Erica - How to care for and cultivate your Erica



L'Heather it is a delightful plant for both indoor and outdoor use that gives splendid long-lasting blooms during the autumn - winter period even if several species are also appreciated for the particularly colorful and decorative leaves.






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The genre Heather of the family Ericaceae it includes numerous plants widely used to decorate gardens and balconies as it is particularly suitable for growing outdoors even if it lends itself well to being grown in pots and indoors.

These are shrubby perennials, originally from South Africa, particularly rustic, not too large in size, with a bushy habit.

It forms numerous stems covered by thin needle-like leaves which towards the end of the autumn period are covered with small bell-shaped flowers of variable color depending on the species and variety, very numerous which make the plant look like a colored cloud.

The flowers are gathered in spikes or in terminal racemes on the branches of the previous year of very varied color from white to bright red.

The leaves are small and needle-like, verticillate and depending on the species, they can take on shades ranging from yellow, to red, to rust to orange.


There are about 500 species in the genus Heather among which we remember those most used in pot cultivation or in the garden:


There Erica gracilis it is a plant that remains very compact no higher than 45 cm which forms numerous stems, covered by numerous small needle-like leaves of a very intense green color, on whose branches hundreds of small flowers of red-colored rose are formed.

Of this species there are numerous varieties among which we remember: E. gracilis variety Sunrise with white flowers that blooms in the winter.


L'Erica carnea it is a spontaneous species very widespread in the Alps and in the Apennines.It is a shrubby, ground cover and evergreen plant, which does not exceed one meter in height and produces dark pink flowers gathered in clusters with corolla with the petals welded together from the top of which sprout the stamens with dark skin and the stylus emerging in the middle.

It is particularly rustic for this reason it is considered a colonizing plant and for this reason used to re-naturalize particularly degraded environments. It is very appreciated by bees and the honey obtained from its pollen is particularly appreciated. It blooms from the month of February and until the beginning. of summer and often its flowers sprout from the snow representing one of the first signs of the arrival of spring.

It is commonly called broom.


L'Tree heather it is a shrubby species that can become a real tree reaching even five meters in height. It has glabrous leaves united in whorls of 4 elements, glabrous and of a very intense green color.

The flowers are fragrant, pendulous (more rarely erect) gathered in raceme inflorescence at the apex of the branches and characterized by 4 hairless sepals and by a corollacon 4 petals welded together that give it a bell-shaped shape of pochymillimeters in diameter, white in color with shades pink, with inside anthers of a reddish-brown color with appendages and stylus that emerge. The flowers bloom during the spring period.

It is commonly called "forest broom".


L'Erica multiflora it is a spontaneous species in the woods of central and southern Italy with a woody stem and erect branches, widespread throughout the Mediterranean area where it reaches up to one and a half meters in height. The shrubs meet in formation in the pine forest or in the typically Mediterranean scrub (gariga) mixed with rosemary, myrtle and mastic.

It is an evergreen plant with the typical leaves of the genus and very fragrant pink-violet flowers that appear in the summer. The anthers protrude from the corolla and are very dark red.


L'Ash heather it is a shrubby, evergreen, particularly rustic plant that does not exceed 60 cm in height. The flowers are bell-shaped violet in color that begin to appear in mid-summer.


The famous Erica scopariait is a plant that grows spontaneously, typical of the Mediterranean maquis but is also found in the woods and cork forests that can reach one and a half meters in height. The flowers are gathered in terminal racemes, of a colorerosa that appear in the spring period.

It is a particularly rustic plant that adapts quite easily even in poor soils also prefers siliceous and acid soils. It owes its name to the fact that it was once used to make lescope.


L'E. melanthera is a small shrub with soft branches covered with small leaves with pink flowers and black stamens.


L' Heather it is a very easy plant to grow that needs fresh and airy environments and for this reason, during the summer period, it is advisable, if possible, to move it outdoors in a shady area.

It is a plant that loves light but not direct sunlight except for a few hours in the early morning.

One characteristic is that they are definitely calcifugal plants, that is to say that they do not tolerate limestone in any way.


L' Heather it should be watered moderately and regularly, making sure that the soil is always slightly damp.

If the water in your home is hard then you need to use rainwater or demineralized water as it is a plant that does not tolerate limestone in any way.

