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Purple Heather

Posted by anniebetannie 5a (anniebetannie@earthlink.net) on
Sat, Apr 12, 08 at 0:21

I was wondering if anyone knows anything about the "purple heather of Scotland"? What is the proper name? Can we grow it in the States? I do know that Scotland has winters, much like Ne. does. I'd love to get some...so if anyone out there knows if and where I can get it please share. Thanks, Annie


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RE: Purple Heather

Erica cinerea, called Scotch heath, Bell Heather, or just Heather.

Its actually a small shrub. I know it likes acid soil, and it will grow in the Northeast, but beyond that I cannot say as it is not a plant that is grown where I am. It seems fairly easy to come across... google link below so you can reserch

Here is a link that might be useful: Google: Erica cinerea


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RE: Purple Heather

To be precise, Scotch or ling heather is actually Calluna vulgaris. This is a plant that is native to much of Europe and is quite cold hardy, generally listed to USDA zone 4 and sometimes to 3 if provided with adequate snow cover. There is only one species in this genus. Members of the genus Erica are commonly referred to as heaths and there are many species native to a much wider geographic spread, including South Africa and the Mediterranean, and a number of hybrids as well. Ericas in general tend to be less hardy than Callunas and some are quite tender. Erica carnea is arguably the hardiest of this genus and is often planted in the same locations as Calluna - E. cinerea has a much more limited adaptability.

Visually, there is not too much difference between the two genus other than foliage - callunas have scale-like leaves and ericas have needle-like foliage - and a difference in bloom times. Callunas tend to be summer bloomers while ericas are winter bloomers. Both come in a range of flower colors - white, pink, purple, and deep magentas. Callunas also offer a wide variation in foliage color as well with greys, golds and all tones of green. Many cultivars will take on color in the winter or cold weather as well, turning intense shades of orange, bronze or red. Some offer very brightly colored new growth in spring also - "spring tips" is what they are referred to in the nursery trade and come in shades of bright yellow, chartreuse, coral and red.

Both ericas and callunas prefer to grow in acidic, organically rich soils although some ericas are more lime tolerant. They like sun, do poorly in much shade and need consistent moisture but very good drainage. I would not consider them particularly drough tolerant.

Just a note of caution: grocery stores and florists will often offer pots of blooming purple 'heather' with tall, upright flower sprays. This is Erica persoluta, a South African native. It is very showy but is NOT hardy except in frost free climates.

In the northeast, Rock Spray Nursery is an excellent heather resource.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rock Spray Nursery


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RE: Purple Heather

For Scotch heather, the limiting factor might not be winter temperatures in Nebraska, but summer heat. If your summer highs are similar to what I experienced in southeast South Dakota (90s-occasional 100+), they will stress plants.

"(Scotch heather) 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...heavy clay soils"

Scotland has a more temperate climate than that of the Midwest/Great Plains with less marked temperature extremes and much cooler summers.

As for other ornamental heaths/heathers, you get into problems with winter hardiness (especially if snow cover is unreliable) as well.

My limited experience here with hybrids touted as hardy in my area (central Ohio) was that none lasted more than a year or two.


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RE: Purple Heather

Thanks so much for the input from the experts....I was able to find a nursery that specializes in heathers: Heaths and Heathers. I called them today and the owner was so busy with customers, so I will call back PT, on Monday morning. We do have awful humid, hot summers here. I was so wishing that I could get one to grow. A bit of history: my grandparents (maternal) came from Scotland and my "nana" often talked about the heather. Also, I'm a reader, and am re-reading a series from George MacDonald, Scotland's master story teller. Any one else ever read his books???
Well, thanks again...I'll fill you in when I talk with the gal from heaths and heathers. Annie


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