Plants

Heather

Heather

Erica, in addition to being one of the most popular female names, is also the name of an evergreen or perennial shrub plant, native to South Africa and the countries of Mediterranean Europe. It includes about 600 species belonging to the Ericaceae family. Sometimes, this plant is confused with similar species, but belonging to other plant genera, such as Calluna (Calluna vulgaris), also called wild heather and Daboecia. Heather proper is grown outdoors or in pots due to the extraordinary ornamental properties of its flowers, small, of various colors and pleasantly scented. The different varieties of heather have different structure and posture, as well as different cultural needs. Some species, for example, easily grow in calcareous soils, others are purely acidophilic.

Variety


Among the main varieties of heather there are arboreal heather, heather ash, heather carnea, heather multiflora, heather vagans and some varieties from which hybrids are obtained for cultivation in pots, such as erica gracilis, heather persoluta, heather melanthera and pagean heather. The arboreal heather is the species that has real shrub characteristics, with heights even up to six meters. This variety blooms in spring, prefers calcareous soils and has a white flower arrangement with slight pink hues. On the other hand, the ash heather is a lover of acid soils, a shrub smaller than the tree variety and no more than sixty centimeters in height. The flowers of this variety are purple in color and bloom during the summer. Carnea heather is a species that grows spontaneously in the Alpine and Apennine areas and prefers calcareous soils. It has a stem no higher than one meter in height and deep pink flowers that develop from February to June. The heather multiflora is also always spontaneous, widespread in areas with a temperate climate, that is to say in the Mediterranean countries. This variety has a stem that is over one meter in height and very fragrant pink flowers that bloom during the summer. Erica vagans is a small shrub no more than 60 centimeters high, which resists even low temperatures. Its flowers are red and bloom in spring. Heather gracilis is also well known, a shrub native to Africa and no more than 40 centimeters in height. This variety blooms in winter and in areas with a mild climate it must necessarily be grown in a greenhouse or in an apartment. This species gave birth but many pot hybrids, with flowers of different colors: from white to pink. Also of African origin is the Persolute heather, a shrub that reaches about 90 centimeters in height, with white flowers streaked with pink. This variety blooms in the spring. The heather melanthera is characterized from the other varieties by having pink flowers in the center of which a black stamen emerges. Pagean heather is a shrub native to southern Africa, with a height of thirty centimeters to one meter and yellow flowers that bloom in autumn. A special mention deserves the heather, which, like tree heather, can reach considerable heights, even up to seven meters. It is a spontaneous species that grows in the woods and with pink flowers. In the past, the wood of this shrub was used to build huts, brooms and to make pipes.

General characteristics


All the plants belonging to the ericaceae family, regardless of the color of the flowers and the preferences of the soil, have general characteristics that are very common to each other. The most important is that they are shrubby species with a perennial or evergreen behavior, with very narrow and needle-like leaves, arranged along thin branches, and abundant bell-shaped flowers that bloom from autumn to summer, according to the variety they belong to. The flower arrangement is formed in the terminal part of the branches of the previous year, grouped in spikes of various colors, from white, to pink, to purple and yellow. Heather prefers soils with the right level of humidity, neither too dry nor too humid, the important thing is that they are well drained and ventilated. It is a plant that loves sunlight, but not direct exposure. If you want to expose the heather to direct sunlight you have to do it early in the morning and for no more than two hours. The soil must be predominantly acidic for acidophilic species, while more compact for calcifugal ones. Generally, acidophilic varieties are grown in private gardens which lend themselves to easier cultivation in pots. The different varieties of heather, also thanks to the different hybrids obtained, allow to give life to many ornamental solutions, such as the creation of hedges. in private gardens, acidophilic varieties are grown which lend themselves to simpler cultivation in pots. The different varieties of heather, also thanks to the different hybrids obtained, allow to give life to many ornamental solutions, such as the creation of hedges. in private gardens, acidophilic varieties are grown which lend themselves to simpler cultivation in pots. The different varieties of heather, also thanks to the different hybrids obtained, allow to give life to many ornamental solutions, such as the creation of hedges.

Cultivation


The cultivation of heather must take place taking into account the specific characteristics of the cultivated species. To cultivate the plant on the ground it is necessary to carefully work the soil, in order to make it soft and to lower its pH to make it acidic in case you want to cultivate an acidophilic variety. The ideal location for the cultivation of heather is in shady and well-ventilated areas. In the northern areas, heather can also be grown in sunny places, but always well ventilated. Even for the cultivation in pots it is necessary to prepare a basically acidic soil, because the pot hybrids are for the most part acidophilic. The substrate of the container should consist of dry leaves and moorland in equal parts, with the addition of sand and peat. To keep the humidity constant, at the bottom of the pot you can use saucers with damp but not soaked gravel pebbles. The heather should be repotted only when it has reached too excessive dimensions compared to the pot in which it is placed. The operation is carried out in spring, on a pot enriched with the same soil as the first plant. The pot must be placed in environments with temperatures no lower than seven degrees and no higher than fifteen. Heather resists winter temperatures well, what needs to be checked is the quality of the soil, which for acidophilic species must be acidic. However, the potted species, in winter, can be kept in places sheltered from the cold, as long as they are cool and airy. The pots can be placed outdoors during the summer. Planting of heather can be done in spring or autumn.

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