Heathers grow wild in heathlands and open woodlands, and make colourful and compact garden plants too. Most need acidic soil, but otherwise are easy going, drought tolerant and low maintenance. They produce a profusion of tiny flowers across various seasons, which are a valuable nectar source for bees, especially in winter. White-flowered heather is traditionally believed to bring good luck.


Heathers are generally small evergreen shrubs that carpet the ground and produce masses of tiny bell-like blooms, densely packed onto small flower spikes. These come in a choice of colours, from purple to mauve, pink, red and white. These nectar-rich blooms are usually buzzing with bees.


Heathers such as Calluna and Daboecia need acidic soil or can be grown in containers of ericaceous (acidic) compost. They flower from summer to autumn and prefer plenty of sun and free-draining soil. A light trim after flowering is beneficial to keep them in good shape.
Erica carnea and E x darleyensis are able to tolerate a heavier, more alkaline soil. They produce their flowers in autumn and winter.


Heathers don’t like deep shade or damp conditions. Don’t feed them too much as they have evolved in nutrient-poor heathland soil. Avoid pruning them back hard as they often won't produce new growth when cut back into old wood. 

Did you know?

Bees adore heather flowers. However, a few types of heather (known as bud-bloomers) don’t ever open their flowers, so avoid these if you want to attract nectar-loving insects. Look for plants with the RHS Plants for Pollinators logo.

Growing guide

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