It’s easy to grow, works with a multiple of garden styles, and comes in many different colors including shades of pink, purple and white. The spikes of bell-shaped flowers attract tons of bees, too. Best of all, there are varieties that bloom in every season, including winter. Heather even grows equally well in landscape beds or containers.
Heather has needle-like evergreen leaves that are green or grey, but they also may turn yellow, orange, or bronze-y at various times of year, depending on the variety. They typically grow about 1 to 2 feet tall and wide and make great additions when massed on slopes or planted along borders. They don’t mind poor soil and will tolerate salt spray, so you can plant them in coastal areas, too. Heather doesn’t tolerate clay soil, though, so plant in a raised bed or pots if you have heavy soil.
Here’s what else you need to know about growing heather:
How do I care for heather?
Heather needs about 6 hours of full sun, and prefers afternoon shade in hot areas of the country. Too much shade will make them leggy and ugly. They tend to do best in acidic soil, so if plants such as conifers, azaleas and hydrangeas do well in your yard, heather likely will, too. Make sure to choose a heather variety that is suited to survive winters in your USDA hardiness zone (find yours here).
When planting, dig a hole about two to three times the size of the container, then set your plant in the hole at the same depth as it was in the pot. Water well for the first few weeks to keep moist, not soggy. They’re drought-tolerant once established. Don’t bother fertilizing because they actually prefer poor soil. To encourage bushiness, shear lightly in spring before buds set, or for winter-blooming types, after the flowers have faded.
Does heather come back every year?
Yes, it can be considered a perennial if you choose a type that’s suited to your zone. However, most varieties only look good for a few years. You can’t really rejuvenate them by trimming as you can other perennials, so replace when they get scraggly-looking.
Are heather and heath the same plant?
These shrubby plants are often confused with a similar plant, heath. Both heather and heath are in the same plant family (Ericaceae), but heather is in the genus Calluna, while heath is in the Erica genus. The plants look amazingly alike and need similar care, though heaths tend to be more heat-tolerant (though they don't love humidity), while heather loves cold weather.
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