there is any sun, it should be only morning sun.

Soil

Plant foamflower in soil that is rich in humus and organic matter. The soil should be equally able to retain moisture and drain well because foamflowers do poorly in wet soil, which can cause root rot.

Water

Foamflower needs evenly moist conditions. It can withstand a short drought, but watering is required during extended dry periods.

Plant Roundup

As a plant native to temperate climate, foamflower is cold-hardy but not suitable for hot summer temperatures above zone 8.

Fertilizer

When grown in the right soil, foamflower does not need fertilizer. However, it may benefit from the application of a complete fertilizer in early spring before the new growth starts.

Propagating

You can propagate foamflower by dividing dense, well-established clumps in the late fall. Plant the divisions one to two feet apart where they will fill in the space.

Alternatively, you can remove some of the aboveground runners and replant them right away. Apply rooting hormone to help them get established.

If you are very patient, you can also start foamflower from seed. Germination might be fast, but the seedlings will grow slowly. And remember—perennials don’t bloom in their first year.

Buds of foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) often have a pink hue
bkkm / Getty Images

Foamflower Varieties and Cultivars

There are two varieties of foamflower. Heartleaf foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia var. cordifolia), and Wherry’s foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia var. collina, synonym: Tiarella wherryi). The way you can tell them apart is that the first grows in dense clumps with runners, and the leaves are heart-shaped, often with burgundy patches. Tiarella cordifolia var. cordifolia on the other hand does not send out runners, and the deeply lobed leaves resemble fig, oak, or maple leaves.

There are also several hybrids of Tiarella cordifolia, which is the native Eastern US species, with the Western US species of foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata), or with Asian foamflower (Tiarella polyphylla).

Popular foamflower cultivars include:

  • ‘Oakleaf’ with oak-like leaves and white flowers. The leaves turn red in the fall.
  • ‘Brandywine’ with glossy, heart-shaped leaves that have red veins. Flowers are creamy white, and the leaves turn bronze in the fall.
  • ‘Running Tapestry’ with red speckled, heart-shaped leaves and white flowers. Plant sends out strawberry-like runners.
  • ‘Sugar and Spice’ with shiny, deeply lobed, lacy leaves that have a crimson marking in the middle. Flowers are pale pink and white.

Growing in Containers

To take full advantage of foamflower as a groundcover that fills empty spaces, it’s best as a landscape plant but it can also be grown in containers. 

Common Pests/Diseases

Foamflower is not affected by serious insects or diseases. Slugs and snails can be a problem. The plant is deer-tolerant and rabbit-tolerant.