October 2008 Plant Profile: Calluna vulgaris cultivars

Each winter, as most perennials are cut back lying dormant before spring, these ground-hugging shrubs take center stage as their foliage burst into dramatic colors that always seems to stop visitors along the main path of the Soest Garden. Planting these in rockeries in blazing full sun helps to enhance the coloration so they are exceptional evergreen plants for difficult places. Several cultivars have spectacular spring new growth and are often pruned in the fall to enhance this show come spring. Heathers are very hardy and quite long lived requiring very little maintenance once established. They benefit from regular annual pruning in the fall or early spring to keep them going strong. In the landscape, they are best planted in masses to truly appreciate their color and impact. Combining them with perennials can be challenging, but not impossible. Several blue spring blooming bulbs such as Crocus, Muscari, Camassia, and Scilla growing through the dwarf, compact varieties would be a spectacular contrast.

Cultivars growing in the Soest Garden: ‘Cuprea’. ‘Dark Beauty’, ‘Flamingo’, ‘Gold Haze’, ‘Kerstin’, ‘Red Fred’, ‘Robert Chapman’, ‘Wickwar Flame’, ‘Con Brio’, ‘Firefly’.

Family: Ericaceae
Origin: Garden Origin Selections/Wild forms are found throughout Europe and Asia Minor.
Height: 1-3ft.
Spread: 3 ft.
Bloom Time: Late summer-Early Fall
Bloom Color: Pale rose pink
Sun: Full Sun (can tolerate some shade)
Water & Soil Requirements: Moist, well drained, acidic soils. Low fertility.