Heather, a low growing evergreen shrub, is available in both miniature forms and larger sizes, with some growing just a few centimetres in height and others, to an impressive three or four metres.
So if you’re looking to add some greenery to your outdoor spaces, what do you need to consider when opting for the heather plant?
Here’s your guide to some simple care dos and don’ts.
Heather plants that are smaller in size should be planted in the top few centimetres of soil for best results.
If planted in the spring or summer months, they will require more water, as soil tends to dry out extremely quickly in warmer weather.
If you’re struggling to grow heather, it may be a good idea to assess your soil content.
This can be done using a simple pH test kit, which can be found online and at most garden centres.
Heavier, denser soils necessitate the addition of a material added to them to make them more open in texture, while sandy soils benefit from the addition of a loamy material, which helps to retain the soil’s nutrients and moisture levels.
The likes of compost, bark, coarse grit or sand all work well.
The soil type
It’s important to use the correct soil when growing heather plants, as this will determine whether they’re able to thrive or not.
As a general rule, the winter and spring flowering varieties enjoy acid or slightly alkaline (chalky) soils.
The summer flowering cultivars on the other hand necessitate a chalk-free, lime acidic soil.
Genesis from the Erica carnea, Erica x darleyensis and Erica Erigena families tend to thrive in a majority of soil types.
The Calluna vulgaris genesis on the other hand demands an acidic soil, complete with a lighter soil structure.
These variants tend to flower in both summer and late autumn, as their fine roots are able to pierce the soil easily.
Heather plants are very low maintenance and require just a light trim post flowering.
Flowers should be cut back to the base of the flowering spike.
This will encourage new growth, while ensuring the plant is neat and lustrous. If you avoid pruning your heather plants, you’ll begin to notice a series of bare woody areas.
Wild Heather requires little if no food. However, when growing in a home garden, give them a light feed, just once or twice during the first half of the year for best results.
Use a general-purpose fertiliser and apply over the plants.
Alternatively, add lawn mower clippings or a mulch of bark to the soil, as this will help to retain moisture while reducing weed growth.
Where to grow Heather Plants
Choose a location that boasts full sunlight or light shade.
Too much shade will cause the leaves of your plant to shed their foliage colour. You’ll also notice a reduction in the amount of flowers produced.
For best results, opt for a moist but free draining site and avoid planting in wet boggy areas or under trees.
Planting in containers
Heathers are now commonly planted in containers, and perform extremely well singularly or as a group, providing they are kept moist.
Watering your Heather Plant
Watering your heather plant too much can cause root rot, however it’s important to maintain a balance and keep the soil consistently moist.
When planting heather plants, choose an acidic, sandy or loamy soil that is well drained, and out of reach from damaging winds.
Heather plants tend to boast a compact, fibrous root system, which means smaller plants are much easier to re-pot.
It’s important to keep this in mind when transplanting plants. Large, established plants are more of a challenge to re-pot.
However, if your heather plant necessitates a move, the best time to initiate this is during the winter dormant season months (November through March).
Each heather flower boasts an impressive 30 heather seeds, which enables the plant to produce an incredible 150,000 seeds per season.
Heather flowers tend to bloom in late summer, with wild species of heather offering a beautiful purple or mauve shade.
Other bloom colours range from hues of red and purple to pink and white. Artificially coloured flowers are also available in a range of alternative hot hues.
Varieties of heather plant
There are a number of varieties of heather plant to choose from, some of which include:
- Calluna vulgaris ‘Jana’
- Erica tetralix ‘Pink Star’
- Erica mackayana ‘Shining Light’
- Erica vagans ‘Summertime’
- Erica x darleyensis ‘Phoebe’
- Erica ciliaris.
- Erica carnea.
- Erica cinerea.
Subtle differences exist among most of these varieties, so you may wish to check that they are suitable for your outdoor spaces.