Alphabetical Plant Listing

Heaths and Heathers

Erica x Darleyensis, Erica x stuartii, Erica Carnea, Erica cinerea, Erica erigena, Erica vagans, Calluna, Scotch Heather, Ling Heather, Winter Heath, Bell Heather, Irish Heath, Cornish Heath, Stuart’s Heath (Erica x Darleyensis, Erica Carnea, Calluna)


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 landscape 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.

Basic Facts About Heath and Heather

  • There is often confusion between 'Heath' and 'Heather'. Heath relates to the Erica genus while Heather relates to the Calluna genus. Both belong to the Ericaceae family, but are botanically different. However, they have many characteristics in common in terms of color, form, and growth habits. They are also evergreen, not invasive, low maintenance and thrive in similar conditions of sunlight, water, and soil. The main differences between these species are winter hardiness and foliage (heaths have needle-like leaves while heathers have flat, scalelike leaves).   
  • Heaths generally grow about 12 in. tall (30 cm) and 18 in. wide (45 cm) wide. Slightly larger, heathers grow about 24 in. tall (60 cm) and 24-36 in. wide (60-90 cm).                        
  • Both heath or heather are loved for their colorful bloom and evergreen foliage. Some bloom in winter and spring, others bloom in summer and fall. Plant different types of heathers and heaths and you may have plants in bloom every month of the year, with new plants coming into bloom when others fade!

Heath and Heathers Types

  • Calluna vulgaris (Scotch Heather or Ling Heather)
    Among the hardiest and most varied of all hardy heathers. The Royal Horticultural Society currently lists over 800 cultivars of this species. Callunas offer a wide range of sizes (from small mounds to 3 ft. tall shrubs). Racemes of rose pink to purplish pink, single or double flowers, appear in mid to late summer. Foliage may be highly dramatic, turning from gray or green to attractive glowing shades of orange and red in fall and winter. Some varieties display their showy colored new growth for months before flowering for an additional several months. Callunas flower best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Callunas hate lime but thrive in acid soil. Callunas need annual pruning or they become straggly. Prune below the flowers on the stems after flowering in fall or early spring. Zone 4 and warmer. Some varieties grow well in Zone 3 areas.
  • Daboecia cantabrica (St. Daboecia’s Heath)
    These enjoy the largest leaves and flowers of all the heaths and heathers. The evergreen leaves are glossy with white undersides. The egg-shaped flowers bloom for months between May and October. They like acid soil and tolerate moist soil. They are hardy to Zone 6 and warmer.
  • Erica carnea (Winter Heath)
    One of the hardiest of Heathers, Erica Carnea is native to the Alps of Central Europe. It is favored for its early bloom and evergreen presence and forms eye-catching mats of pink, white, purple or red blooms which are at their best with the early spring bulbs such as crocus, scillas and dwarf irises. A low and quick grower, it creates attractive groundcovers that are perfect at smothering weeds. The evergreen foliage is needle-like. Slightly acid to alkaline soils. Zone 4 and warmer.
  • Erica cinerea (Bell Heather)
    Attractive and spectacular in bloom with some of the most eye-catching flowers of all heathers. Evergreen shrubs forming mounding, spreading, low bushes, 6-18 in tall (15-45 cm) that burst into vivid colors as they get covered with hundreds of bell-shaped flowers from late spring to early fall (Jun-Oct). Colors range from white to almost black while their foliage varies from gold to very dark green. Need annual pruning or they become straggly. Prune below the flowers on the stems after flowering in fall or early spring. Prefers well-drained acid soil. Zone 5 and warmer.
  • Erica erigena (Irish Heath)
    Blooming from November to May, They enjoy a dense, bushy upright habit. Their height range from 4-12 ft. (1.2-14 m) for taller varieties. They grow in a wide range of soils. Flowers have a honey fragrance. Zone 7 and warmer.
  • Erica vagans (Cornish Heath)
    Superb summer bloomers (Jul-Nov) with small flowers held in dense cone-shaped spikes. In the inflorescence, the lower flowers fade and change to russet brown before the top blooms open and remain attractive even when faded. Low growing and spreading, it makes a good groundcover. Enjoys neutral or slightly alkaline soils and also does well in moderately acid soils and heavy soils. Zone 5 and warmer.
  • Erica x darlyensis
    Includes many hybrids of Erica Carnea and Erica Erigena. A taller growing shrub than Erica Carnea, generally between 12-24 in. tall (30-60 cm), and more bushy, it is useful at adding winter color at greater heights. It is loved for its early bloom and evergreen presence and forms bristling splashes of pink, white, purple or red blooms in the landscape which are at their best with dwarf evergreens, conifers and mixed plantings of heathers. Most varieties display needle-like mid green foliage with pink, cream or red, young growth in late spring and a bronzy foliage in the winter. Buds form in late summer or early fall, and some cultivars begin blooming as early as late September, often lasting until April. Slightly acid to alkaline soils. Zone 5 and warmer.
  • Erica x stuartii (Stuart’s Heath)
    A hybrid between Erica mackaiana and Erica tetralix. Native to Western Ireland. Large flowers held in terminal clusters over a very long blooming season (Jun-Nov). New growth is very showy with yellow and orange tips. Prefers acid soil. Zone 5 and warmer.

How to Grow and Care for Heaths and Heathers

Evergreen, Heathers (Calluna Vulgaris) and Heaths (Erica) are terrific plants that deserve a spot in the garden. Their fabulous ability to change color year-round, injecting vivid life into our landscape 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.
Read More

Guide Information

Hardiness 4 - 8
Heat Zones 5 - 7
Climate Zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 15, 16, 17, 1A
Plant Type Shrubs
Plant Family Erica and Calluna
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early,Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Winter
Spread 1' - 3' (30cm - 90cm)
Water Needs Average
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Dried Arrangements, Cut Flowers, Showy
Tolerance Deer, Drought
Attracts Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Banks and Slopes, Beds and Borders, Ground Covers, Patio and Containers
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden

Photos are courtesy Miranda Wood, Erica Enterprises, Derviss Design, maxsheb / 123RF Stock Photo

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 4 - 8
Heat Zones 5 - 7
Climate Zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 15, 16, 17, 1A
Plant Type Shrubs
Plant Family Erica and Calluna
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early,Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Winter
Spread 1' - 3' (30cm - 90cm)
Water Needs Average
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Dried Arrangements, Cut Flowers, Showy
Tolerance Deer, Drought
Attracts Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Banks and Slopes, Beds and Borders, Ground Covers, Patio and Containers
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden
Not sure which Erica and Calluna to pick?
Compare All Erica and Calluna
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Ideas with Erica and Calluna
Guides with Erica and Calluna

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