Heather, the flower that gave its name to a soil type

Heather is a cute little perennial that is particularly well suited to acidic soils.

It grows so well on formerly marshy soils with high acidity, it gave its name to that soil type: heath soil and heathland.

Summary of Heather facts

Name – Erica or Calluna
Family – Ericaceae
Type – heath plant

Height – œ to 5 feet (15 to 150 cm)
Exposure – full sun, part sun
Soil – heath soil

Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – January to December depending on species

An entire set of plants from many families is now called with the generic name “heath plants“.

Planting heather

Read our tips on how to plant heath plants.

Pruning and caring for heather

Heather can grow without any pruning.
Nonetheless, as years go by, the plant may need to be pruned to a more harmonious silhouette.

  • If so, it is best to prune lightly in spring, without cutting old wood which can’t produce buds anymore.
  • Cut just below flower stems to give your heather a nice shape.

All there is to know about heath and heather

Erica heather flowers peeking out from a mantle of snow.Heather is generally very hardy and doesn’t require any care.
Just mind our planting tips and avoid chalky or limestone soil.

You can plant them along edges, in rocky beds, or create beds together with other heath plants like rhododendron, camellia or azalea.

Heather is famous for its ground-covering properties.

There are two types of heather:

  • Summer heather, also called “Common heather“. It blooms in summer. The species is called Calluna.
  • Winter heather, simply called also “heather”, blooms in winter. The species in this category are the Erica species.

Read all about these in more detail here: Erica or Calluna.

There are also special cultivars and varieties that bloom in fall and spring. When planting a bed of heather, try alternating varieties and you’ll have flowers all year round!

Pronunciation tip

Although “heath” and “heather” share the same root, they’re pronounced quite differently:

  • pronunciation of “heather” is /ˈhɛðɚ/ as in “feather” from a bird.
  • pronunciation of “heath” is /hiːΞ/ as in “teeth”, the plural of tooth.

Smart tip about heather

Adding special heath plant fertilizer spectacularly boosts flower-bearing.

Read also


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Stark pink Erika heather by nirolfix under Pixabay license
Erica with snow by Teodor ★ under Pixabay license