Heather – Erica carnea

Heather produces a profusion of attractive flowers in the winter that can add life to a patio or windowsill at an otherwise fairly colourless time of the year. The flowers grow so closely that sometimes the leaves are barely visible.

Heather is a hardy plant that stands up to outdoor conditions all year round. It flowers in the winter so it needs to be watered in the winter months. It must not, however, be watered when there is a frost as this will freeze the roots and destroy them.

Heather can be brought indoors in a tub or pot when it flowers but this is likely to shorten its life. If this is done, it should be kept cool at between 7° and 10°C (45°-50°F), to prolong the plant’s flowering period.Heather - Erica carnea

Heather (Erica cornea) is a shrub that grows to between 15-25cm (6— 10in). It has woody, branching stems with • short, pointed leaves 5— lOmm (½-2/5in) long. The dark pink flowers have rounded central sections and are 6mm (1/4in) long. They are borne on short stalks, of approximately equal length, along a central stem with the first-produced flowers at the bottom of the stem. There are many cultivars of Erica cornea available, some with foliage of a different colour and others which have differently coloured flowers.

Through The Year


In March and early April the last flowers are borne. In May cut back plants that have grown too large. Take off up to one third of the length of the stems.


During this time, Heather requires a rest. Water it so as to keep the compost in the tub or the window-box moist at all times.

September-November In September, propagate by taking tip cuttings 3-4cm (11/4-13/4in) long, and put 6-8 in a pot of rooting compost. Cover with a polythene bag and when rooting occurs, put in a tub or window-box containing soil-based compost.

December—February Heather should be in bloom. Water to keep compost just moist.

Pests And Diseases

The plant produces few stems and flowers if there is insufficient water or feeding.

Treatment: Water the plant and increase feeding. Do not forget that Heather needs water in the winter when it is flowering. Do not water the plant when the weather is frosty as the water will freeze in the compost and damage the roots.

Large Heather shrubs become bare in the centre when they are getting old. Treatment: Remove from tubs and divide, throwing away straggly sections. Re-plant smaller plants in tubs, or take cuttings.

Heather brought indoors loses flowers early when it is too warm. Treatment: Keep at 7°— 10°C (45°-50°F) to prolong flowering.


Heather is easy to care for providing it has the correct compost and proper light.

  • Potting: Erica cornea will tolerate a limy compost, unlike other types of heather. Use a soil-based compost.
  • Water generously in the summer, keeping the compost moist at all times. Water moderately in the winter, giving just enough to moisten the compost. Do not water when there is a frost.
  • Feeding: Feed occasionally during the flowering season with a dilute liquid fertilizer. Do not feed during the rest of the year.


  • Light: Heather will grow in bright sun and in partial shade. In shade it will not develop many flowers.
  • Temperature: Heather is a hardy plant that survives outside in a tub or window-box all year.

Buying Tips

  • The best time to buy Heather is in the spring or the summer so it can be planted in a tub or window-box before its winter flowering.
  • Look for a compact plant with robust stems and healthy looking, needle-like leaves.
  • Heather will survive outside in a window-box or tub for many years.

Grown for the pretty flowers it produces during late autumn and winter, Heather does best in a cool environment. It is best kept on a patio in a large tub.

Selected varieties

The heights (H) and spreads (S) are those likely to be attained after about five years, although local conditions will cause S 30 cm (1 ft) Spring foliage is dark green, with shades of gold, pink and red. Lilac-mauve flowers, ’Peter Sparkes’ H 40 cm (16 in) S45 cm (18 in) Grey-green foliage. Deep pink flower spikes, from double flowers, from mid-July.

Callunas with striking foliage include: variations. From August. August to October. ’Beoley Gold’ Varieties of Calluna vulgaris ‘Alba Elata’ green. Single white flowers, from mid-July.

‘County Wicklow’ ’Joy Vanstone’ H 45 cm (18 in) S 65 cm (26 in) Pale green foliage. ’Radnor’ H 25 cm (10in) S 40cm (16 in) Dark green foliage. H 40 cm (16 in) S45 cm (18 in) Golden-yellow foliage. Pure white flowers, from H 25 cm (10 in) H 20 cm (S in) Single, reddish flowers, Short dense spikes of late July.

