Calluna vulgaris
Common Name: Scotch heather
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Ericaceae
Native Range: Northern North America, northern Eurasia
Zone: 4 to 6
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Rose pink to purplish pink
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall, Evergreen
Fruit: Showy, Edible

Culture

Grow in moist, acidic, humusy, somewhat lean, sandy or gravelly, very well-drained soils of average fertility in full sun to part shade. Plants perform best in full sun (better flowering), but may appreciate some part afternoon light shade in hot summer climates. Scotch heather prefers a moist and cool climate. It generally dislikes the high heat/humidity of the Midwest and deep South and is not recommended for planting south of USDA Zone 6. It also dislikes the heavy clay soils commonly found in the St. Louis area. Plants need regular and consistent moisture and should not be allowed to dry out. Do not site plants in locations exposed to strong winds. Mulch with peat moss. Avoid cultivating around plants because they have shallow root systems. Prune in spring before new growth appears. Older shrubs often become leggy and unkempt, and appreciate an annual spring pruning.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Calluna vulgaris, commonly called Scotch heather, heather or ling, is a small, variably-sized, evergreen shrub that is native primarily to moors, dunes, bogs, heaths and hillsides from northern and western Europe to Siberia, Turkey and Morocco. It has naturalized in parts of North America, particularly in the northeastern U.S. and the Northwest. In optimum growing conditions, it will typically form thick mats of foliage. Tiny, four-ranked, scale-like leaves in overlapping pairs appear on slender stems rising on average to 24” tall. However cultivars appear in a wider range of sizes including prostrate forms with small tufts to only 4” tall. Leaves are typically gray to green in spring and summer but acquire bronze to purple tones in fall and winter. Rose pink to purplish pink flowers in terminal, one-sided, spike-like racemes appear in mid to late summer. The Royal Horticultural Society currently lists over 800 cultivars of this species.

Genus name comes from the Greek word kalluno meaning to cleanse or adorn. Plants were used for making brooms.

Specific epithet means common.

Problems

Watch for spider mites and oystershell scale. Stem and root rot may occur, particularly during warm and humid summer weather.

Garden Uses

Smaller varieties are useful as ground covers or in the rock garden. More erect shrubs are effective when planted in mass on hillsides. Also may be sited in borders and as background plants. Scotch heather generally combines well with dwarf conifers and deciduous shrubs.