Flowers and Seasons

How to Plant and Grow Heather Flowers

The herbaceous evergreen heather (Calluna vulgaris) is the only species in the genus Calluna that belongs to the heath family. Today there are about 500 varieties of heather, most of which have a very high ornamental quality. Under natural conditions, it is found in Europe (extending from the coniferous-broadleaf zone to the tundra), in North Africa, Greenland, the temperate zones of Asia, the Azores, and the Atlantic coast of North America. It prefers to grow in peat bogs, heaths, and forests.

In old Scottish legend, it is said that of all the plants, only the heather was willing, at the request of its creator, to grow on the bare rocky hills through which all the winds blow. It was rewarded with unpretentiousness, endurance, good fragrance, and a charming appearance. Even today, where heather grows, no other plant can be found. At times it occupies vast areas that are referred to as heather heaths.

Features of Heather

Heather is a strongly branched evergreen shrub with a height of 30-70 centimeters. The small leaf laminae, which are triangular, are rolled up into a tube. The small, fragrant, bell-shaped flowers are purplish-pink. They are part of one-lobed clusters. Flowering starts in the second half of summer but is most beautiful after the first frost when its leaves are colored burgundy and yellow. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a ballad about Heather called ‘Heather Honey.’

The plant is an excellent honeybee, with heather honey regarded as the most useful. Landscape designers use heather to decorate alpine rockeries, plant it along garden paths, and use it to create borders that look very striking against the dwarf conifers.

Growing Heather From Seed

Suppose you want to grow heather from seed. In that case, you will have to be patient because it is long and experienced gardeners recommend planting heather in the spring, from the second half of April to the first days of May; it can also be done in autumn from the end of September to the first days of October. Open, well-lit areas are best for planting, but they can also be planted in the penumbra. Peaty, damp, or dry sandy soils are best suited.

Do not plant the plant in limey soil. It is alright if the soil contains few nutrients, but the pH should always be 4.5-5.5. Heather will grow best in soil consisting of sand, peat, and wood bark compost (coniferous earth), which should be taken in the proportion 1:3:2. The place where the heather is growing should be protected from gusts of wind. Add reddish bitter peat to the soil to acidify it.

How to Plant

Depending on the variety, 6 to 10 seedlings should be planted in a 1 square-meter area. The bush should be sunk 25-35 centimeters into the soil, with the root neck at the same level as the soil surface. If the soil is clay soil, a drainage layer consisting of sand or brick fragments should be made in the planting hole, and its height should be 5 to 10 centimeters.

Water the planted heather at a rate of 5-6 liters per shrub. Cover the plot’s surface with mulch (coniferous wood chips or peat). Remember that the plant is extremely resistant to replanting, so choose the best place for it and take good care of it so that it does not have to be replanted.

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What can make you feel good, however, is that heather seeds germinate at an excellent rate of 90 percent. Spread the seeds on the pot’s surface and do not bury them. Cover the container with glass and wait for the seeds to germinate.

A substrate consisting of sand, coniferous earth, and peat, taken in a 1:1:2 ratio, is recommended for sowing the seeds. The seeds should be kept warm (about 20 degrees Celsius) and require a high humidity level for the first 7 days. After four weeks, the first shoots will appear. Immediately after the emergence of the seedlings, you should start hardening them. Open the cover for a while. Once the seedlings have grown strongly, they should be pricked and planted in individual pots or transplanted into containers.

Care Features

Heather has a short root system, so it should be watered regularly if there is no frequent rainfall, and acidified water should be used. Be aware that the soil surface should be kept slightly moist. Therefore it is essential to cover the soil surface with a layer of mulch. Mulch also prevents the soil from getting too hot on hot days. Water the heather once every 10-15 days. Once the soil has been watered, it is necessary to loosen it to a depth of 10 to 15 centimeters and pull out all the weeds. Soil should be reduced and weeded through the mulch. In hot weather, the plant may suffer from arid air, so it is advisable to wet it every evening with a sprayer.

Remember to fertilize every year in the spring (in April or May) with a full mineral fertilizer and 1.5 to 2 spoonfuls of nutrients per plant (20 to 30 grams per square meter). Spread the dry fertilizer carefully and ensure that it doesn’t come into contact with the leaves and flowers. Otherwise, it will cause burns. The fertilizer should then be incorporated into the mulch and thoroughly watered soil.

Pruning should be carried out in spring every year; this will form and stimulate the growth of the young shoots. However, intensive pruning can only be done when 3 years have passed since the heather was planted. Ensure that the crown shape is maintained. Pruning rule: Hold the inflorescence by its upper part with your left hand and cut off ½ or 2/3 of the inflorescence with your right hand. The cuttings can be finely chopped and sprinkled on top of the mulch.

Heather After Flowering

This plant will survive the winter very well in warmer climates without being covered. But if the winters are harsh and snowy, preparing the heather for the winter is best. When frost sets in, cover the site with a layer of peat, protecting it from frost and sunburns in the spring. The cover will need to be removed in April.
Main Species and Varieties
There are excellent wide varieties of heather, of which there are currently about 500. Gardeners divide all these cultivars into 5 other groups.

