What is a Foamflower?

Sara Schmidt

The foamflower is a delicate member of the Saxifrage family. Scientifically known as Tiarella wherryi, these perennial plants feature wide green leaves and tiny, spiky white to pink flowers. Most gardeners who plant mound-shaped foamflowers use them as ground cover.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Each small flower of these garden plants is densely packed among many other flowers along a slender stalk. The delicate flowers are made up of five small petals shaped together in a star pattern. Flowers are only one quarter of one inch (.5 cm) in diameter. Long, thin yellow stamens protrude from each blossom. The foamy texture of these spiky-looking stamens provide the plant with its common name.

Leaves are variegated, though typically dark green, with deep groves and serrated edges. Fine hairs softly cover each leaf. Some varieties of foamflower feature softer, rounded leaves. The foamflower grows up to 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) in height and typically blooms in the late spring to early summer months.

North America is home to most native foamflower species. They can often be found in mountainous areas. Foamflowers are not drought resistant, however, and are generally not found in areas without regular rainfall.

Regular watering is recommended for proper foamflower care. Overwatering can result in harming the plant; hence, well-drained soil is also recommended. Partial shade is minimally required for optimal foamflower growth. The flowers also do well in full shade. Since these North American garden plants are considered woodland organisms, they require organic plant matter for sustenance.

Foamflowers can be grown from seeds as well as through root division. When planting foamflower seeds, spacing should be at least 14 to 16 inches (36 to 41 cm) apart. Neutral to mildly acidic soil is preferable for growing foamflowers. Foamflowers may also be written as foam flowers. They are sometimes referred to as false mitrewort, as they are often mistaken for the similar plant.

Their tolerance to shady conditions makes foamflowers a popular choice for suburban gardening. Some people choose to grow them as container plants, as the flowers can spread widely through rhizome multiplication if left to do so. The flowers' root systems are shallow, making them compatible for planting with many deep-rooted plants. Others prefer to plant the flowers at the base of taller plants as an attractive ground cover.

Native tribes of North America sometimes used foamflowers for medicinal use. The plants contain tannin, which provides them with astringent properties. They have also been used to treat diarrhea, wounds, and eye sores.

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