Calluna vulgaris, a popular ornamental around Europe and Asia and that comes as no surprise since it is one of the most eye-catching species of shrubs. This plant brings lots of ornamental value through its vibrant foliage, which can appear in many shades, and bright, colourful flowers. And for all of this exquisite view, Calluna vulgaris demands little to no attention from its owner.
The main species alone is absolutely fabulous and, like this is not already enough, it comes along with other diverse and equally attractive varieties. You can fill your garden or home with as many beautiful plants as you want without feeling like a boring grower for having many plants that look alike.
So, make sure you also take a look at Calluna varieties like ‘Aphrodite’, ‘Bonita’, ‘Dark Beauty’, ‘Firefly’, ‘Kinlochruel’, ‘Robert Chapman’, ‘Spring Torch’, or ‘Wickwar Flame’.
Keep reading our guide to learn interesting thing about Calluna vulgaris a.k.a. Scotch heather and to become an expert at growing and caring for this low-maintenance ornamental!
|Botanical Name||Calluna vulgaris|
|Common Name||Scotch heather, Common heather, heather, or ling|
|Plant Type||Evergreen Shrub|
|Mature Size||20 – 50 cm (8 to 20 in) tall, or rarely to 1 metre|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, Partial shade|
|Soil Type||Humusy, sandy or gravelly, well-drained soil|
|Bloom Time||Late summer, Autumn|
|Flower Color||Purple, Red, Pink, White|
|Native Area||Europe, Siberia, Turkey, Morocco|
About Calluna Vulgaris
- Calluna vulgaris is an evergreen shrub that grows natively in Northern and Western Europe, Siberia and North America, but thanks to its ornamental value, it can be found all around the world today. In its native habitat, Calluna vulgaris survives for approximately 30 to 40 years.
- Calluna vulgaris has a few common names, such as Scotch heather, Ling, Common heather, or simply Heather. You may find them labelled like this in garden shops.
- The scientific name of this ornamental comes from the Greek word “kallune” which means to brush or to clean and it probably refers to the fact that in the past people used this plant to manufacture brooms. Interestingly enough this plant is also used for the manufacture of pillow stuffing, bedding, baskets, packaging, and rope.
- Calluna vulgaris has a special role in the ecosystem providing shelter and food for the European red grouse. The foliage and shoots of young plants are an important food source for sheep, mountain hares, and red deer.
- Calluna vulgaris thrives in a wide range of soils including poor, well-drained, acidic, and sandy soils in areas that provide plenty of sunlight and where the plant is protected from harsh winds during the cold season.
- Scotch heather can be found in open fields, woodlands, bogs, and heathlands as it spreads easily and adapts to new habitats, including to areas cleared with fire.
- Before you bring this plant into your home or garden, it’s important to know that Calluna vulgaris is an invasive species in several regions worldwide. These include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and areas of the United States. The good news is you can safely grow it in containers anywhere you want, but if you want to grow it in your garden, make sure it’s not an invasive species in your area.
- During cooler temperatures, the evergreen foliage of the Calluna vulgaris plant changes and intensifies in hue. Most people in the gardening world value foliage just as much as the flowers of the Calluna vulgaris.
- The Calluna vulgaris cultivars vary in size. While shorter varieties are excellent ground covers or members of rock gardens, the taller ones look best planted in rows to form borders.
- To achieve an efficient garden arrangement, you can plant your Calluna vulgaris near plants that have similar needs. The most suitable companions for Scotch Heather are White Spruce, Blue Fescue, Redtwig Dogwood, and Winter Heath.
- Besides the ornamental purposes, it is worth having a Calluna vulgaris around for its pleasant fragrance. This plant has a herbaceous aroma, featuring a heavy musk scent mixed with a light floral tone. As a result, the plant is used as a flavouring agent in the industry of wine, beer, and tea.
- No part of Calluna vulgaris is toxic to people or animals. You can grow them near curious kids or pets without worrying about their safety.
Calluna Vulgaris Features: An Overview
- This plant belongs to the Calluna genus. It shares this genus with none other than itself, surely enjoying lots of attention as the only child.
- Calluna vulgaris is a slow-growing evergreen shrub. This plant can reach about 24 inches (61 cm) in height and around 24 to 36 inches (61-91 cm) in width.
- It is an upright, mounding plant. Its foliage consists of numerous tiny, scale-like, green leaves that show up in opposite and decussate pairs on the stems. The leaves can exhibit shades of yellow, dark red, orange, or pink.
- In the Northern Hemisphere, Calluna vulgaris blooms from late summer to early autumn and its flowers are rich in nectar and attract butterflies, bees, and moths.
- During this period, the plant produces attractive racemes of many small, bell-shaped flowers. They have a pretty colour palette, featuring shades of purple, pink, red, and white.
