The Calluna vulgaris, also known as the Common Heather or Ling, is a perennial, cold-hardy small shrub that belongs to the Calluna genus and the Ericaceae family. Heather is one of the most well-known mountain and forest shrubs in Europe, North America, and Asia, and these regions constitute its natural habitat.
Heather is a low-growing plant, a dwarf shrub. Its height can vary between 20-50 cm (8-20 inch), and its branches are densely covered with leaves. The Heather's flowers are small, pointed, and densely cover the branches, hiding the leaves. The flowers come in various colors, ranging from white to pink, red, purple, and even violet. In some varieties, the bloomed flowers and the new shoots that appear in early spring have particularly vibrant colors.
Heather is known by many names, including Calluna, Calluna Heather, Ling, Beauty ladies, broom flower. It should not be confused with the Erica flower (Cape Heath / Erica gracilis), which is a different plant. The most noticeable difference is that Erica's flowers are fuller, bell shaped and open at the tip, while Heather's flowers are pointed and closed at the tip. They are sometimes called Erica vulgaris, mixing their Latin names, but there is currently no such plant with that name.
Due to its robust and long-lasting blooming, Heather is a popular ornamental plant and is often used to decorate gardens, terraces, and balconies. The plant perfectly adapts to cold climates and acidic soil, which make it difficult for other plants to survive. They provide a pleasant and eye-catching sight in the autumn when many other plants have finished flowering, and thus make the gardens more colorful.
Bees also love Heather flowers because they can access it easily and the flowers contain a lot of nectar, making it a valuable plant for bee pastures. In some places, they even sell Heather honey as a specialty.
The Common Heather (Calluna vulgaris) is the national flower of Norway. In the autumn months, Norway is identified by the blooming of Heathers, they are part of Norwegian traditions and culture. White Heather is a symbol of good luck in Scotland, where its branches are often included in wedding bouquets. This tradition was introduced to England by Queen Victoria.
Heather is a versatile plant, and besides its ornamental value, its stems were historically used to make brooms and brushes. They were also woven into baskets and used for thatched roofs. In Scotland, it has been used for textile dyeing since the 18th century. The colors are extracted from the woody stems through various processes. Most often the yellow, orange colors.
Heather care in brief: plant it in a sunny or partially shaded location in slightly acidic soil. Don't let the soil dry out excessively, but avoid stagnant water. It may require more watering during the summer. Heather is cold-resistant and frost-tolerant, but protect it from severe frost.
Heather care in pots, balcony boxes, gardens, and rock gardens happens in a similar way. There are only minor differences, which will be explained below.
Heather has a moderate light requirement, thrives best in bright, partially shaded location. It can also tolerate full sun, but protect it from strong afternoon sunlight. Intense, direct sunlight can dry out its leaves and harm the plant, especially during the summer months.
Under optimal light conditions, it grows well, producing a dense foliage. However, if placed in overly shaded areas, it may become less dense and produce fewer flowers.
With the right amount of light, it typically blooms in the fall and winter.
Heather is a perennial, cold-resistant dwarf shrub. It is relatively cold-tolerant, it feels better in milder, cooler environment. Colder winters are not a problem for it either, as during this time, the plants are dormant and can withstand lower temperatures.
High temperatures and hot, dry weather are not the best for the Calluna vulgaris flower and can harm the plant in the long run. Extreme heatwaves and prolonged, hot summers can cause the plant to dry out.
In spring and summer, during the active growth period, a temperature range of 15-20°C (60-70°F) is ideal. In winter, a lower temperature range of 0-10°C (32-50°F) is suitable, but as the plant strengthens year by year, it can withstand even lower temperatures.
Calluna vulgaris plant is native to temperate regions, and is mostly used to low humidity in its natural habitat. Heather has moderate water requirements but needs regular watering. However, between waterings allow the soil to dry out roughly, but not completely.
It does not like stagnant water, so choose well-draining soil to prevent the roots from sitting in water for prolonged periods.
On hot summer days, more frequent watering may be necessary. During spring and autumn, it requires less watering. In general, it is not necessary to water in the winter months, but if there is no snow and no rain during the winter, it may become necessary to water the plant.
Water Heather with soft water because hard water with a high pH can raise the soil's pH, which is not ideal for Calluna plants. If the tap water's pH is too high or the water is too hard, you can use rainwater, filtered water, or distilled water instead.
Heather does not require excessive fertilization, but a moderate amount of nutrients can help the plant grow and flourish healthily. It is essential to maintain moderation and proper timing when fertilizing.
You should fertilize it in spring or early summer, during their active growth period. Avoid fertilizing in autumn and winter, as the plants are in their dormant phase during this period.
It needs slightly acidic soil, so choose a fertilizer or manure that mildly acidifies the soil, such as rhododendron or azalea fertilizer. Such fertilizers can help maintain the soil's pH at an appropriate level.
Planting Heather is straightforward, but a few considerations are worth keeping in mind. The soil should be slightly acidic, with a pH of around 4.5-5.5. We can acidify the soil with rhododendron or azalea fertilizer. Plant it in well-draining soil, as its roots don't like stagnant water.
