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Calluna vulgaris - (L.)Hull.

Common Name Heather, Scotch Heather
Family Ericaceae
USDA hardiness 4-7
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Acid soils in open woodlands, moors and marshy ground[7]. Often the dominant plant on well-drained acid moors and heaths[17].
Range Much of Europe, including Britain, to N. W. Morocco. Less abundant in the east of its range..
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Calluna vulgaris Heather, Scotch Heather

Calluna vulgaris Heather, Scotch Heather


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Bloom Color: Pink, Purple, Red. Main Bloom Time: Early fall, Late summer, Mid summer. Form: Rounded, Spreading or horizontal, Upright or erect.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Calluna vulgaris is an evergreen Shrub growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 4. It is in leaf all year, in flower from July to October, and the seeds ripen from October to November. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, flies, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies), wind.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Erica vulgaris.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Ground Cover; Hedge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Shoots
Edible Uses: Condiment  Tea

A tea is made from the flowering stems[177, 183]. A kind of mead was once brewed from the flowers and the young shoots have been used instead of hops to flavour beer[7, 183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Antianxiety  Antirheumatic  Antiseptic  Bach  Cholagogue  Depurative  Diaphoretic  Diuretic  
Expectorant  Sedative  Urinary  Vasoconstrictor

Heather has a long history of medicinal use in folk medicine. In particular it is a good urinary antiseptic and diuretic, disinfecting the urinary tract and mildly increasing urine production[254]. The flowering shoots are antiseptic, astringent, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, mildly sedative and vasoconstrictor[7, 8, 9, 21, 165, 238]. The plant is often macerated and made into a liniment for treating rheumatism and arthritis, whilst a hot poultice is a traditional remedy for chilblains[7, 254]. An infusion of the flowering shoots is used in the treatment of coughs, colds, bladder and kidney disorders, cystitis etc[9, 238, 254]. A cleansing and detoxifying plant, it has been used in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis and gout[254]. The flowering stems are harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[7]. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Self-centredness' and 'Self-concern'[209]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh branches[9]. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis and insomnia[9].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Basketry  Besom  Dye  Fuel  Hedge  Hedge  Insulation  Musical  Tannin  Thatching

The branches have many uses, including in thatching, as a bedding or a stuffing for mattresses, for insulation, basketry, rope making and for making brooms[6, 7, 11, 46, 61, 66, 100, 254]. The dried branches are a good fuel[6, 66]. The rootstock can be made into musical pipes[254]. A yellow dye is obtained from the plant[7, 46, 61]. The bark is a source of tannin[46]. Heather can be grown as a low hedge and is quite useful as an edging to beds. It is fairly amenable to trimming[29]. A useful ground cover plant for covering dry banks[188, 197]. The cultivar 'White Lawn' has been recommended[188]. All except the very dwarf cultivars will need trimming each spring in order to keep them compact[208].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Food Forest  Ground cover  Hedge  Hedge

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Alpine garden, Border, Foundation, Ground cover, Massing, Rock garden, Specimen. Requires a light acid soil and a sunny position[138, 182]. Prefers a sunny position but tolerates light shade[186]. Only succeeds if the pH is below 6.5[186]. Prefers a poor peaty soil[11]. Plants are tolerant of fairly dry soils but they dislike prolonged drought[186]. They tolerate wet conditions in the winter[238]. Plants regenerate well from the base after a fire if the heat was not too great, if the fire was slow and intense then new seedlings will quickly become established[186]. Commonly grown in the ornamental garden, there are many named varieties[200, 238]. The flowers are rich in nectar and are very attractive to bees, butterflies and moths[7, 11, 30]. This plant is also an important food source for the caterpillars of many lepidoptera[30]. Special Features:Attractive foliage, Not North American native, Suitable for cut flowers, Suitable for dried flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is branching: a heart root, dividing from the crown into several primary roots going down and out [2-1].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow as soon as it is ripe or in February in a shaded part of the greenhouse[78, 113]. Surface sow or only just cover the seed[113, 138]. Cold stratification for 4 - 20 weeks aids germination[138]. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 2 months at 20°c. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter, planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood 4 - 5cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Good percentage[78]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, 5 - 7cm with a heel, October/November in a frame. Good percentage[78]. Layering in autumn[78]. Division in spring. Dig up the plant 12 months prior to division and replant it 15 - 30cm deeper in the soil in order to encourage rooting along the stems. When ready to take the divisions, it is just a matter of digging up the plant and cutting off sections of stem with roots on them. These are best potted up and kept in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are well rooted before planting them out in the summer or following spring.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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