Heather – Transplanting and Dormancy

(Question)

I recently got a couple heather plants at an event, covered in unopened flower buds. I would like to try and put them in the garden, but I figure it is both too late in the year and that it would be bad for the plant to have it’s buds/flowers exposed to frost. That means it will need to be kept indoors over the winter, but I am unsure how it will respond to lacking a dormancy period and being out of sync with the seasons. After it flowers should I try and ease it into dormancy or do you think it should be fine to just be planted out in the spring?

Also, any advice you have for where it might do best in the yard (sun, soil, drainage) will be helpful once it is time to decide where to put it.

Heather

(Answer)

Erica/Heather/ Heath

Dear gardener, what an interesting question you have posted!

To begin, I thought I would differentiate the origin and the difference of each species.

Spring Heath (Erica carnea) is a low growing plant (20cm) native to the alps flowering in April/early May as soon as the snow melts It comes in Red, Light pink and white flowers;  it requires acidic and sandy soil (well drained) and full sun.

Scotch Heather (Calluna vulgaris) is also a low growing plant (25cm) native to Scotland and flowers from August to October. It comes in purple, pink, crimson and white flowers;  it also requires acidic and sandy soil (well drained) and full sun.

Both types are hardy in Toronto (up to zone 5). It is hard to tell from your picture but given the fact that you just received them at an event in November, I think you have an Erica, often available at this time of the year ( https://www.po.flowerscanadagrowers.com/our-products/3652/erica/species ). If that is the case, just keep watering to retain moisture but never let it sit in soggy conditions as this plant requires good drainage. After blooming, you can immediately remove the blooms in order to keep the plant tidy indoors. Then you can plant in the garden next spring (see requirements above).

I should warn you that they are not necessarily the easy plants to grow indoors due to the harsh indoor winter conditions but it is worth giving it a try!

Best of luck. More reading for your pleasure:

https://www.heathsandheathers.com/care/page3.html

https://www.heathersociety.org/