- This ornamental will usually start blooming when it reaches maturity, 3 to 4 years after planting, and will product blooms for about 10 years. After that period, the plant can become woody.
- Once the blooming period is over, Calluna vulgaris bears fruits where blossoms were. The fruits are capsules that contain lots of seeds.
Growing Calluna Vulgaris
Once you decide which Calluna vulgaris cultivar will occupy a spot in your plant family, growing and caring for it will be as easy as you can imagine. This friendly shrub will manage to have the time of its life in your home or garden, demanding only a few particular conditions for this to happen.
If you are at the start of your gardening journey, the easy-going Calluna vulgaris is surely a perfect pick for a novice gardener. And you will see what we are talking about in the following paragraphs.
Lighting-wise, Calluna vulgaris typically thrives in any type of environment as long as it grows in its hardiness zone. This plant grows at its best in the USDA areas 4b to 6a. In general, Calluna vulgaris will surprise you with the nicest blooming out there when it receives plenty of full sunlight all day long.
However, this particular type of exposure works best for the plant only in zones 4 and 5. If you live in zone 6, on the other hand, your shrub will thank you for a bit of shade during the afternoons.
As mentioned above, Calluna vulgaris benefits from growing in the USDA regions 4b to 6a. You might want to pay some attention to high temperatures and humidity levels around this buddy, especially if you grow it in the southern US or other spots like this. With proper care but minimal effort, this plant can become hardy in zones 5 to 7. And if you can provide your shrub with adequate winter protection, it will survive cold temperatures even in zone 3.
- Calluna Vulgaris, also known as Scotch Heather is grown as a perennial in USDA Zones 3 - 9. This bush will reach 12 - 20 inches in height and grows best in full sun to partial shade. Can be grown indoors as a house plant.
- Heather has various shades of red and pink flower blooms from mid summer through fall and is the perfect addition to a sunny garden or border.
- This low growing shrub is evergreen but it is recommended to mulch before the onset of winter to protect from damage caused by the cold temperatures and wind.
- Sow these heirloom seeds in the spring or early fall at 2 - 3 seeds per plant in well-drained soil and keep moist until germination occurs in 28 - 35 days
- It is recommended to mulch before the onset of winter to protect from damage caused by the cold temperatures and wind. Heather seeds are very small and should be surface sown and the soil needs to remain moist, with watering best done from below if possible.
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Last update on 2023-07-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Overwintering your Calluna vulgaris in locations colder than zone 5 requires a few steps but nothing too difficult to manage. You can protect your shrub by insulating it, which consists of two major parts. First, you will have to mulch the Calluna vulgaris heavily with a layer of straw.
Second, cover the plant with polystyrene foam from the bottom. If you have your Calluna vulgaris in a container that works inside your house, you can bring it indoors in autumn and grow it under proper environmental conditions.
Calluna vulgaris is not a plant that has issues with pest infestations. But when it comes to fungal diseases, you and your shrubby friend will meet two very unpleasant enemies of the gardening world – powdery mildew and root rot. In case powdery mildew affects your plant, you can apply a good fungicide to get rid of it. For root rot, however, there is nothing much you can do.
Luckily, you can avoid these joy killers by adopting a suitable watering routine. Make sure you avoid watering your Calluna vulgaris from the top to prevent its foliage from getting wet. You can also improve the overall air circulation by pruning the plant regularly in spring.
Planting Calluna Vulgaris
The ideal time to plant your Calluna vulgaris in its new home is in spring or early fall. This ornamental grows at a relatively slow pace, reaching an average of 30 inches (76 cm) in width. Because of this, we warmly recommend you find a spot where this shrub can spread effortlessly without overcrowding itself or other nearby plants. This will help you keep your Calluna vulgaris away from future fungal problems.
In terms of soil, the only thing you should keep an eye out for is the well-draining feature. As long as you can find a substrate that drains well, Calluna vulgaris will grow just fine in almost anything you can offer it. This shrub prefers rocky terrains and sandy soils but will tolerate poor growing mediums and even salt spray. And if you want to go extra, look only for those substrates with a soil pH that is more on the acidic side.
To create an ideal environment for your Calluna vulgaris, you can always choose to plant it in soil that has lots of organic matter or peat moss. This growing medium will provide the shrub with enough nutrients for optimal growth and blooming. If you already grow your plant in rich soil, you will not need to give it supplemental nutrients through fertilizers.
There is a possibility that the growing medium of your Calluna vulgaris is not acidic enough. If this is the case, you can feed the shrub with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants. Try to fertilize your Calluna vulgaris only until July.