Group 1. Varieties with green foliage

  • Allegro. This evergreen shrub is about 0.6 m tall and has a crown diameter of about 0.5 m. There is a compact, fairly dense crown, dark brown bark, and scaly, dark green leaf lamellae. Flowering occurs from the last days of July to the end of October. The red-carmine flowers are simply glossy and are collected in long inflorescences. The plant is winter-hardy; only the young bushes need to be covered for wintering.
  • Carmen. This hybrid variety, bred in Holland, is very popular in European countries. The bush reaches 0.3-0.4 m in height and has a rounded crown, small dark green leaves, dark brown bark, and simple pinkish-purple flowers collected in peduncles (lengths up to 10 centimeters). It is frost-hardy but needs to be covered over the winter.
  • Other popular varieties include Radnor, Duckness, Ross Hutton, Mazurka, Marco, Barnett Anley, Hookstone, etc.

Group 2. Varieties with white flowers Silver Knight.

    This variety was bred in England. The bush is about 0.3 m tall, and the diameter of the compact cushion-shaped crown is 0.45 m. The bark is dark brown, and the grayish-silver leaves are pubescent. The leaves turn maroon in winter. Simple pale purple or lilac flowers in inflorescences measure 20 centimeters in length. Resistant to cold but will need to be covered for the winter.

  • Peter Sparks. Also, an English variety. The bush is about 0.5m tall, and the diameter of its oval crown is 0.6m. The bark is dark brown, and the small-scale-like leaves are dark green in summer and autumn and greenish-gray in winter and spring. Terry dark pink flowers are part of the inflorescences, which are 0.3 m long. It is moderately frost-hardy.
  • Other popular varieties include Annmarie, Velvet Fashions, Jan Decker, Glendwick Silver, etc.

Group 3. Varieties with golden-colored foliage and green foliage

  • Alba. The upright bush is about 0.4m tall, and the crown is about 0.55m in diameter. The ascending branches have deep green leaf lamellae. White flowers are clustered in dense, clustered inflorescences.
  • Alexandra. Spherical shaped bushes

Group 4. Varieties that have terry flowers

  • Autumn Glow. The spreading shrub is about 0.3 m tall and has a crown diameter of about 0.45 m. The branches have raised tips. Dark green foliage and pale purple, densely flushed flowers are part of the short, fairly dense, clustered inflorescences.
  • Monica. Broadly spreading shrub 0.55 m tall and 0.8 m crown diameter. Broadly ascending branches are very sturdy. The dark green leaves take on a grayish patina in winter. The swollen reddish-pink flowers are very large and clustered in dense inflorescences.
  • Other popular cultivars include Red Favorite, Dark Star, Alba Plena, Joan Sparks, and County Wicklow.

Group 5. Varieties with non-dehiscent flowers

  • David Eason. The rounded shrub is about 20 centimeters tall and has a crown diameter of 25 centimeters. Numerous ascending branches can be found. The leaf plates are dark green. Lilac-pink dark flowers are part of the short tassels.
  • Marlin. A German variety. The bush reaches a height of about 0.3 m and a crown diameter of 0.5 m. Dark brown bark, small dark green leaf plates. The buds are pinkish-purple or deep purple and never open.
  • Other popular varieties include Romina, Minima, and Fritz Kircher.


Heather has medicinal virtues that are used in both folk and traditional medicine. It is widely used to treat coughs, kidney disease, cystitis, pyelitis, urethritis, dysentery, diarrhea, gastritis, enterocolitis, rheumatism, gout, and skin diseases. Harvesting of flowering heather is harvested from the last days of June to September because, during this period, it is the greatest number of useful substances: flavonoids, mineral salts of phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and sodium, and organic acids. Thanks to them, the plant has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, wound healing, expectorant, diuretic, astringent, cleansing, and soothing effects.

Decoction of this shrub is used for insomnia and nervous system disorders, atherosclerosis of blood vessels, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, hyperacidity, cholecystitis, and obesity. If the throat is inflamed or there are inflammations in the mouth, the decoction is used for gargling. Alcoholic tincture of the herb helps with tuberculosis. Crushed flowers make a powder that helps with ulcers, eczema, wounds, and burns. Heather baths are used for sciatica. An infusion from the flowers is rubbed into the scalp to help eliminate hair loss and make it healthier.


What does the heather flower symbolize?

Typically, heather flowers connote luck, adoration, and safety. Due to her admiration for Scottish mythology and customs, Queen Victoria helped spread the idea that heather signifies luck in England.

What is the heather flower used for?

The plant’s top, flower, and leaves are all used to manufacture medication. For renal and lower urinary tract issues, enlarged prostate, fluid retention, gout, arthritis, sleep issues, breathing issues, cough, and colds, people drink heather tea.

Where does heather grow best?

Heathers can be grown in open spaces, alongside walkways, or up slopes. They function well in rock gardens and are appropriate for coastal gardens since they can withstand salt spray because they require soil similarly acidic to dwarf conifers.