Heather Plant Guide: ID Chart Showing Types of Heather Plants, Growing Tips

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | May 9, 2024

Window box growing heather plant after owner learned how to identify types of heather, colors, how to plant low maintenance heather indoors and guide to outdoor landscaping with heather.

The Heather Plant is a great plant choice if your space is generally inhospitable, but still want a perfect shrub for landscape gardening.

Apart from its stunning pink, purple, and red flowers, you will appreciate how the plant can survive even in harsh conditions.

In fact, it can flourish in container gardening projects or out in the open, allowing you to enjoy the striking bee-friendly blooms even in winter.

This pollinator ‘attractor’ can bring color to any part of your home.

And, it does it with ease.

So, if you feel like you may not have a green thumb, a Heather plant may be the perfect solution.

This complete guide outlines everything you need to know about how to identify, choose, plant and grow Heather in your home.

Heather, Common Heather, Scottish Heather, Ling

(Calluna vulgaris)

Heather plant in an oval frame on a green background.
  • Family: Ericaceae
  • Genus: Calluna
  • Leaf: Tiny, needle-like, simple, grayish-green in color but turns to bronze and purple in winter
  • Seed: Brownish white in color, tiny, lightweight
  • Blossoms: Showy, coming in various colors, from red to purple and pink
  • Native Habitat: Eurasia
  • Height: 4 to 24 inches
  • Canopy: 1 to 2 feet spread
  • Type: Perennial
  • Native Growing Zone: USDA zones 4 to 6

Image Credit: Shadi15

How To Identify Heather Plant

It is easy to confuse the Heather Plant with other flowering bushes but here is how to be sure, by looking at the following parts.

Heather Leaves

Did you know that Heathers are broadleaf evergreens? Apart from the flowers, the green leaves are also show stoppers thanks to their greyish or silver hue.

When fall comes, they again turn to brown/ bronze or purple depending on the Calluna vulgaris cultivar.7 You also notice that the leaves are needle-like, measuring less than an inch long and wide, usually growing in groups of four.

Heather Flowers

Perhaps the most enchanting aspect of this plant is its flowers. Based on the cultivar, you could end up with purple, red, pink, yellow, or white showy flowers.

An infographic titled Heather Identification with images showing the heather seed, pink heather flowers, and heather leaves.

Most importantly, when do Heather Plants typically blossom with flowers? You should start seeing these striking colors between mid-summer and early fall.1

Types of Heather Plants (Calluna Varieties)

What do you want the Heather Plant to do for you?6 This should be among your first questions when deciding which cultivar of landscaping trees or bushes to plant.

You will be spoilt for choice because the flowers come in plenty of colors, while the shrub itself can be tall/short or with a wide or short spread, depending on what you go for.

Here are a few top choices out there.

Purple Heather Plant Types

If you are a huge fan of lavender and other purple flowers and want that in your garden, there are so many Heather varieties that fit the description.

For instance, there is Robert Chapman, whose leaves change to orange-red in summer and has stunning rose-purple flowers.

Expansive coastal heath land with flowering heather plants under a clear blue sky with wispy clouds.

(Image: Txllxt TxllxT12)

The silver queen is also striking with lavender-mauve blossoms and a compact growth type. The Firefly is another common cultivar known for turning a bright red color in fall, but its long purple flower spikes don’t go unnoticed.

Pink Heather

If pink flowers are your go-to, you might want to consider a variety like the Darley Dale, which blooms all through the winter.

Another type that guarantees color in your landscape all year long is the Vivellii, all thanks to its bright pink blooms that nicely contrast with the deep bronze leaves in winter.

White Heather

The thing about bushes with white flowers is that they never cease to stand out. They make perfect focal points for your gardens and blend well with other flower colors.

If you want a Heather Plant with white flowers, you can go for the Kinlochruel, Springwood white, Albert’s gold, White Bell, and many more.