For care of Heather, it's the best to plant it in spring or early autumn. During these times, the plant has the opportunity to develop roots and strengthen before the change of seasons.
If you're planting Heather in your garden, dig a deep, wide hole, approximately twice the size of the root ball. Place the plant in the hole and cover it with the excavated soil. Ensure that the plant remains at ground level. After planting, thoroughly water the soil.
The same procedure applies when planting Heather in a pot or balcony box. Plant it in a pot that has about twice as much space as the plant's roots.
When transplanting, carefully remove it from the soil, taking care to preserve the integrity of its roots. If Heather was in a pot or balcony box, loosen the soil at the edges, then lift or tip the plant out of the container.
Wintering Calluna vulgaris is relatively simple as the plant is accustomed to cooler climates. Mature, established specimens can easily withstand freezing temperatures. In most cases, Heather is frost-resistant, but it's advisable to cover young, weaker plants at the base for winter.
When caring Calluna that is kept outdoors in a pot, dig a hole and place the potted plant in it, this helps to keep its roots warmer.
The best time to place Heather in a balcony box is when you have already brought in the other plants from the cold.
Caring for Heather in a pot, indoors as a houseplant, can be more challenging. During winter, it requires a cooler environment, so find a place where the temperature stays around 10-15°C (50-60°F) at most.
When caring for Calluna in winter, avoid using fertilizers, manure. Allow the plant to rest.
Summer care for Heather can be more challenging if you live in a hot climate. Exposure to hot summer days should be avoided. Excessive heat can cause its leaves to dry out and discolor. Place it in a partially shaded location, protect it from strong afternoon sunlight.
During hot summer days, water more frequently, as its soil dries out faster.
Heather pruning is typically done in spring or early summer. Its purpose to remove faded flowers and damaged stems, and to maintain the plant's shape and size.
After the flowers have withered and dried up, cut off the faded flowers to encourage further blooming.
Examine the plant and trim any stems that have withered or been damaged. This promotes healthy growth.
We can also shape the Calluna vulgaris through pruning, if we cut back stems that have grown excessively. Be careful, as its stems do not easily regrow if pruned too deeply.
There are several methods for propagating Heather, but the simplest ways are by layering, cuttings, or division.
Layering is the simplest method for rooting Heather, creating a new plant, although it is the slowest. However, it can be done at any time.
Select a relatively long stem and pin it down to the ground. To expedite rooting, you can make a small cut at the point where the stem reaches the soil. Cover it with a bit of soil.
If necessary, secure the stem with a small wire or place a rock on top to keep it in place securely.
By removing the securing, we can check whether the layered stem has rooted. Gently pull it upward from the tip of the stem. If we feel resistance or see new growth at the layering site, the stem has rooted.
Once it has rooted nicely, we can cut it off from the mother plant and transplant it to grow independently.
Propagation by cuttings is a bit more complicated than layering, but it roots faster. It is best done in late summer or early autumn, after flowering has finished.
Cut a healthy, non-flowering branch that's about 15 cm (6 inch) long. Remove the leaves and dead flowers from the lower part of the stem.
Plant the cuttings in small pots or trays. Water the soil thoroughly and then cover it with plastic wrap or glass.
The cuttings will develop roots within a few weeks or a couple of months. Once you see new green growth at the top of the stem, you can transplant them into larger pots or to their desired location.
If the mother plant has become sufficiently large, we can easily propagate Calluna by dividing after removing it from the ground. Make sure to leave an adequate amount of roots on the separated stems.
After separating, we can plant it in its new location right away. Water the separated stems thoroughly to help their roots strengthen.
Propagation of Heather from seeds can be time-consuming. Plant the seeds in the fall or early spring.
First, collect fresh seeds after flowering has ended. Slightly dry the seeds, then plant them in moist soil.
Plants grown from seeds will take time to grow large and strong enough for outdoor planting.
Heather's flowers are small, pointed, and densely cover the plant's stems. Its inflorescence is dense and rich. The flowers line up longly along the stems.
Heather, also known as ling, blooms in autumn. The timing of flowering can vary depending on the variety and climate, but it typically occurs between September and November.
Natural colors of heather flowers include white, green, pink, reddish, and purple. Other colors like light green, orange, lilac, blue, silver are artificially dyed colors. These colors won't wear off even in the rain, but over time - approx. 1 year - will grow off.
The Calluna multicolore or the tricolor heather just the name of their appearance. In fact, what is happening here is that several Calluna flowers of different colors are planted together in a single pot.
Gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) is a rot that appears on the leaves and flowers of heather. It occurs in damp and humid environments, so it's essential to keep the leaves and flowers dry. Proper ventilation and reducing humidity are important if heather is grown indoors in pots.
Rust (Puccinia spp.) can create yellow or orange pustules on heather leaves, which weakens the plant. The use of chemical or biological insecticides can help in its removal.
Various insects, such as aphids, moths, and caterpillars, may chew on heather leaves.
Slugs can chew on heather leaves and flowers. You can protect against them using slug barriers.
Overwatering can harm the plant, potentially causing it to rot.
Heather is not toxic and is not dangerous to small animals, cats, dogs, or humans. However, consuming it is not recommended.