How to Grow Heather Shrubs


Heather is a compact evergreen perennial that is often overlooked, but deserves a spot in your garden for its unique beauty and hardiness.

Easy to grow, she works with a variety of garden styles and comes in a wide range of colors including shades of pink, purple and white. The tops of the bell-shaped flowers also attract a lot of bees. Best of all, there are varieties that bloom at any time of the year, including winter. Heather even grows just as well in landscape beds or containers.

Heather has needle-like, evergreen leaves that are green or gray, but they can also turn yellow, orange, or bronze at different times of the year, depending on the variety. They usually grow about 1 to 2 feet tall and wide and make a great addition when massed on slopes or planted along borders. They don’t mind poor soil and tolerate salt spray, so you can plant them in coastal areas too. However, heather does not tolerate clay soil, so plant them in a raised bed or in pots if you have heavy soil.

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Here’s what else you need to know about growing heather:

How do I care for heather?

Heather requires about 6 hours of full sun and prefers afternoon shade in hot areas of the country. Too much shade makes them leggy and ugly. They tend to thrive best in acidic soil, so if plants like conifers, azaleas, and hydrangeas do well in your garden, heather likely will, too. Make sure you choose a variety of heather suitable for surviving winters in your USDA hardiness zone (find yours here).

When planting, dig a hole about two to three times the size of the container, then place your plant in the hole at the same depth as the pot. Water well for the first few weeks to keep it moist and not soggy. Once established, they are drought tolerant. Don’t bother fertilizing because they actually prefer poor soil. To encourage bushiness, clip lightly in spring before buds set, or for winter flowering species after flowers have faded.

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Does Heide come back every year?

Yes, it can be considered a perennial if you choose a species suitable for your zone. However, most varieties only look good for a few years. You can’t really rejuvenate them by pruning them like other perennials, so replace them when they start to look shaggy.

Are heather and heather the same plant?

These shrub plants are often confused with a similar plant, the heather. Both heather and heather belong to the same plant family (Ericaceae), but heather is in the genus Callunawhile Heath is in the Erika Genus. The plants look strikingly similar and need similar care, although heather tends to be more heat tolerant (though dislikes moisture), while heather loves cold weather.

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