What comes to your mind when you heard about heather? In fact, they are talking about two different plans. Heaths and heathers are basically different. Even though both of them belong to the Ericaceae family, still they are different botanically. They are not in the same genus. Healths is Calluna genus and Heathers have Erica genus. Practically, however, they are identical that they even share color, form, and also growth habits. They all are evergreen and well-mannered plants. Besides, they have less maintenance that can deal with the sunlight, water, and soil. The major difference between the species is the winter hardiness.
All Facts You Must Know About Heather
They are cultivars for one species, Calluna Vulgaris and some botanies even classify as Erica Vulgaris as their error when it comes to all true heathers. It is not easy since there are more than 500 varieties to find. Most of them are blooming in the summer with a lot of color option available such as white, rose, deep purple, and others with the foliage is from green to fire orange. Their leaves are scalelike and small. On the other hands, most of them form low-growing mounds or spreading mats. For the heather lover who lives in the North, there are some plant options that are against the true heath that offer more colors and less hardy. Calluna is hard in the Zones 5-7 but they may thrive as the far north as Zone 3 with enough winter protection as well as snow cover. They are low and mounding shrubs that are ling of Scotland, the popular heather of the Highlands.
For the true heaths, they belong to Erica Genus with more than 700 species and the countless cultivars like winter heath, bell heath, Darley Dale heath, Cornish heath, and the cross-leaved heath. Hardiness range widely such as Erica cornea that can bloom under the snow, but the blood-red heath from South African varieties can show its best to the greenhouse or the florist trades. In addition, the true heaths can offer amazing foliage options and the blooming colors beyond the pinks and the taller shrub forms and even the small trees. With hundreds of species and cultivars are available to deal with the hardiness Zones 7-9 or even 10 like Erica Carnea, the heaths provide various colors and different bloom times to complete the southern gardens.
Landscaping Your Yard With Heather
It is no doubt that heaths and heathers are able to add a low-maintenance plant and color to your landscape, exclude the season. The evergreen foliage in shade of bronze, yellow, red, and green can sparkle against the weary winter backdrop.
If you want to plant heaths and heathers, you should plant it in the open areas, along with the pathways, or up hillsides. They pair well with dwarf conifers that require similar acidic soil. Besides, they can deal with poor and rocky soil. They can tackle salt spray as well with the marvelous and coastal hillside.
Growing heaths means that you should provide 1 foot tall by 1 1/2 feet of width. Meanwhile, heathers need 2 feet tall by two to three feet wide. The space for these plants should be far apart since if they grow mature, the width they need at least 2 feet away from other shrubs to promote good air circulation. When it comes to naturalistic mass plantings, it is better to multiply the square footage of the planting area by 0.44 to determine the number of heathers or heaths you want to play. For example, if you have a 10 x 10-foot area, it means that you should cover it with 44 plants.
Planting and Caring For Heaths and Heathers
The growing conditions of the colorful plants are quite the same. Here are the tips to start planting and caring for heaths and heathers:
- Prepare the soil – So, heaths and heathers are the fans of acidic soils. Therefore, you should provide them with a soil pH of5 to 5.5. Even though some heaths can tolerate alkaline soil, such as Irish heath (Erica Erigena), most types of the plant can struggle. You should work in the damp peat moss or other acidic soil amendments in case that your soil is pH neutral from 6.5 to 7.5. Till or loosen the soil. After that, dig holes twice as wide since the root ball of each plant needs to spread their roots.
- Promote drainage – Remember that these plants will not grow if you do not support them with the good drainage. If your yard has clay soil, you should build the raised bed with the equal parts topsoil, sand, and the composted bark or peat moss. Here, you create acidic soil that can drain properly. On the other hand, for boggy soil that has right pH but too wet, you can make the modest berm.
- Plant – You can encourage bushiness in your newly purchased plants by shearing them. After that, you should plant them in spring or at the beginning of autumn. Your plants need to water twice for every week since the first several months to make sure that the ground is not soggy but moist. It will make your plants have rapid and vigorous growth to establish your plants. If possible, you should apply a mulch of your option, but it is good to plant pine straw, leaf mold, and peat moss since they are the acidic fans, too. Take two to three years of gardening and growing plants, heather and heaths are able to deal with drought and they can grow while taking care for themselves alone.
- Spacing – It is important to space the plants since the plant’s mature width to support air circulation. This is important to support the good foliage growth and color. Eventually, they can mound together. If you want to plant it in Zones 7 to 9, it is good to plant whorled heath.
- The sun exposure – Your heath or heathers need six hours of the sunlight as the best foliage effect. The best foliage is on the south side of the plant, especially for the red varieties. Six hours or more is also recommended in the hotter area with the afternoon shade. Of course, too much shade will only make your plants dull and leggy.