Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Heaths and Heathers Plant Profile

During the winter months I thought it would be fun to showcase plant profiles of my favorite garden workhorse plants and new plants I'm interested in growing. This week's plant profile are some of my favorite plants, heaths and heathers.

Heaths and heathers (Erica Carnea) are hardy woody, perennial shrubs that make good ground cover and add a great deal of color and structure to the garden. Heaths have needle-like leaves that are dense and bell-shaped flowers. Heathers have leaves that feature flowers on one side of the branch. Most heaths have larger shaped bell flowers although some feature smaller flowers like heathers. Heaths and heathers have shrubs that flower in spring, summer and winter months, some for three months time. These plants can sport either evergreen leaves or colored leaves, some in lime green, creams, oranges and reds. Many of the winter shrubs have bright leaf foliage which makes them a great addition to your cold weather garden. Plants can grow close to the ground at six to eight inches tall up to two feet tall and wide. The flower colors range from lavenders, pinks, white and reds, with single and double flower varieties.

Heaths and heathers are not fussy about planting but do need good draining soil. They like acid soil and must have good draining soil because their roots are very delicate. Once established for a year in the garden they are low maintenance and drought tolerant. Water your heaths and heathers weekly during the first year so the roots do not dry out. Heaths and heathers do not like soggy roots. The plants do not need fertilizer but if you want to add some an acid fertilizer made for rhododendrons and azaleas would work fine. Mulching works well for cold weather around the base of the plant, I would advise mulching for the first year in the garden. The general rule of thumb is to trim heaths and heathers right after they bloom. Remove the flowers from the plant and shape but do not cut down further into the wood unless you need to regenerate a plant that is sickly. Heather flowers grow on new wood. Heaths and Heathers require six hours of full sun a day. Here on the north coast they manage very well as long as they are planted in a sunny location.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:

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