S 35 cm (14 in) S 30 cm (12 in) from mid-August. Silvery-lilac flowers, ‘Blazeaway’

Medium green foliage. Medium green foliage. ’Mair’s Variety’ from July. H 35 cm (14 in)

Single white flowers, Long spikes of double H 58 cm (23 in) ’Rosalind’ S40cm (16in) from August. Rose-pink flowers, from S 75 cm (30 in) H 25 cm (10 in) Yellow foliage, orange ‘Alba Plena’ July. Medium green foliage. S 38 cm (15 in) and red tints in winter.

H 20 cm (8 in) ’Elsie PurnelP Single white flowers, Pale green foliage, Pale mauve flowers, S 30 cm (12 in) H 50 cm (20 in) from late July. Golden in winter. From mid-August.

Medium green foliage. S 50 cm (20 in) ’Mullion’ Mauve-pink flowers, ’Gold Haze’ Double white flowers, Grey-green foliage. H 15 cm (6 in) from August. H 40 cm (16 in) from August. Double rose-pink S 25 cm (10 in) ’Tib’ S 45 cm (18 in) ‘August Beauty’ flowers on long spikes, Mid-green foliage. H 25 cm (10 in) Yellow-gold foliage.

H 25 cm (10 in) from August. Rose-purple flowers S 30 cm (12 in) Long sprays of double

S 30 cm (12 in) ’Fred J. Chappie’ from August. Somewhat Dark green foliage. White flowers, from mid-

Mature foliage is dark H 25 cm (10 in) prostrate. Cyclamen-coloured August. 17s

Selected varieties (cont.)

Varieties of Calluna vulgaris (with striking foliage) ‘GOLDEN CARPET’ H 15 cm (6 in) S40cm (16in) Yellow and orange foliage. Purple flowers, from early August. Prostrate.

‘HIRSUTA Typica’ H 35 cm (14 in) S4$cm (18in) Grey foliage. Pale lilac flowers from mid-July. Slow to get established and flowers rather sparse.

‘JOHN F. LETTS’ H 15 cm (6 in) S 38 cm (15 in) Yellow-gold foliage, with tints intensified by cold. Pale lavender flowers, from early August.

‘RUTH SPARKES’ H 23 cm (9 in) S 38 cm (1 j in) Golden-yellow foliage. Long sprays of double white flowers, from early August.

‘SIR JOHN CHARRINGTON’ H30cm (i21n) S45cm (18in) Yellow and orange foliage. Maroon-purple flowers, from July.

‘SPITFIRE’ H30cm (i21n) S45cm (18in) Pale yellow foliage, turning red-gold. Pink flowers, from mid-August.

‘WICKWAR FLAME’ H35cm (i4in) S45cm (18in) Gold-orange foliage, deepening in winter. Rose flowers, from mid-July.

Varieties of Daboecia ‘BICOLOR’

H 45 cm (18 in)

S 50 cm (20 in)

Dark green foliage.

White flowers with pale purple stripes, April to



H45 cm (18 in)

S 50 cm (20 in)

Foliage is dark green above, silvery beneath.

Deep pink flowers, from

May. Less hardy than some others.


H 30 cm (12 in)

S 50 cm (20 IN)

Bright green foliage.

White flowers, from


Varieties of Erica Herbacea, the winter-flowering group ‘ALAN Coates’

H 15 cm (6 in)

S 30 cm (12 in)

Mid-green foliage.

Rose-purple flowers, from February.


H 1 y cm (6 in)

S 30 cm (12 in)

Young foliage is yellow, deepening to gold.

Purple flowers, from



H15-22 cm (6-9 in)

S38-45 cm (15-18 in)

Pale pink flowers.

Late flowering.


H 15 cm (6 in)

S45 cm (18 in)

Deep green foliage.

Rose-red flowers, from late November.


H 20 cm (8 in)

S25 cm (10 in)

Deep green foliage.

Carmine flowers for long period in winter.



H 22 cm (9 in)

S38-50 cm (15-20 in)

Deep pink flowers.


H 15-22 cm (6-9 in)

S 38-45 cm (15-18 in)

Compact, with dark green foliage. Rich pink flowers.

