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How to Care for Heather Plants

By Jennifer Loucks ; Updated September 21, 2017

Heather plants are an evergreen shrub that grows in USDA growing zones 4 to 6. The plants grow 1 to 2 feet tall and wide and produce lightly colored flowers with green, yellow, and silver foliage. The plants will bloom between July and November, depending on the variety. Heather is native to cool European climates and does not grow well in the Southern United States.

Plant heather plants in a location that provides full sun to part shade conditions. The soil should be well drained yet able to hold moisture. Add compost to the hole when planting to assist with drainage and moisture retention.

Use a pH test kit to test the soil as it should be slightly acidic at a pH of 4.5 to 5.5. Add elemental sulfur or calcium sulfate to lower the pH number and make the soil more acidic.

Water plants 2 times a week for the first 2 months after planting. Do not over-water heather plants once they become established as this is a detriment to their growth and promotes fungal infections.

Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of light mulch around the plants each year. This will assist with moisture retention and prevent weed growth.

Fertilize heather plants only if the plants appear stunted or have poor foliage color by using a rhododendron fertilizer in late winter or in the spring. Water the plants thoroughly after applying fertilizer to assist with absorption.

Prune heather plants each spring to form a compact plant structure. This will remove dead winter stems and shoots. Trim the dead flowers from the plant after the bloom is complete in fall as this will stimulate the plant to produce additional growth in the spring. Additional trimming or pruning during the growing season is not needed.

Winter mulch heather plants after the ground has frozen in harsh winter locations. Pine boughs or hay/straw should be placed loosely on top of the plants.


Things You Will Need

  • Heather plants
  • Compost
  • pH test kit
  • Elemental sulfur or calcium sulfate
  • Mulch
  • Rhododendron fertilizer
  • Hand pruner
  • Pine boughs or hay


  • Plant heather plants in early spring or autumn in open areas that offer air circulation yet sheltered from heavy winds.
  • Plant each bush at least 3 feet apart to prevent crowding.
  • Heather does not grow well during hot summers.

About the Author


Jennifer Loucks has been writing since 1998. She previously worked as a technical writer for a software development company, creating software documentation, help documents and training curriculum. She now writes hobby-based articles on cooking, gardening, sewing and running. Loucks also trains for full marathons, half-marathons and shorter distance running. She holds a Bachelor of Science in animal science and business from University of Wisconsin-River Falls.