In early autumn the garden can look tired. Summer bedding will be on its last legs and many perennials will have finished flowering. This does not mean that the garden has finished for the year. A group of plants that are perfect for adding a ‘wow’ factor this time of year are Heathers.
Heathers are an incredible group of plants that will bring long lasting colour and interest to your garden at a time when most gardens need brightening up. Heathers are ideal for a low-maintenance garden because they require little care once established and reward you with months of colour.
When people mention heather, they are almost always talking about two different genera of plants: heathers and heaths. Although both belong to the Ericaceae family, they are botanically different and are divided into the Calluna genus and the Erica genus.
Calluna heathers flower in late summer and well into autumn. Calluna can be identified by their small scale-like leaves carried in opposite pairs. Flower colours range from shades or red, purple, pink or white. Artificially coloured Callunas are also available in bright vivid colours but this will revert back to their original colour next year.
Calluna heathers are easy to grow provided that you give them the right conditions in which to grow when planting. The main requirement of Calluna heathers is the soil type. Calluna heathers are lime-hating plants and need to be planted in a soil with a low pH (acidic). Planting in ericaceous compost will help maintain the right pH or below 6.5. If you are unsure of your gardens soil pH it can be easily tested with a Soil testing kit.
If you don’t have the correct soil type in your garden, and you don’t like the idea of adding ericaceous compost into your beds and borders then you can always consider growing Calluna heathers in containers.
Erica heathers flower are often referred to as winter flowering heathers and will bloom from December right through till April. Unlike Calluna heathers, Ericas have sharper needle like foliage that are borne in whorls around the stem. Flower colours are similar to autumn heathers ranging from white, pinks, soft reds and purple.
If you do not have acid soil then Erica heathers are perfect as they aren’t particularly fussy about what type of soil they are planted in.
Ideally all heathers prefer to grow in a bright and sunny position. In their natural habitat, Heathers grow on mountainsides and hills and can tolerate very exposed conditions. Heathers can tolerate moisture so long as it drains away easily. If your soil is waterlogged then you will need to improve the drainage before planting otherwise they will not grow.