The Heather Plant comes in many other flowering colors, including red, orange, and yellow. For instance, you can choose varieties like the Wickwar Flame, Dark Beauty, and Kerstin.

However, it is common to find Heathers in odd, unnatural colors being sold in nurseries. Watch out when shopping in nurseries because the seedlings may be dyed or painted versions that will revert to their original colors later on.

Growing a Heather Plant From a Seed, Cutting, or Seedling

Probably the easiest way to get hold of your common Heather is by heading to your nearest nursery and grabbing one. But, lucky for those with a green thumb, there are many other options.

Planting Heather Seeds

Planting common Heather seeds can get tricky. It is only a game of chance because you will not likely get a plant with the same features as the parent breed.

Thankfully, it is not that daunting, simply harvest seeds from dry capsules from a plant and sow them early in fall. You can use a seeding or potting medium, dig lightly, place the seeds, and cover them.

Next, spray with some water and place the pot under indirect sunlight.

Planting Cuttings

For the best shot at getting a new plant with the same features as the parent, consider propagating from cuttings. Even though it may be a while before rooting, you will be sure to get the best features but make sure you choose a plant that is yet to bloom.

Place the cutting in a pot measuring 4 inches deep and fill it with sand and compost mixture. You can also cover it with a plastic bag and place the container under indirect light, watering and caring for it.

Planting Seedlings

If you decide to take the shortest route, make sure you are careful when transplanting the bush to its final spot. Make sure you dig a sizeable hole at least twice the size of the root ball and backfill with loosened soil.

A young heather shrub sprouting on a mossy forest floor scattered with pine needles.

(Image: Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz13)

Water deeply and provide other needs. Your Heather should keep growing healthy and strong in no time.

Best Growing Conditions for Heather Plant

Heather Plants are generally hardy but still, it is best to grow them under ideal conditions. First and foremost, going by its natural habitat, you can tell that the plants can survive in a poor, rocky garden, even when they are deprived of nutrients.8

To make up for that, they need extra water, in case you were wondering about the watering needs for Heather Plants. An inch a week will be enough unless growing in hotter regions or during scorching summers.

You may also wonder, how much sunlight does Heather Plant need each day? While comfortable under six hours of full sun in zones 4-5, your plants will need shading from the afternoon heat.

Heather Plant Care and Planting Tips

Do you want to effortlessly grow vibrant healthy Heather Plants? The following planting tips for Heather may come in handy.

How To Plant Heather

You will never go wrong with planting in free-draining soil, whether in containers or the open. All you need is a balance when it comes to exposure to the sun, making sure that it is not too strong but still strong enough to bring out the striking flower and foliage colors.

Lastly, if you are not sure how far apart to plant Heather, a 2-foot distance between each planting works, but extend it if dealing with a type that grows too wide.

Heather Plant Growing Zone

The ideal growing zones for Heather Plant (where to grow it with the least effort) are under hardiness zones 4-6 (USDA).

Vibrant heather plants with a mix of pink, purple, and white flowers in a stone container.

(Image: congerdesign16)

But still, it will survive outside these conditions with a little more care.

Heather Plant Growth Rate

So, when to plant Heather for the best yield? Gardeners know spring is the best time for planting, although you can plant other types in autumn. As for how long it takes to grow Heather Plant, it depends on how it started.2

Seeds will take longer because you account for the 2-3 months just for germination. On the other hand, the plant takes the shortest time when growing from seedlings.

How Do You Get Heather Bushes To Bloom?

Flowering is the best part of the Heather Plant, maybe even the main reason you are planting it. Under normal circumstances, Heather shouldn’t have any problem with growing or blooming.

If it takes ages before the flowers show, it means that there is an underlying problem. The top reason is that the growing conditions are not favorable.

So, you should check that the soil drains well, the plant is receiving the recommended 6 hours of sunlight, and the watering is sufficient, and if not, adjust accordingly. Your Heather may also need a little more TLC, like pruning.9

It is easy for such a bush to get leggy, but you can keep that under control and ensure it blooms on time by regularly trimming overgrown parts.

