Heath is an excellent choice for decorating gardens on top of which it provides its planting site with a special colourful touch. With this beautiful plant, you will manage to  make your garden  sparkle. If you choose to plant heath, this decision requires further study. So you imperatively need to analyse the species, their development and their maintenance. The information provided below should be useful in helping you get started.

Generally, heath is a plant used to embellish gardens. This species is found in Europe, Siberia, South Africa and in the Mediterranean basin. It belongs to the Ericaceae family and can reach 8 inches to 20 feet (20 cm to 6 m) depending on species. The flowers’ colour (white, pink, purple and purple) also varies according to species. Heath is a very easy to grow plant, is not demanding, and grows better on depleted, acidic, non-calcareous and sandy soil. Furthermore, it grows slowly to the point that some people prefer to plant it in a container.

Which species to choose for your garden?

In the Ericaceae family, the heath comes in the form of two genera, namely ‘Erica’ and ‘Calluna’. These two genera include about 800 species that are distinguished by the colour of their flowers, their leaves, their size and their flowering period. ‘Erica’ is the most commonly used genus in gardens and has a dozen of well-known varieties. The tree heath (Erica arborea) is distinguished by its height which can reach up to 20 feet (6 metres). Winter heath or ‘Erica carnea’ is a very easy-to-cultivate variety because it grows on almost all soils, even those that are rich in limestone. It is very resistant to the cold and its red and pink flowers appear in winter. Grey heath (Erica cinerea) thrives on acidic soils and distinguishes itself with its bell-shaped flowers. These flowers appear from June to October. When we mention the genus ‘Calluna’, we are referring to the common heather (Calluna vulgaris) and the ‘Daboecia’. The flowering period of the common heather occurs between the months of June and November. They are very hardy plants that are resistant to diseases and climatic variations. They can reach up to 20 inches (50 cm) high. The common heather is well-liked for its abundant flowering and its ability to adapt to all types of land: steep and rocky ones, among others.

How to plant heath?

Heath is a plant of which the propagation is not done by the taking of cuttings, but instead by fragmentation or division of the clumps. It grows just as well in-ground as in containers. Regarding the quality of the soil, it does not need to be rich. On the contrary, the more depleted the soil is, the better the heath’s growth will be. In addition most of the heath species prefer acidic and non-calcareous soil, in short, ground that does not hold water at all times. The ideal time period to plant heath is in spring or autumn and the clump should not be pushed in the ground too deeply. Beforehand, it is recommended to add a little peat to the planting hole. In addition, it is advisable to soak the heath in water before planting it once the clod appears to be dry. Once planting is completed, remember to pack down the earth before watering it.

How to take care of heath?

To prevent heath from becoming too tall, it must be cut from an early age and the ideal time to prune it is usually right aftter flowering. To maintain its brightness and harmonious appearance, the dry parts and those left  hanging must be removed in order to maintain a uniform clump. Moreover, the tools used, such as scissors and shears, must be appropriate and sharp enough. As for the clumps that are deemed too old, they will be divided and used to propagate other heaths. You can also use fertilizer to amend the soil or substances to provide heath with added resistance to disease and pests. Nevertheless, this procedure should be carried out in spring, not after St. John’s Day in order not to jeopardize the plant’s survival. When winter arrives, it is recommended to simply protect the plant with insulating material or, even better, by using branches of conifers. In any case, it is imperative to remove them as soon as winter is over.

The beauty of heath

With its evergreen and extended foliage, heath is a magnificent plant to have in your garden. You can use different species of heath to create a beautiful flower garden of varying colours (rose, red, white) that remains throughout the year. Erica’s thick needle-shaped leaves or those of Calluna, which look like shells, give heath gardens a wonderful and unique appearance.  These plants can also be used as decorative vegetation, as ground cover for borders, clumps, etc.

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Published in Heath by Alexander on 31 Aug 2011