‘LOUGHRIGG’ H 10 cm (4 in) S 30 cm (12 in) Blue-green foliage. Rose-purple flowers, from early February.

‘MRS SAM DONCASTER’ H 15 cm (6 in) S 38-45 cm (15-18 in) Greyish-green foliage of a loose habit. Rosy purple flowers.

‘MYRETOUN RUBY’ H 20 cm (8 in) S 30 cm (12 in) Dark green foliage. Red-brown flower buds open to deep pink flowers, later bright red, from February.

‘PINK SPANGLES’ H 15 cm (6 in) S 50 cm (20 in) Bright green foliage. Deep pink flowers, from November.

‘PIRBRIGHT ROSE’ H 20 cm (8 in) S 38-50 cm (15-20 in) Glaucous-tinged red foliage.

Red-purple flowers.

‘PRINCE OF WALES’ H 15 cm (6 in) S25 cm (10 in) Pale green foliage, sometimes red-tipped. Pink flowers, from February. Rather slow-growing.

‘RUBY GLOW’ H 25 cm (10 in) S 50 cm (20 in) Dark green foliage. Ruby-red flowers, from January. ‘THOMAS KINGSCOTE’ H 18 cm (7 in) S 27 cm (11 in) Pale green foliage. Pink flowers, from January. Slow-growing.

Varieties of E. Herbacea with striking foliage include: ‘Aurea’

H 18 cm (7 in)

S45 cm (18 in) Lime-green foliage turns gold in winter. Deep pink flowers, from February ‘FOXHOLLOW’ H 18 cm (7 in) S45 cm (18 in) Young foliage is lime-green, maturing to yellow in winter. Red tints in cold weather. Flowers white, shading to pink, from February.

‘LESLEY SPARKES’ H 18 cm (7 in) S 23 cm (9 in) Pale yellow foliage with salmon tips. Deep pink flowers, from February.

‘SUNSHINE RAMBLER’ H 20 cm (8 in) S 38 cm (15 in) Golden-yellow foliage. Pink flowers, from February. Spreads rather quickly.

Varieties of Erica cinerea ‘C. D. EASON’ H 32 cm (13 in) S 45 cm (18 in) Dark green foliage. Abundant deep pink flowers, from June.

‘EG.Best’ H 30cm (121n) S30CIT

Salmon pink flowers on long strong stems.

‘CEVENNES’ H 25 cm (10 in) S 30 cm (12 in) Light green foliage. Lavender-rose flowers, from late June.

‘COLLIGAN BRIDGE’ H 35 cm (14 in) S45 cm (18 in) Dark green, glossy foliage. Red-purple flowers, from June. Rather vigorous.

‘DUNCAN FRASER’ H 30cm (12 in) S30cm (i21n) A robust habit. White flowers tinged with soft pink.

‘GLASNEVIN RED’ H 35 cm (14 in)

S45 cm (18 in) Dark green foliage. Striking ruby-red flowers, from June.

‘G. OSMOND’ H 30cm (12 in) S 30cm (12 in) Very pale mauve flowers.

‘PALLIDA’ H 38 cm (15 in) S43 cm (17 in) Medium green foliage. Pale lilac flowers, from June.

‘PINK FOAM’ H 30 cm (12 in) S45 cm (18 in) Dark green foliage. Near-white flowers tinged mauve-pink, from mid-June.

‘VELVET NIGHT’ H 25 cm (ioin) S 30 cm (12 in) Dark green foliage. Dark maroon to purple flowers, from June.

Varieties of Erica vagans ‘FIDDLESTONE’

H45cm (18in)

S45 cm (18in)

Good grower and flowers well.

Pink-cerise flowers.


H 40 cm (16 in)

S48CIT) (19 in)

Pale green foliage. White flowers with gold anthers, from mid-July.


H 27 cm (11 in)

S45 cm (18 in)

Dull, dark green foliage.

Cerise flowers with brown stamens, from



H 25 cm (10 in)

S45 cm (18 in)

Dark green foliage.

Rose-pink flowers, tinged white, from mid-



H 15 cm (6 in)

S 25 cm (10 in)

Yellowish foliage. White flowers, from July.


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