Companion Plants for Growing Heather

What is successful companion gardening? When what you plant alongside Heathers share the same requirements in matters of soil, watering, and lighting needs.

Graphic of the companion plants for growing Heather, showing images of suitable annuals like petunias, violas, and pansies, shrubs, and perennials such as daffodils, hyacinths, and coral bells.

For the best results, you should go for plants that love cool conditions and acidic soil. Also, consider the height, ensuring the companion plants will not grow too tall and overshadow the bushes.

  • Shrubs: Heathers grow perfectly with similar plants. Consider other broadleaf evergreens like camelia, hydrangea, azalea, rhododendron, hibiscus, and gardenia.
    Evergreen yews, junipers, and small conifers are also safe bets.
  • Perennials: If you want to create a perennial garden for year-long interest, companions like cyclamen, coral bells, hyacinths, daffodils, and ornamental grasses will be perfect contrasts with Heathers.
  • Annuals: You can also go for annuals for the different seasons. Early bloomers like petunias, violas, and pansy flower never disappoint and go further to add color to your landscaping.

Many shrubs will thrive growing near Heathers, but the same cannot be said for other plants. For instance, grass is one of the worst choices, especially if it self-seeds heavily, spreading aggressively around the bushes.5

In the same light, avoid lavenders, rosemaries, and lilacs. Their colors may be stunning and contrast beautifully with Heathers, but they prefer alkaline, not acidic soils.

Common Heather Problems

Lucky for you, you won’t have to deal with a lot of issues when planting Heathers. However, it is best to watch out for the following problems.

  • Leaf Browning: Unlike the usual color changes, it is a bad sign if you see the leaves drying up and turning brown. If they are brittle to the touch, your plant may be dying.
    Premature discoloration may be an indication of root rot, so trimming and treatment will be the last resort.
  • Growing Leggy: Shrubs have a habit of growing leggy when their soil needs are not met. This is why you have to check that the soil is deep, drains well, and is slightly acidic.
    Excessive fertilizer may also cause this problem, so if you have to feed them, do it moderately.
  • Chlorosis and Leaf Drop: Odd leaf colors and shapes are clear signs that something is off with your Heathers.4 Be on the lookout for yellowing, spots, mottling, and leaf drops.
    It may mean an insect infestation or a fungal infection, both of which are lethal.10

How To Stop Heather Plant Disease and Pests

The secret to happy, low-maintenance Heather gardening is planting in the perfect spot and providing all the requirements. But that is not proof that your plant will be immune to pests and diseases.

Heather Plant Pests

The common pests of the Heather Plant include

  • Scale: These insects suck the life out of your plant, and the longer they stay, the more they breed, and their numbers increase. Fortunately, they are easy to get rid of manually by scraping them off stems.
  • Spider Mites: These are only a problem when they attack in large numbers because they can kill off the plant’s stems. Fine webbing around the bushes will notify you of their presence.
  • Black Vine Weevils: Watch out for these ruthless pests that can’t get enough of azalea, Heathers, and other ornamental plants. The adults are worse because they feed on large parts of the plant and could kill in large numbers.
  • Lace Bugs: You don’t want these insects near your shrubs. They cause leaf discolorations, and you know what that means to the food-making process of the plant.
  • Whiteflies: Your young Heather Plant is not safe when white flies are around. They make the leaves roll up, change to yellow, and start dropping.

While insecticides may work in some cases, especially in severe infestations, your go-to should be natural pest control for Heather Plant. Handpicking and scraping off works for larger insects, while spraying off with a hose will do for the tiny ones.

Graphic of Heather Plant Pests, displaying images of common pests including Scale, Spider Mite, Black Vine Weevil, Lace Bugs, and Whiteflies, with a heather shrub in the center.

