October Plant of the Month | Calluna vulgaris
Calluna vulgaris | Heather
Better known as heather, Calluna vulgaris is a compact, evergreen shrub found naturally in swathes across the heathlands of Europe. Calluna varieties have small leaves and produce flowers in a range of colours from late summer into autumn. This is a very hardy garden plant, that really earns its place in the garden thanks to the almost year-round interest offered from either flower or foliage and its low maintenance nature.
Scientific research from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Royal Holloway, University of London has also suggested that a natural nectar chemical that occurs in Calluna, named callunene, has high medicinal value in protecting wild bumblebees from the common parasite Crithidia bombi.
Calluna vulgaris Varieties
Although Calluna vulgaris is the only species within the calluna genus, there are a surprisingly large number of Calluna vulgaris varieties. These produce vibrant flowers in shades of red, pink, purple and white.
Calluna vulgaris Garden Girls Series
For a really long-lasting burst of colour, we recommend the Calluna vulgaris Garden Girls Series. Growing to less than half a metre tall, the dark green foliage sets off flowers in red, pink and white. The long flowering time is the result of the flower buds never completely opening.
Flowering time: July to November
Sun Requirements: Full sun
Soil: Well-drained soil – prefers acidic soils
Hardiness: Fully hardy, will tolerate to -20°C or even below
Size: Grows to 50cm height x 50cm spread
Calluna vulgaris Growing Guide
Calluna are extremely hardy, low-maintenance plants that will perform reliably year after year with just a little care. They are also particularly loved by bees, making them a great source of autumn nectar.
Position in a spot in full sun. Add ericaceous compost if you do not have naturally acidic soil.
Prune back to the base of flower stalks in the early to mid spring.
Calluna vulgaris Planting Ideas
Calluna works well planted towards the front or middle of the border, framing the rest of your planting.
It can also make a great container plant, either mono planted or as part of a mixed autumnal planter, adding long-lasting colour and texture.
Calluna vulgaris Fact
Calluna is in the Ericaceae family of flowering plants, which includes the similar Erica species but also cranberries, blueberries and rhododendrons.