Though the moors of England and hills of Scotland have served as backdrops in some of the most chilling and brutal literary tales, they have also captured hearts as settings for some of the most amorous ones. Along with blanketing these moor landscapes in lovely colour is often Calluna vulgaris, commonly known asScotch heather. An old-world plant using a lengthy history of farming and rituals, Scotch heather has come into its own as an equally beautiful and useful landscape tree, serving as more than just an icon of Scottish heritage and mystique — though that definitely doesn’t hurt.


Botanical name: Calluna vulgaris (and cultivars)
Common names: Scotch heather, ling
USDA zones: 3 to 10 (find your zone)
Water requirement: Frequent; do not overwater
Light requirement: Total sun
Mature dimension: Varies from earth cover to 3 ft tall
Benefits and tolerances: Attracts bees and butterflies; could withstand indirect coastal states; can also regenerate from several fires
Seasonal interest: Blooms July through October (some forms even longer)
When to plant: Late spring to summer (after the last frost)

Genevieve Schmidt

Shown: Calluna vulgaris ‘Long White’

Markku Mestilä

Distinguishing traits. Over 1,000 cultivars include Calluna vulgaris, making nearly every dimension, colour and contour of heather potential. Scotch heather is an mounding shrub, which range from dwarf earth covers. A matlike appearance is, created by A compact branching structure, coated yearlong in scaly leaves.

Only up close will you see how delicate and soft Scotch heather is. Miniature bell-shaped flowers erupt in flames from summer through autumn, in colours which range from white and pale pink to pink and even purple or lavender. Some blossoms will persist through winter on the stems. The colour diversity is also accurate for its foliage — from soft greens and grays to vivid chartreuse or yellow. Should you plant it in full sun, the foliage may develop a red, bronzy or even silvery hue in winter, making for striking seasonal garden interest. New foliage erupts in spring, and some say it’s even more spectacular than when the plant is flowering.

Bob Osborn

Far Out Flora

How to use it. Heathers are observed on the moors and heaths of the United Kingdom and Europe, making a obviously striking setting.

Experiment with Scotch heather by planting it en masse with other crops which also prefer acidic soil. But with thousands of heathers to pick from (both Calluna and Erica), why don’t you try a massed planting with just heathers? The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens have done just that, with Calluna Vulgaris ‘Foxii Nana’ revealed here implanted beside Erica Cinerea ‘Golden Drop’ at a perfectly implemented bed.

Though the different heathers may bloom at different times, change in height and produce different-colored blossoms and foliage, an identical feel and habit create design continuity without uniformity.


Consider interspersing herbs or colorful edibles among Scotch heather as a woodland accent.

More on mixing ornamentals and edibles


Planting notes. Scotch heather prefers full sun. While you should avoid overwatering it, be sure to keep adequate moisture. As soon as it’s a very resilient and exceptionally cold-hardy plant, it also isn’t the easiest to grow and can be quite particular about soil.

Scotch heather requires sandy, peaty and very well-drained soil. It prefers quite soil that is acidic free of nitrogen — the Pacific Northwest is a region for its genus. Otherwise be sure to lightly amend the soil with acidic plant food in summer months and early summer. This also will help to encourage flowering.


Bob Osborn

If you are growing Scotch heather in extremely cold climates varieties may prove to be the most effective. Snow removal cost Boston cover will protect the plant over winter and enable it to regenerate in spring. The exact opposite applies to warm, muggy areas like the American Southeast. Low-growing varieties you will find more succeptible to fungal disease, which is far more prevelant in the hot, humid South — and also large temperature swings simply increase the odds of the disease.

After flowering is completed, prune the plant back, remove spent blossoms and pinch the tips. This can ensure a clean and healthy plant for another season.

More: Relish the Romance of a Slovenian Garden

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