Add Structure To Your Garden With Heath And Heather Shrubs

Heaths and heathers are shrubs everyday gardeners may not know about. Heaths and heathers are a hardy plant that once established is drought tolerant and is an easy care shrub, providing color and shape to your garden. A mass planting of blooming heaths and heathers is a beautiful addition to any garden.

The Difference Between Heaths and Heathers

There are two main varieties of heath and heather shrubs. Heathers are a cultivar of the species Calluna vulgaris that is hardy in Zones 5-7 and has more than 500 varieties available. Heaths are of the Erica species, which is hardy in Zones 7-9 or 10 and has more than 700 varieties available. Heaths tend to have a greater susceptibility to cold weather. Heaths and heathers are identical when it comes to form and growing habits. Flowers are small and tubular, with blooms facing downward. Some heaths feature bell shaped flowers. Heaths and heathers have different types of leaves. Heathers have flat leaves while heaths have needlelike leaves much like pine needles. The tallest of the shrubs are E. arborea (Tree Heath) and E. scoparia (Besom Heath), which can grow up to 6-7 m tall.

Planting Conditions for Heath and Heather Shrubs

Heaths and heathers are often thought of as boggy plants, but in fact they love the sun. Heaths and heathers prefer acid soil. Heaths and heathers require at least six hours of sunlight during the day for optimum growth. With that amount of sun needed for good growth you’d think heaths and heathers would not survive well on the coast but in fact they thrive there as well as warmer locations. Heathers do not like wet feet, so make sure they are planted in well-drained soil. The first year of care for heaths and heathers is important because their roots are very delicate and they must receive weekly watering to help them settle in. Do not let heath and heather shrubs dry out the first year in the ground or you may lose the plant in the process. Once the shrubs are established after a year they are drought tolerant in your garden.

Pruning Heaths and Heathers

Heaths and heathers are an easy maintenance plant, requiring at minimum a yearly shearing of the plant after they bloom. Prune only down to the end of the flowering on the branches to remove the old bloom growth for next year’s bloom. Do not cut down into the center of the old wood or the shrub may not grow back entirely. If you do not prune heathers after they bloom they may become a bit scraggly looking, with thinning sections on the branches where blooms once were.

A small hand pruner with a slightly curved blade is ideal to shape the heaths and heathers, the smaller blades fit easily into the thinner branches of the shrubs while pruning. Spring, summer, and winter blooming heaths and heathers need to be pruned according to their bloom cycle.

Heaths and Heathers Provide Color For Your Garden

Heaths and heathers are ideal for any season, particularly the winter months. Flower colors range from whites, pinks, lavenders, purples, and burgundy. The flowers of heathers have bell or tubular shapes that line the branches of the shrub, making a colorful statement at varying times of the year. Some spring and summer heathers have beautiful cream and orange leaf colors, but nothing compares to the brilliant colored leaves of winter heaths in cold weather when most flowering plants are dormant.

Heath and heather leaves come in a variety of green shades, silver leaf color, and gold, orange, and red tones. The colors often run into each other, creating a cascade of colors on the shrub branches. Many of the fall and winter heaths have gold, orange, and red toned leaves that deepen as it gets colder, providing your garden with vivid colors in the dead of winter.

Heaths and Heathers In The Garden

Heaths and heathers are a wonderful choice for edging borders, planting on hillsides, and as a structural component to shape your garden. Find out if there is a heather farm in your area, generally heaths and heathers are sold at discounted prices or even half the price of what they sell for in garden stores. With the wide varieties of heath and heather blooms and leaf colors available in garden stores you will always find the right combination for your garden landscape.

About the author: Daria Goetsch is a gardener, blogger, writer, and search engine marketer. Her gardening hobby translated into her gardening blogs Gardeningbytes and North Coast Gardening, providing gardening tips, information, and articles for the home gardener.

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