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Summer Heather – Perfect for year round color

Posted on: October 7, 2015

Calluna vulgaris - Summer heather is 4" inches tall with summer flowers in Woodland Park Landscape DesignSummer Heather – Perfect for year round color

Summer flowering heather can be easy care

I used heather at my vacation house because it’s so easy.  I’m there once a month, have no irrigation system and I have hungry deer.  It’s got to be a tough plant to make it!  Lots of people buy heather, plant them and they die quickly.  Without knowledge specific to heathers, success is tenuous, but with a little knowledge this is a very tough drought tolerant winner of a plant in my book.  It has year-round beauty, is great food for bees and it can be the evergreen plant that holds a summer garden together visually through the winter.

Calluna-vulgaris 'Firefly' Photo from Great Plant Picks

Calluna Vulgaris ‘Firefly’ Photo from Great Plant Picks

Planting Tips:

Honey bee on spring heather in Sellwood Moreland garden designHeathers need good drainage but if you have clay soil don’t despair.  Heathers planted on a burmed planting bed or  on a low mound do well.  Heathers are perfect for  sunny slopes.

A designer pal plants her heathers in pure barkdust.  I’ve done this and had excellent results as long as it was on a slope or berm.  Don’t try this crazy bark dust idea in a flat landscape with heavy clay unless you berm up.

Watering well the first year is critical.  If heather plants dry out to the point of  wilting, even just a little bit, they will die.  There is no rescuing it with water and having it “perk up” as many other plants will do.   When the tiny fine foliage wilts or dries the plant stops taking in water with its roots.  Avoid this first year problem and take advantage of the benefits of a fall planting.  You still have to water carefully the first summer after a fall planting but it is not so edgy.

Pruning Tips:

Pruning is important and easy.  The most important year for pruning is the second spring after you have planted the plant.  Prune before new growth starts.  You must trim to just above the previous years wood; trim too much and you will have ugly holes in your plants that may never fill in.  Avoid pruning late in fall or winter.

Calluna -Summer Flowering Heather

Calluna Vulgaris at Heaths and Heathers nursery in Shelton Washington

Trim too little or not at all and  in a few years you will have an ugly plant with bare wood stems in the center of the plant.  When this happens we can’t simply cut it back severely which we can do with many plants to fix the problem.  Trimming every year before new growth starts (February or March for Pacific Northwest) will keep your plants attractive long term.  Who knew low maintenance was so much work right?  Once you know what to do, you have a plant that will work beautifully for decades with a once a year trim.  That is low maintenance.

 

Heather at Harstine

Calluna Vulgaris ‘White Lawn’ w Sedum ‘Xenox’ and Sedum ‘Voo Doo’

 

Summer heather/Calluna Vulgaris is a great plant for hot sun situations.  This summer for the first time ever, I actually had foliage burn.  They got no water for 45 days in record breaking heat, but since these plants have been there for five years there was not permanent damage or loss.  New plants would not tolerate that amount of drought but mature plants took my neglect in stride.  6 months later there was no sign of any damage.  My kind of plant!