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Heather Plant Care

heather image by Renata Osinska from

The heather plant (Calluna vulgaris), commonly called Scottish heather, grows as an evergreen broad leaf shrub with a height of approximately 3 feet and a spread of 3 feet, but a few varieties form small tufts barely 4 inches in height. From June to August the plant produces an abundance of pinkish-purple flower terminals that average 2 feet in height. A few varieties offer foliage shades of red, orange and bronze in the winter.

Soil Requirements

Heather grows well in acidic soil with a high organic content. A soil pH below 6.5 is ideal. It likes well-draining sandy or gravel conditions. The plant does not tolerate clay based soils well. When planting heather. add ample amounts of peat moss and aged manure to the soil.


Heather plants do not tolerate drought conditions. They require constantly moist soil to thrive. Apply 3 to 4 inches of mulch, such as peat moss, around the base of heather plants to help the soil retain moisture. Mulch also helps keep weed growth reduced and aids in cultivation around the plant. Heather grows a shallow root system that can easily be damaged with excessive or deep cultivation.

Light Needs

Plant heather in full sunlight for the best flowering and growth. The plant will tolerate partial shade, but the growth and flowering will be seriously reduced. Heather varieties that produce winter colored foliage require full sunlight to attain the colors. If they are planted in the shade, the foliage will remain simple green all winter.


Plant heather in regions that offer cool summers. The plant does not tolerate high heat or humidity. It rarely grows in the Midwest or southern United States well. The Missouri Botanical Garden recommends planting heather in USDA zones 4 to 6 for best growth results.


Remove spent flower heads in the fall by clipping them away. In the early spring, prune heather to the desired size and height. Keeping the mounds trim will help prevent older plants from becoming leggy.


Apply 2 inches of aged manure around the base of heather plants each spring. A top dressing of bonemeal is also often beneficial to the plants' growth and overall health.

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