Calluna vulgaris is a plant that relies on constant pruning. Once this shrub reaches maturity, it tends to become somewhat leggy with time. When the early spring has come, you can begin pruning your shrub to promote faster growth overall. Pruning will also help you keep your shrub m attractive through a more compact and bushy appearance.
When you grow your Calluna vulgaris in a pot, it will naturally need more space to develop with age. The most common indicator that this shrub needs a new bigger pot is that it has outgrown its current one. At that very moment, you can transplant the plant into a one-size larger container than the previous one. The container should be clay-based and also feature drainage holes at the bottom.
Getting Calluna Vulgaris to Bloom
With Calluna vulgaris, the exact time of blooming may be different depending on which cultivar you have in your collection. The varieties can bloom anytime between late July to November. You can encourage your shrub to produce flowers by spoiling it with more than they usually ask for. This process means you provide it with at least six hours of sunlight each day and also plant it in acidic, well-draining soil.
The blossoms of Calluna vulgaris typically turn brown once the flowering period has ended. You can remove those to promote new growth, but this will make you skip the irresistible picture of dry flowers during the winter months. The choice is all yours!
Watering Calluna Vulgaris
While your Calluna vulgaris is still at a young age, it will need regular watering to help it establish and also develop beautifully. During its youth, this shrub will benefit from about one inch (2.5 cm) of water once weekly. In other words, you should water your buddy when the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry to the touch.
Once this plant settles in its new environment, you can go for a more relaxed watering routine. In general, Calluna vulgaris has average water needs, meaning that you can give it a drink every now and then without it getting upset. Moreover, it becomes relatively tolerant of drought, so you can even forget about its existence occasionally and it will still forgive you when you come back.
In zone 4, you can water your Calluna vulgaris whenever its growing medium has dried out completely. If you live in a warmer area, the plant will require more irrigation than usual. You can provide it with a generous drink when the top half of the soil seems dry to the touch.
Propagating Calluna Vulgaris
This part of having a Calluna vulgaris around brings lots of excitement. If you absolutely love this shrub and want more to keep you company, you can propagate the one you already have. The most common methods used to propagate this plant are cuttings and seeds. For instant feedback, you can opt for the cutting method. But if you want to have some fun on the way and experience something totally new, go for the seed way and you will not regret it!
Let’s start with the cuttings. The perfect time to take cuttings from your Calluna vulgaris is during the summer months. Once you have the cuttings, you should wait for them to root indoors over the autumn and winter. After this happens, you can transplant the new plants outdoors when the warmth shows up, usually in early spring.
First things first, look for green, non-woody stems and cut about 6 inches (15 cm) off them with a sharp knife. You should cut the stems just below a growing node and make sure each has two leaves in the upper half. Dip the cut ends of your cuttings in rooting hormone to boost their future growth and root development.
Fill the bottom of a six-inch (15 cm) pot with about an inch (2.5 cm) of compost or other organic matter. The rest of the pot should contain a soilless mix or vermiculite. You will need as many pots as Callunis vulgaris cuttings as you have. Once you have prepared the propagation medium for each cutting, you can plant them in the substrate, and then pat them down around the stems. Water the cuttings and place the containers in a spot with indirect light.
For optimal growth, you should build a tent above the containers from plastic bags to help retain humidity and uncover the cuttings for an hour or so daily to provide them with fresh airflow. When you notice new growth, after about a month, you can remove the plastic bag for good. You can replant the new shrubs in early spring.
Now for the seed method, you should know that Calluna vulgaris seeds germinate at their best in the plant’s natural habitat after a wildfire. If you want to start your own plants from seed, you will have to mimic those particular conditions at home. Do not panic, it is much easier and safer than it sounds!
At first, you must spread the seeds on a fire-resistant tray and place it in an oven at 250 °F (121 °C) for 30 seconds. After this, fill a pot or seed tray with a soilless mix and sow the seeds just above the substrate. In case you want to use a pot, try to sow a maximum of three seeds and space them one or two inches (2.5-5 cm) apart. Cover the seeds lightly with more of the soilless mix, dampen the soil with a spray bottle, and then place the tray/pot in an indirect-lit spot. The germination should occur in several weeks.
Calluna vulgaris a.k.a. Scotch heather is a favourite pick of most gardeners during this exact time of the year. The beauty of this shrub is one of a kind, keeping its ornamental value even in the coldest conditions of winter through its dry flowers.
This ornamental shrub will fill your garden with colour and life as it will attract beneficial pollinators such as butterflies, native bees, and moths. And with minimal care, you can enjoy the presence of this aromatic shrub for as long as you can imagine. It will not stop surprising you with its friendly nature and attractiveness. However, make sure you avoid growing this plant if it’s listed as invasive in your region.
Are you growing Calluna vulgaris? Share your experience in the comments!