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Keeping heathers trim and in shape

Posted by Rosemoor Garden on 28 May 2009 at 04:02 PM

The winter flowering heathers in the Winter Garden have provided a bright splash of colour over the past few months, but by the end of April the flowers were rapidly fading and we decided it was time to give them their annual trim.  Annual pruning of these heathers (Erica carnea, Erica x darleyensis and Erica erigena) helps to keep the plants compact and encourages flowering the following year.

With such a large number of heathers in the Winter Garden we prefer to use shears to trim them.  However, if you only have a few plants, a pair of secateurs is ideal and you may find that it is easier to maintain the rounded shape of individual plants using secateurs.

When pruning our winter flowering heathers we aim to cut the stems back to just below the faded flowers, removing most, but not all, of the previous season’s growth.  It’s very important to avoid cutting back into old wood because it does not readily produce new shoots.

Summer flowering heathers, such as Calluna vulgaris (which we grow for its very attractive foliage), Erica cinerea, Erica ciliaris and Erica vagans, should be lightly pruned annually in early March by cutting back the old flower heads to a point just below the bottom flowers on the stems.  As with the winter flowering heathers, it’s best to avoid cutting back into old wood.

If, like us at Rosemoor, you have any tree heaths, such as Erica arborea, Erica australis, Erica x veitchii and Erica lusitanica, in your garden, you will find that they require minimal pruning, although some pruning in the first two or three years after planting will promote good bushy growth and create an attractively-shaped plant.  Such formative pruning should be carried out in early spring and the stems can be cut back by up to two-thirds.  Once your tree heath is established, if you do find it is necessary to prune it, the best time is after flowering in late spring or early summer.  It’s also worth noting that, unlike other heathers, the tree heaths, especially Erica arborea, respond well to hard pruning into old wood, although it would be advisable to spread renovation over two or three years.

James Shepherd (Gardener, Decorative and Nursery)


lotusleaf said:


on 30 May 2009 at 10:23 AM