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Plant of the Week - Heathers8 February 2011
Heathers flowering in the middle of winter can bring much needed colour to the garden at this time of year. They are also important as ground-covering and foliage effect plants.
Unlike their summer-flowering counterparts, the winter flowering Erica’s (Heaths) are not too fussy about the type of soil they are planted in. They will live quite happily in alkaline (lime) soils, whereas the summer flowering types will only thrive in an acid soil.
The flower colours range from white through light pink, into deep pinks reds and cerise or purple. Foliage types are also important and can range from rich gold tinged with red, light yellow, silver and the normal range of greens and bronze/greens.
There is a very wide range of varieties to choose from – to many to list here but it is always wise to select ‘AGM varieties’, whenever available.
Erica’s can often be bought as small plants in 7cm square pots. It is worth paying a little extra for larger plants. Allow at least 45cm between plants, even if it does leave a soil gap. They will need the room to spread, and normally start spreading well during their second year after planting. Although they are happy in alkaline soils, they respond well to an annual dressing of moss peat. In the growing season, water freely, and feed with a half-strength solution of liquid feed monthly.