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Growing Heather

Written by Jessica on July 20th, 2011

Heather, Calluna vulgaris, is a small evergreen shrub that grows wild throughout Europe. Traditionally it is used in teas to help reduce inflammation and treat acid reflux. Heather plants typically grow up to 3 feet tall, and bloom bell shaped flowers in summer. There are many different cultivars of heather that offer different season color interests as well.

Heather seeds are very small and can be difficult to grow. For this reason it is recommended to plant seedlings. Heather grows best in acidic, well-draining soil, and full sun. Seedlings should be planted in spring to allow the roots time to become established before winter. When planting, gardeners should be very careful with the small fragile roots. Spreading compost or mulch around the plant will help keep the soil moist. Heather can be easily damaged by winds, and should be planted in an area that offers some shelter.

While heather requires little care some basic maintenance is needed. The plant does not need extra water during the growing season unless there is a prolonged dry spell. Mulch and compost should be replaced every year to help add nutrients to the soil. Annual pruning of heather can help plant vigor and improve appearance. Pruning should be done after flowering end, but before new buds begin to form. Neglected plants can be brought back to life with one heavy pruning. The plant should be cut back to their base, and in time new growth will appear.

Two common pests that heather plants suffer from are scale insects and the black vine weevil. Both soft and hard bodied scale insects can infest a heather plant. Damage can appear as wilted or curled leaves. Bark infested by scales may crack. Heavily infested plants can be sprayed wit horticultural oil during the cool season to control pest populations.

Adult black vine weevils feed on the foliage of the plant, but their larvae feed on the roots. Damage to roots can cause root illness, limb brakeage, and in some cases the death of the plant. Removing and destroying the adults can reduce the populations, and parasitic nematodes can be used to control larvae populations.


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