Botanical name: Erica
Common name: Heath, heather
These small evergreen shrubs more than earn their keep, with long-lasting, colourful flower displays, often in winter when little else is in bloom. They are ideal for small gardens and containers or can be massed together in borders to create a tapestry of colours that change through the seasons. Tree heathers, on the other hand, form large shrubs, providing year-round structure and bee-friendly blooms.
Tiny bell-shaped or tubular flowers, in shades of pink, purple, red or white, smother these usually compact shrubs at various times of year, depending on the cultivar. The fine, needle-like, evergreen foliage provides yet more colour, in various shades of green or yellow, often tinged with copper.
They enjoy full sun or light shade, and a well-drained neutral to acidic soil. Mulch with leafmould or composted pine needles to keep the acidity up and improve the soil structure.
They do not grow well in shady locations, or in wet or chalky soils. They will not recover readily if pruned too hard into the older, woody stems.
Did you know?
Most ericas are heathland plants that like free-draining, acidic soil. However, there are a few that will tolerate moist, neutral to alkaline soils, such as Erica × darleyensis, E. carnea, E. vagans and E. erigena.
Containers: winter selection
Ground cover plants
Shrubs: evergreen by size
Shrubs: evergreen for specific situations
Shrubs: smaller for year round interest
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