It is a plant that, since it loves fresh environments, needs to have a humid microclimate that can be guaranteed both with frequent nebulizations to the canopy by placing the pot on a saucer with gravel or expanded clay or other material where you will always keep a little water which evaporating will guarantee the humid microclimate.


L' Heather repot in spring but only if the roots no longer have space available in the pot.

A basically acidic soil is used (it does not tolerate calcareous soils) made up of land of leaves and earth Heather in equal parts, with the addition of peat and sand to improve the drainage of the soil.


It is fertilized every two weeks by mixing the fertilizer with the irrigation water during the whole spring - summer period by slightly decreasing the doses compared to what is reported in the fertilizer package.

It is advisable to use a fertilizer that in addition to having macroelements such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) also contains the so-called microelements, that is to say those compounds that the plant needs in minimal quantities (but hapur always needed) such as magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), boron (B), molybdenum (Mo), all important for a correct and balanced plant growth.


It blooms at temperatures between 7 ° C and 15 ° C and if it is possible to maintain the temperatures on these values, flowering will last many months in fact, if the temperatures are higher than the indicated values, the flowers wither quickly therefore especially during the flowering period. it is important to maintain a humid and cool environment around the plant.


The plant should be pruned every year, after flowering, to eliminate the blooming inflorescences and to shorten the branches.


The plant multiplies by cuttings.


At the beginning of spring or at the end of summer, about 5 cm long cuttings are taken from the lateral branches by cutting with a razor blade or a sharp knife in order to avoid fraying of the fabrics and making sure that it is clean and disinfected to avoid infecting the plant .

Once the leaves placed in the lower part have been eliminated, they are placed in jars with moist peat mixed with coarse sand, after making holes with a pencil, as many as there are cuttings that you need to root.

The pot is covered with a transparent plastic sheet or with a hooded bag and is placed in the shade and at a temperature around 18-24 ° C, in partial shade.During this period, take care to always keep the soil slightly moist by making so as not to wet the rooting plants, using water at room temperature and not calcareous (rain or demineralized) .Every day remove the plastic to control the humidity of the soil, let the cuttings take air and eliminate any condensation that may have formed from the plastic.

Once the first shoots start to appear, it means that the cuttings have rooted. At that point the plastic is removed and the pot is placed in a brighter area (never in direct sun) and the cuttings are expected to become stronger and reach 7 cm in height. At that point they are transplanted into the final pot, in groups of two or three with the same soil indicated in the "repotting" paragraph and treated as adult plants.


The leaves fall and the stems are fragile

This symptom indicates that the plant has received little watering.
Remedies: increase the irrigations remembering that the soil must always remain moist and the nebulizations to the canopy must be almost daily.

Presence of cobwebs on the plant and leaves with reddish hues

This symptom clearly indicates the presence of the red spider mite, a very harmful and annoying mite.

Remedies: increase the frequency of nebulizations to the foliage as a humid environment is generally sufficient to eliminate them. Only in the case of particularly severe infestations, it is advisable to use a specific acaricide available in a good center specialized in gardening.


Often in nurseries the plants that are sold as Heather actually belong to thekind Calluna where the only species is found Calluna vulgaris,simply called calluna or brentoli (photo below) which is also very similar in terms of cultivation needs to Heather and produces flowers of various colors in all hyperiods of the year, depending on the variety.

Even the species of the kind Daboecia they are often confused with gender Heather .

The name of the genus comes from the Greek eréiko «Frangere» because in ancient times it was considered an excellent remedy to break bladder stones and stones or according to other interpretations due to the very thin and fragile leaves.

It was once used to make brooms and for the roofs and walls of poor houses.

Several species are considered indicator plants as they are among the first ones that emerge (for example E. arborea together with the strawberry tree) after a fire, representing the first vegetative revival of the soil.

The reddish wood of Tree heather due to its hardness it is considered very valuable and is used for the construction of pipe stoves (the part used in the plant is the gnarled one of the base, the so-called log).

All plants belonging to the Ericaceae family have the particularity of having their roots parasitized by a fungus, theHymenoscyphus ericae.It's about a endomycorrhizal ericoids which penetrates the root cells of the host plant without it reacting in any way to stop the invasion of the fungus. This type of mycorrhiza is widespread above all in heathlands and tundras and performs an important function which is to make nitrogen and phosphorus available which, due to the high acidity of the soil, would not be accessible to the plant as they are immobilized in organic form. therefore a real relationship of mutualistic symbiosis where the fungus assimilates from the plant the carbon compounds necessary for its development while the plant in addition to being able to absorb nitrogen and phosphorus from the soil can also explore a greater surface and therefore have more water and elements available minerals.

