Planting and Growing Heather in the Garden
Planting and growing heather can be one of the best investments made to any garden. This plant is known as low growing evergreen shrubs. They will vary in height from a few centimeters to about 3-4 meters. The site you choose for the planting is paramount on how well they will perform.
Heather needs to be planted in full sun for best results. It would be good to have a nice south facing area, but if not possible, then try and plant where they have full sun for most of the day.
This plant should be planted in bold groups of 3,5,7, etc (odd numbers) of each cultivar which will allow for a good overall effect through the various seasons. It would be best as a rule of thumb to plant about 7 or 9 plants per sq. metre which would be a well-planted heather bed.
Soil Preparation for Heather
Believe it or not, most plants require an acid soil where the pH is below 7.0. Lime is generally a no-no however there are cultivars that will do better in a lime soil, usually some of the summer flowering varieties. Amend or prepare the soil to a depth of about 1 foot (30cm). If the soil is mostly clay, then remove most of the soil to a depth of 1 foot and replace with equal amounts of garden compost and ericaceous compost, mix well.
It is important to keep the garden free of weeds as much as possible. Keeping the area moist is important for the first year. Try and have at least a 2” layer of composted bark or bark chips around the plants and the entire planting area which will keep the moisture. Place the mulch as close to the main stem as possible.
Like all plants, heather is no exception when it comes to water. Watering newly planted plants is key to a healthy garden. Planting heather can be done anytime of the year, but key times would be Spring and Autumn.
Recommended planting is for each square metre:
8cm size pot grown – 7 / 9 plants
1 litre size pot grown – 5 /7 plants
Heather will benefit from a light pruning after the flowering times to keep the plant in a tidy appearance and allow the new growth and flower heads to keep them nice and bushy. Easy rule of thumb is to give them a light trim after flowering to the base of the flowering spike. If you have left it unchecked for a number of years, they cannot be cut back successfully without leaving an area bare and woody. Only trim the flower as far back as green foliage.
Feeding is also an important element for ensuring good heather growth. A good general purpose fertiliser lightly sprinkled over the plants is the simple and easiest method of application, once or twice a year.
Planting heather properly will provide you with one of the most spectacular gardens in the neighbourhood. It is easy to maintain, great ground cover, and will give you a fantastic splash of colour all year round!