How to Care for an Erica Christmas Plant

Overview

Erica plants are more commonly known as heather or heath in the United States. The particular species of heather commonly referred to as an Erica Christmas plant is a type of bell heather (Erica cinerea). The "Christmas bell" variety of this cone-shaped, evergreen shrub produces bell-shaped, bright-white flowers that dangle gracefully from the branches. In the wild, it is a prolific bloomer once established and can spread quite rapidly. The Erica cinerea plants that are marketed and sold as Christmas plants, however, are potted and designed to be grown indoors. Such "gift plants," as they are commonly called, require careful tending.

Step 1

Choose the correct potting medium for your Erica Christmas plant. These plants, when potted, need very loose, well-draining soil. Soil that has high levels of peat moss and sand works well. Chances are the Erica cinerea will already be planted in the ideal soil if you purchase it as a gift.

Step 2

Place the plant in a location that exposes it to full sunlight. This means that the plant should experience a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day. The Erica Christmas plant should not be allowed to get very hot, however. This shrub, which is native to South Africa, thrives in cooler (but not freezing) conditions (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit).

Step 3

Water your Erica Christmas plant just enough so that the soil remains moist, but not soggy. Empty the drainage tray immediately after watering so that the plant never sits in water. This plant will not tolerate dry soil and will quickly die if left to dry out. On the other hand, standing water or soggy soil will cause the shrub's roots to rot.

Step 4

Give the plant a light feeding of an acidic evergreen plant fertilizer at the start of the growing season (spring). Use half the normal dose as instructed on the bag or bottle, and choose a slow-release, water-soluble fertilizer. Never fertilize when the Erica Christmas plant is blooming.

Step 5

Erica Christmas bell plants do not usually live if transplanted from the pot into the ground. If you try this, wait until the blooms are spent. Then, cut the plant back, taking care not to cut into any leafless wood, and plant it in a sunny location that has well-drained soil. Note that you should not even try this if your climate has freezing temperatures. Alternately, you can preserve the plant by letting the soil dry out completely, which "dries" the white blossoms on the tree. If you touch them, they will fall off, however, so leave the plant where it sits if you go this route.

Things You'll Need

  • Watering tool
  • Evergreen plant fertilizer (acidic, water-soluble, slow-release)
  • Clippers

References

  • Hana Bay Flowers: Erica Christmas Bells
  • Arkive: Bell Heather

Who Can Help

  • Heaths and Heathers: Erica Cinerea
Keywords: Christmas plant, purple bell heather, Erica cinerea, how to care for

About this Author

April Sanders has been a professional writer since 1998. Previously, she worked as an educator and currently writes academic research content for EBSCO publishing and elementary reading curriculum for Compass Publishing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in social psychology from the University of Washington and a master's degree in information sciences and technology in education from Mansfield University.