Also, consider applying insecticidal soap on the plant parts or introducing natural predators that feed on the pests.

Heather Plant Diseases

Heathers are not easily susceptible to diseases but still, be on the lookout for some common infections like:

  • Powdery Mildew: This disease doesn’t endanger your plant’s life but alters its looks, which you also want to avoid. Pay attention to dustiness on the leaf surfaces, especially at the tips where it starts showing up.
  • Root Rot: You never have to worry about root rot, provided the soil drains well and you don’t overwater your Heathers. The leaves will start wilting, and it will affect the plant’s growth, then later on, the plant will die after the parts start turning dark.

The two infections above are the most common, but still, be careful with other deadly diseases like canker, leaf spot, and blight. The best way to go is learning Heather Plant disease prevention, which means proper care and maintenance, ensuring you eliminate the chances of infections in the first place.

However, in the case, your Heather Plants fall under attack, you will start by chopping off the affected parts or uprooting infected plants.11 By disposing of them, you effectively stop the diseases from spreading.

Think of a plant that ticks all your boxes. It has the most stunning flower colors, is hardy, low maintenance, and is perfect for all your landscaping needs.

You are thinking about the Heather Plant that shows up in pink, red, purple, white, and yellow colors based on the type.

You will never regret gardening with this plant alongside other evergreen shrubs as companions.

The icing on the cake is that it is not susceptible to pests and diseases like other shrubs. So planting it will be a breeze for you, it doesn’t matter whether you are a professional gardener

The Heather Plant (Calluna vulgaris/Scottish Heather)

The Heather Plant keeps giving, whether it is color during the winter or easy maintenance in summer. It is a woody perennial cherished for its flowers that come in various shades.

It is no wonder more people are planting it in their homes. The Scottish Heather, common Heather, Summer Heather, scientifically known as Calluna vulgaris, is native to various parts of the world, including North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe.

History and Cultivation of Heather Shrub

Considering a Heather Plant’s native environment, you can tell a lot about it. For one, it can survive cold weather, even temperatures dipping to 4 degrees.

Imagine a bush that can live in Switzerland and Iceland. There are also natives from South Africa, North America, and England.3

Heather Plant facts are interesting because it was first used for roofing and making brooms in Scotland.

Heather shrubs with pink and purple flowers dusted with fresh snow, against a backdrop of fallen leaves.

(Image: Luiza Sayfullina14)

The shrubs were also important for beer making and dye.

Soon, people realized how breathtaking it was and started planting it purely for aesthetic reasons. Praise about its beauty spread, which explains why it started spreading out to other regions of the world.

As for Heather Plant symbolism, Queen Victoria was instrumental in popularizing it to mean good luck. But it is also planted to signify protection, purity, admiration, and fulfilled wishes.

Where Can You Find a Blue Heather Plant?

If you ever come across an advertisement about a Heather Plant with a deep blue color, you have to be extra cautious. While many nurseries will be clear that the plant is dyed or painted blue, others will advertise it falsely as the true color.

So, you have to know what you are signing up for. A dyed blue plant that will turn back to its original color later on.

Are Heather Berries Edible?

The dark purple Heather berries are edible and considered a delicacy by wildlife. They measure about half an inch wide and are sweet when cooked but have a bitter taste when raw.

You may find them bland, but animals can’t get enough of them.

Can You Grow Italian Heather Plant Indoors?

The Italian leather Heather is best known for being sold as an indoor plant. People love having them in containers indoors, so you can try that out, too, as long as you can provide all its needs.

Make sure it is growing in fertile, well-draining potting mix, water it regularly, and provide sunlight access often.

With very little fuss, the Heather Plant is a perfect plant for your indoor container gardens.

Frequently Asked Question About Heather Plant

What Is the White Heather Flower Symbolism?

The Heather Plant has so much meaning attached to it and you may want to associate that with why you are growing one. When it comes to white Heather, is believed to be a symbol of good luck, purity, admiration, and fulfilled wishes.


