Heather (Calluna vulgaris) is perhaps one of England’s most well-known flowers. A multitude of cultivars are available, with colors ranging from white to grey, pink to red and purple. In the north, heathers can bloom between July and November, making it a colorful season extender.
Heathers are small, low-growing shrubs. Also known by the name Scotch heather, heather is a member of the Ericaceae family–the same family of rhododendron, azalea, blueberry, andromeda, and mountain laurel. A common feature of most members of Ericaceae is that they thrive in acid soil.
Heather is no different. She likes well-drained and acidic soil. And though she needs full sun, she like cool soil. She grows easily in climates like England’s, but in warmer areas you’ll need to mulch her feet. When first establishing heather plants, you’ll need to make sure that they get enough water and don’t dry out. Once it’s established however, heather is quite tolerant of dry conditions.
It’s important to prune heathers after they bloom, or they won’t retain their beauty over time–the center of the plant will become bare & woody. Prune off the bare stems at the base of the dead flowers. If you live in a cold climate, prune heathers in spring; those in warmer areas can prune in spring, or after blooming is complete in winter.
Be forewarned that deer like heather…it’s an abundant source of food for grazers such as sheep and deer in its natural wild habitats, like English heaths. But you probably won’t like that in your back yard, so if deer are a problem for you, plant something else.
Aren’t these beautiful plants? I’d love to plant some if my yard was sunny enough!
Photo courtesy of Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.