All plants that require an acidic environment to thrive are grouped and known as varieties of heath soil plants. The soil of most gardens is hardly appropriate to these plants unless it is located in a region where the soil is both fresh and acidic. In addition, this type of plant does not really like sunlight and prefers to be grown in a shaded area that is protected from wind gusts.

To ensure a good growth of heath plants, a soil of which the pH is 6 or less is required. This type of soil is not often found in gardens, our recommendation is for you to buy some or, failing that, to prepare it yourself. The preparation technique is time consuming but it is well worth the trouble and costs almost nothing in the end. To achieve it, start by keeping the leaves you cut off when pruning your trees. They can be turned into compost, with the exception of glazed and thick foliage that take time to deteriorate. Let the leaves decompose for a year and a half to two years without adding any chemical agent. Turn the compost frequently and moisten it with water if necessary. Add some purchased heath land. You can also compost crushed and moistened spinney wood before mixing it with a bit of heath earth.

Planting heath plants

Weed the selected plot of land to eradicate weeds. Once you have obtained or purchased enough heath soil, you can proceed to the next step which consists of first digging a hole five times wider than the root ball to be grown. Crumble the soil extracted from the hole and remove the stones or wood fragments it may contain. Mix one third of this earth with two thirds of heath soil. Meanwhile, soak the plant’s roots in water to moisten the clod of earth that surrounds them as well. If the roots are balled up, comb them gently to untangle them. Then, pour in organic manure that is specifically made for heath plants at the bottom of the pit. Plant the vegetable in the centre of the hole, taking care to spread its roots well. However, if the land is extremely calcareous, insert a geotextile fleece into the pit to form a hole made up of only heath soil. Then fill the pit with the mixture of earth, heath soil and garden soil. Tamp the ground and water thoroughly.

Selection of heath plants to grow

Heath plants are sold in specialized stores, in containers or as buds, with the exception of azaleas and witch hazel which are sold with their roots bare. It is best to buy them in their dormant phase. While making your purchase, ensure that the seedlings are in good health and inquire about the flowering period of the species you have selected. Please be aware that heath plants are never grown in winter. When the nice weather is about to return, you can proceed with their cultivation. First of all, magnolias and hostas must always grow in an acidic environment, unlike Bergenia. The Japanese Maple and Acer will become shrubs, which is ideal for decorating a large garden. To cover a grid or be trained on a fence, choose Gaultheria, which goes very well with ivy in winter. To give a fern more emphasis, select the hellebore, which usually blooms from November to March and requires to be grown in part shade. Delineate your yard by using viburnum or guelder roses to create low hedges. If you have a body of water in your garden and wish to decorate it, buy a selection of Astilbe plants, as they love both the moisture and the shade. Only one variety of heath plants stands out in flower beds, provided that it is integrated with other varieties of heath.

Maintenance of heath plants

Among all the heath plants, only the azaleas will never be pruned, except for the faded flower scapes. Dogwood and hydrangea, on the other hand, will be pruned every year in March. For this you need to prune old flower stems and old branches that are within 2 inches (5 cm) of the ground’s surface. This operation will stimulate regrowth. Weed and water the area in summer with non-mineral water or rain water to prevent an outbreak of chlorosis on the leaves. Mulch the shrubs’ base with pine bark. Cochineals often invade bay laurels and heath plants, exposing them to sooty mould.  Remove insect scales with a cotton swab dipped in 180 proof alcohol or with systemic pesticide. Treat aphids as well because they can bring about incurable diseases. The weevil attacks the roots of azaleas and, in that case treat the plant with a pesticide, taking care to spray the required dose, otherwise you may weaken the heath plant. Finally, remember that excessive heat followed by over-watering causes powdery mildew.

Related posts:

  1. Heath earth
  2. Maintaining a garden established on clay soil
  3. Draining your garden
  4. Growing and maintaining azaleas
  5. Growing exotic plants

Published in Heath by Alexander on 31 Aug 2011