1Beaulieu, D. (2022, March 18). How to Grow and Care for Heather Shrubs. The Spruce. Retrieved January 18, 2024, from <https://www.thespruce.com/Heather-shrub-growing-profile-3269229>

2The Royal Horticultural Society. (2024). How to grow hardy Heathers. (2024). RHS. Retrieved January 18, 2024, from <https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/types/Heathers/growing-guide>

3Lofgren, K. (2022, May 23). How to Grow Heather Plants in Your Garden | Gardener’s Path. Gardener’s Path. Retrieved January 18, 2024, from <https://gardenerspath.com/plants/flowers/grow-Heather/>

4Yardener.com. (2023). Problems of Heather. Yardener. Retrieved January 18, 2024, from <https://gardening.yardener.com/Problems-Of-Heather>

5Small, R. (2023, September 20). Heather Companion Plants. Plant Addicts. Retrieved January 18, 2024, from <https://plantaddicts.com/Heather-companion-plants/>

6N.C. Cooperative Extension. (2024). Calluna vulgaris (Scotch Heather, Scottish Heather) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. Retrieved February 16, 2024, from <https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/calluna-vulgaris/>

7Oregon State University. (2024). Calluna vulgaris | Landscape Plants | Oregon State University. Oregon State Landscape Plants. Retrieved February 16, 2024, from <https://landscapeplants.oregonstate.edu/plants/calluna-vulgaris>

8Crowell, N. (2017, January 13). Planning a Heather Garden | WSU. Wsu. Retrieved February 16, 2024, from <https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2073/2014/03/Planning-A-Heather-Garden.pdf>

9University of Washington. (2024). on pruning heaths and heathers. Elisabeth C. Miller Library. Retrieved February 16, 2024, from <https://depts.washington.edu/hortlib/pal/on-pruning-heaths-and-heathers/>

10Sellmer, J., Bates, R.  (2023, January 4). Ericacea (Heath) Family and Their Culture. Penn State Extension. Retrieved February 16, 2024, from <https://extension.psu.edu/ericacea-heath-family-and-their-culture>

11University of Connecticut. (2024). Heath and Heather | Home and Garden Education Center. UConn Home and Garden Education Center. Retrieved February 16, 2024, from <https://homegarden.cahnr.uconn.edu/factsheets/heath-and-heather/>

12Texel – Nature Reserve De Bollekamer – 360° Panorama on Flowering Heather – Calluna Vulgaris – National Park Texel Dunes 11 Photo by Txllxt TxllxT. (2011, 14 August). CC BY 4.0 DEED | Attribution 4.0 International. Cropped, Resized, and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved February 16, 2024, from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Texel_-_Nature_Reserve_De_Bollekamer_-_360%C2%B0_Panorama_on_Flowering_Heather_-_Calluna_Vulgaris_-_National_Park_Texel_Dunes_11.jpg>

13Calluna vulgaris kz03 Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz. (2018, September 12). CC BY 4.0 DEED | Attribution 4.0 International. Cropped, Resized, and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved February 16, 2024, from <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Calluna_vulgaris_kz03.jpg>

14Purple and Pink Flowers Photo by Luiza Sayfullina. (2018, January 28) / Unsplash License. Cropped and Resized. Unsplash. Retrieved February 16, 2024, from <https://unsplash.com/photos/purple-and-pink-flowers-Eg05Wfy7oyQ>

15A Field of Flowers Photo by Shadi. (2022, July 25) / Unsplash License. Cropped and Resized. Unsplash. Retrieved February 16, 2024, from <https://unsplash.com/photos/a-field-of-flowers-bpgqmoc1FOc>

16Heather Blossom Photo by congerdesign. (2019, November 7) / Pixabay Content License. Resized. Pixabay. Retrieved April 3, 2024, from <https://pixabay.com/photos/pagan-erika-heather-heather-blossom-4608130/>