Evergreen, Heaths (Erica) and Heathers (Calluna vulgaris) are terrific plants that deserve a spot in the garden. Their fabulous ability to change color year-round, injecting vivid life into our landscapes at a time when they need it most, is invaluable. Low maintenance, deer or salt resistant, winter hardy, drought tolerant (once established) and fairly easy to grow, they do not require much: decent drainage and some sunshine.
Heath and Heathers: Planting
- Heather may be planted in the fall or early spring, so the plants may become established.
- Heather needs at least a half-day of sun (minimum of six hours of sun a day). Full sun is better as the foliage colors intensify when fully exposed. Too much shade makes the plants leggy and affects the brilliance of their color.
- These plants require good drainage. If your soil is heavy, a hillside, raised bed or mound of soil can help improve drainage.
- Most thrive in growing zones 4-8. Not sure about your growing zone? Check here.
- All heathers grow nicely in acid soil similarly to rhododendrons, azaleas. If your soil is alkaline, adding peat moss will help to achieve an ideal pH of 4.5 to 5.5.
- Space heaths and heathers as far apart as their mature width and at least 2 ft. (60 cm) away from other shrubs to ensure good air circulation. This is important for good foliage growth and color
- Dig a hole about twice as wide as the root ball and half again as deep.
- Make vertical cuts the length of the root ball and across the bottom. Break up the roots and work in some soil.
- Water the plant once or twice a week when the soil is dry throughout the first season. The soils should be moist but not soggy. This will encourage rapid and vigorous growth of the plants. Once established, the plants are drought tolerant and rarely need watering.
- Mulch heathers after planting.
Heath and Heathers: Pruning
- Summer bloomers: Pruning is essential and should occur in late fall or early spring, below the old flowers on the branch. Round and shape the plant.
- Winter bloomers: Shear lightly in spring, immediately after blooming. If your plants die out in the center, shearing will keep them alive and growing.
Heath and Heathers: Fertilizer
Fertilizer is not necessary and may even be harmful to heathers. Heaths and heathers actually like poor soil. If the plants are not thriving, use a low rate of fertilizer for acid-loving evergreen plants.