From the Desk of Ed Hume: Winter Flowing Heather

February 13, 2011 at 11:46 PM 1 comment

One of my favorite flowering plants is the winter blooming heather.   Their showy winter flowers cover the compact evergreen plants, providing a colorful seasonal display.  Many varieties bloom for three months or more during the winter.  In fact, some bloom for up to five or six months.  The advantage of the winter varieties is that they provide wonderful color at a time when little is in bloom in the garden.

One of the greatest benefits of including heathers in the landscape is that there are many varieties that flower at various times of the year.  By properly selecting varieties, you can have at least one or more in flower every month of the year.

In my own garden I have at least a half a dozen different varieties in bloom right now.  These winter varieties come in shades of lavender, red, rose, pink, and white.  Two of my favorites are the Mediterranean hybrid, which is lilac-pink and Mediterranean alba, which is white.  In our garden these two start flowering in October or November and continue to provide a massive flower display until late April or early May.  Two others that are superb are Springwood white and Springwood pink, which bloom from January to April.  The Springwood varieties only grow about 8 inches high, while the Mediterranean varieties grow about 12 to 24 inches high.

A few of my winter flowering favorites are King George which is ruby-red; Ruby Glow which is ruby-red; and Vivelli which is deep red.  There are also some choice varieties that have beautiful golden winter foliage color too!   A visit to your local garden outlet or specialty heather grower at this time of year will reveal several other nice ones.

Here are a few of things you should know about planting heathers.  First, they need good drainage.  Second, they grow and flower best in full sun or part sun and shade.  They tend to get leggy in shade.  Third, plant them at ground level or just a little higher, because like a rhododendron they have roots right on the surface of the soil.  And fourth, they benefit from a light pruning (shearing) right after they finish flowering.  This shearing encourages new bushy growth and additional flowers while eliminating the ugly dead blossoms.

If your heather needs to be fertilized, the times are either mid-February or mid-May.  Use a Rhododendron or Evergreen type of fertilizer, being careful to read and follow application directions.  Apply the fertilizer on the ground at the outer edge of the foliage (the drip line) and water-in thoroughly.

You can add a bright spot of color to your winter garden by including a few plants of the winter flowering heathers.


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Clip of the Week: Planting a Winter Container Ed’s Podcasts: Planning Your Garden

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