Family: Ericaceae
Common Name: Heath

This spectacular genus of evergreen, flowering shrubs mostly originates from South Africa and Europe and comprises more than 700 species, though many beautiful types are still not culti­vated. Careful choice of species can ensure year-round flowering. Heaths range in height from dwarf forms to those as tall as 4.5 m (15 ft). All bear clusters of small, bell-shaped or tubular flowers which remain on the plant for a long time. The most common colours are white, cream, pink, mauve and red. Very well suited to cool climates, they are popular in all their forms for use as groundcovers, mixed shrubs or specimens.


E. arborea, tree heath, zone 7, from Europe and northern Africa, bears masses of small, white, fragrant flowers, with black anthers, in spring. It grows 3-5 m (10-16 ft). The stems and roots of this plant are used to make briar pipes.

E. baccans, berry heath, zone 10, from South Africa, has salmon pink flowers during winter and spring, and an erect growth habit to 2.5 m (8 ft). The flowers make a rattling sound when shaken.

E. carnea, winter heath, zone 5, from Europe, is well suited to cooler cli­mate rockeries. It produces pink flowers in winter and spring. Recommended cultivars include 'Springwood Pink' and 'Springwood White'.

E. cinerea, bell heath, zone 5, from Europe, is one of the loveliest species of all: from early summer it bears masses of purple bells. It is a smaller growing heath, to 60 cm (24 in), and is particularly suited to natural rock gardens. Many cultivars provide a large colour range.

E. x darleyensis, Darley Dale heath, zone 6, to 60 cm (24 in), is a valuable garden plant and one of the easiest to cultivate as it is hardy, adaptable and tolerant of some lime. In autumn and winter, this shrub is covered with short spikes of cylindrical, rose pink flowers. Many cultivars are available.

E. erigena (Synonym: E. mediterranea), Irish heath, zone 8, to 3 m (10 ft), is one of the best winter and spring flowerers, with a profusion of pink, black-eyed blooms. It can tolerate cold and some lime, and is fairly drought-resistant. Several varieties are available.

E. hiemalis, winter heath, zone 9, with pink or white, winter flowers on tapering spikes, is suitable for growing in pots.

E. lusi­tanica, Spanish or Portuguese heath, zone 8, is one of the most beautiful of the species. This hardy plant, 2-3 m (6-10 ft) tall, seeds freely, so is often found naturalized in suitable condi­tions. It produces pink buds which open to small, white, fragrant, bell flowers in late win-ter and spring.


Heaths are quite fussy plants. They need good drainage and full sun, and dislike lime and animal manure, preferring a fairly poor soil. Sometimes they are grown in a sepa­rate bed or 'heath garden' where their special requirements can be met if the natural condi­tions are not quite right. They should be dis­turbed as little as possible. Propagate from seed in spring, by layering or from semi-ripe cut­tings, about 3-5 cm (1-2 in) long, taken with a heel.


There are heaths suited to various cli­matic zones.

Eremurus      Erigeron