A large genus of useful evergreen perennials. Ericas vary in growth habit, from low spreading and ground-cover to taller more bushy plants. A wide range of flower colours are available, from white through to all shades of pink and red to mauve. With careful selection heathers can be used to provide long-lasting colour in the garden, from spring to late winter.
General height and spread 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm), depending on variety, soil and growing conditions.
Uses in the garden include, sunny border plants (if soil is suitable), evergreen ground cover, heather garden or a large rock garden.
Plant in a sunny position in well-drained acidic soil. Most heathers prefer acid soils but several varieties, including E. carnea, E. darleyensis, E. medditerranea and E. terminalis, will tolerate alkaline conditions.
Most varieties are fully hardy with a few exceptions, such as Erica gracilis and Erica x hyemalis (Cape heaths). Treat these as winter-flowering heathers for the greenhouse. Both require lime-free soil and regular watering. Dead head regularly and stand outside in summer.
Trim back to base of flowering spikes as soon as the flowers have faded to rejuvenate plants. Top-dress with ericaceous compost. Water well in first season then water as necessary particularly in dry weather. Do not let soil dry out in summer.
Cut back after flowering by trimming off all flowering spikes.
Propagate by layering in autumn (allowing 12 months to root fully) or by taking short side-shoot cuttings in mid to late summer and root them in well drained soil in a cold frame. Do not remove the lower leaves but simply insert to about half their depth in free draining ericaceous compost.
The following varieties of Erica are very popular in English gardens:
Erica carnea (herbacea)
Erica x darleyensis
Calluna vulgaris 'Dark Beauty'
Tall shrubby form with needle-like leaves flowers spring. Honey scented grey-white flowers early in spring. Hardy evergreen. Height: up to 6ft (2m) Spread: 3ft (1m). Requires a lime-free, moist but well-drained soil.
Spring flowering variety with a mainly prostrate habit that makes for excellent evergreen ground cover. Most forms are hardy in the UK. Foliage is usually light green but some varieties have bronze or golden yellow leaves. Flowers appear from late autumn through to late spring, in a wide range of shades, from deep purple to red, pink and white. Best in full sun but will tolerate semi-shade. Most forms of erica carnea will tolerate lime and neutral soils.
General height and spread: up to 1 ft (30cm) by
Erica carnea 'Aurea' : Lime green to pale yellow foliage. Pink flowers from mid-winter to spring.
Erica carnea 'Foxglove' : Yellow-green foliage. White/pink flowers late winter to early spring.
Erica carnea 'King George' : Very early winter flowering. Dark pink blooms. Height and spread: 10in (25cm)
Erica carnea 'Loughrigg' : Dark green foliage that turns bronze. Pink-purple flowers
Erica carnea 'Sunshine Rambler' : Bright yellow foliage. Pink flowers from winter to early spring.
Erica carnea 'Springwood White' (Winter
heath) : Spreading habit. Prolific white flowers
Erica carnea 'Vivellii' : Compact
form with bronze-red foliage and deep carmine flowers
Height: 6in (15cm) Spread: 14in (35cm)
Pale evergreen green foliage. Flowers vary in colour
from white through to pink and red (July to September).
Height: 6-12 in (15 to 30cm).
Dwarf evergreen variety. Deep green leaves, masses
of flowers in summer.
Height: 6-12 in (15 to 30cm).
Deep green leaves and deep pink flowers. Long flowering
period, from late autumn to mid-spring.
Height: 12in (30cm), Spread: 2ft (60cm)
Erica x darleyensis 'White Perfection'
Bright green foliage with large pure white flowers.
Height: 16in (40cm), Spread: 2ft 6in (75cm)
Dense purple tinted foliage. Honey-scented, deep pink flowers. Long flowering period. Not fully hardy. Height: 4ft (1.2m) Spread: 3ft (1m)
Bushy evergreen variety. Small evergreen leaves
covered with white, pink or deep purple flowers from
late winter to spring. Height
2 to 8 ft depending
on variety. Lime tolerant. Shelter from cold winds.
Tall bushy variety, flowers late summer. Bright
green leaves fading to dark green
Pink flowers, from July to December. Height 3-6 ft. Will tolerate lime. Best in an open, sunny position.
Evergreen variety with white to crimson flowers from June to October. Height 9-12 in. Requires lime-free soil.
Vigorous evergreen variety. Very hardy. Produces
pink bell-shaped flowers from late summer to autumn.
Height: 2ft 6in (75cm) Spread: 3ft (1m). Tolerates
mildly alkaline soils.
Woody evergreen variety. Flowers from July to
October. Good range of flower colours available.
Height 10-14 in (25 to 35cm). Lime free soils. Full sun or partial shade.