Heather, characteristics and cultivation

Credit photo
© Maksim Shebeko /

Erica, characteristics of the plant

The genre heather includes approx 500 varieties of perennial, evergreen and bushy plants which belong to the family of Ericaceae.

The species, originally from Africa, is today spread in the spontaneous state even in our latitudes and comes cultivated for ornamental purposes. It is in fact very popular because it blooms in the winter, coloring gardens, flower beds, balconies and terraces when almost all the other plants have faded.

The heather plant is characterized by the presence of different drums which can reach lengths from 50 centimeters to a few meters, covered with small needle-like leaves bright green, which in some varieties turns towards a brown color starting from autumn. At the end of the summer, the heather stems fill up with numerous small white, pink or fuchsia flowers.

How to grow heather in the garden

The heather is quite simple from grow in the garden, where it is often used for ornamental purposes in flower beds and borders.

To start it is preferable buy one or more specimens in the nursery to be placed in the open ground. The ideal terrain due to the luxuriant growth of heather it is acidic, fertile, sandy and well drained, never excessively humid or dry and never calcareous.

Since the heather fears both scorching heat and frost, the choice of its location depends on the geographical area. In areas where the winter temperature drops below freezing it is better to place it in full sun, protecting it in summer to avoid direct rays in the hottest hours of the day. In regions where winter is mild but summers are hot, on the other hand, it is preferable to choose a shady location.

The irrigations they will have to be moderate but regular and plants should be wet when the soil begins to dry out, avoiding stagnation of water that can cause root rot. At the end of flowering the heather must be pruned, reducing the stems by about half, so as to guarantee new shoots at the vegetative restart.

How to grow heather in pots

Heather can also be grown in pot, placing it though on the outside, on the balcony or terrace. You have to choose a vessel medium to large in size, preferably in terracotta.

The ideal soil for the cultivation of heather it is the one for acidophilic plants. On the bottom of the vase it is preferable to place a few handfuls of expanded clay or fragments of earthenware covered with sand, so drain any excess water. The use of the saucer is not recommended, since the heather fears stagnation of water.

The cultivation of heather in pots follows the same rules as that in the open ground. The plant can therefore be placed in one shady location during the summer months and moved to a place sheltered from frost during the winter.

The irrigations they must be carried out regularly when the soil is almost completely dry, without exceeding the quantity of water. Starting from the vegetative restart and throughout the summer, a fertilizer to ensure the right supply of nutrients essential to guarantee their growth and development.

Also for growing in pots, after flowering it is necessary prune the heather plant, reducing the stems by about half. It is also necessary repot the plant every spring, replacing the vase with a deeper container.

When it blooms

There flowering of heather is abundant and represented by single bell-shaped inflorescences or gathered in clusters, which are characterized by chromatic shades ranging from white to red. Generally the heather blooms at the end of the summer season and continue with production until the end of autumn, especially if the climatic conditions favor temperatures between seven and fifteen degrees. However, blooms can be obtained that concern different periods of the year depending on the various species, including tree heather, heather scoparia, heather gracilis, heather carnea.

How to reproduce the Erica

There reproduction of the Erica it is not easy to obtain, however we see how to do. We proceed to cutting in the period of pruning, ie a March, removing some cuttings about 2.5 centimeters long which will be placed in a tray with soil for acidophilic plants mixed with fine sand (50%) and an equal quantity of expanded clay or shards. Cover the tray with a transparent cloth and place at about 16 ° C. As soon as the cuttings have rooted proceed to transplant of young people heather plants using small pots. The new seedlings will grow slowly and give us new blooms.


For propagation, cuttings about 2.5 cm long must be taken in March. The cuttings will be buried in small pots, or in trays, filled with a mixture of earth composed of 1/3 of peat and sand in equal parts and 2/3 of potsherds, able to guarantee a good drainage but also a ' constant humidity. To encourage rooting and maintain the right degree of humidity, it is good to create a "greenhouse effect" by including the pots with a transparent polyethylene sheet that allows the light to filter through. When the small cuttings have emitted a delicate root system, the right time has come to proceed with the transplant from the tray to small pots.

How to care for potted heather

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