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ERICA cinerea

Image of Erica cinerea

James H. Schutte

Family

Ericaceae

Botanical Name

ERICA cinerea

Plant Common Name

Bell Heather, Crimson Heath, Twisted Heath

General Description

Bell heather is a low mounding evergreen subshrub that bears flashy, violet-purple flowers from early summer to autumn. Hailing from Western and Central Europe, it is one of the most difficult Erica to establish, though once it has it is quite drought tolerant and tough. Its fine, needle-like leaves are medium to dark green and held in whorls of three on its gray, upright branches.

The tiny lowers are bell-shaped and appear in dense clusters along the branch tips from late spring to early autumn. They may be pendent or held horizontally and are most commonly vivid violet-purple but pink or white forms also exist. They typically self-pollinate but honeybees also frequent the blossoms, yielding flavorful heather honey.

Plant heather in full sun and sandy, humus-rich, acid soil with good drainage. Alkaline or clay soils should be completely avoided. Protect from cold, drying winter winds to avoid winter burn. If pruning is necessary, it should be done immediately after flowering. This is an ideal evergreen for rock gardens and wall edges. It pairs well with other acid-loving plants, like wintergreen, azaleas and dwarf conifers, and makes an excellent groundcover.

There are lots of cultivars to choose that vary in flower color, height and form. For example, 'C.D. Eason' and 'Foxhollow Mahogany' are both low-growing and offer lovely brightly colored flowers of magenta and ruby-red.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 6

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    5 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    4, 5, 6, 15, 16, 17

  • Plant Type

    Shrub

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    10"-24" / 25.4cm - 61.0cm

  • Width

    12"-32" / 30.5cm - 81.3cm

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer, Late Summer, Early Fall, Fall

  • Native To

    Europe, Northern Europe, Southern Europe, Western Europe, United Kingdom

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Spreading

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Purple, Pink, Hot Pink, Violet

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Alpine, Container, Edging, Feature Plant, Foundation, Groundcover, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No