Sun exposure:
Full sun
East facing, north facing, south facing, west facing
Position in border:


Well Drained / Light / Sandy

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is an evergreen, spiny shrub that grows on heathland, sea cliffs and waste ground across the UK, except on the Scottish Islands. It's well suited to poor soil in windy, exposed areas. Gorse can flower at any time of year, though it mainly blooms from January to June, with most flowers appearing in April and May. The bright yellow blooms resemble pea flowers and have a sweet coconut scent. Gorse plants are tough, drought-resistant and hardy.

Also known by its old names 'furze' and 'whin', Ulex europaeus is one of three native British gorse species. Western gorse (Ulex gallii) is a smaller plant at 1.5-2m. It's less widespread than common gorse and flowers from July to September. Dwarf gorse (Ulex minor) reaches only 1m and is restricted to acid, sandy heaths in south-east England.

Mature gorse bushes lack normal leaves. Instead they have spines, which are modified leaves. Young plants have the trifoliate leaves characteristic of many plants in the pea family. The sharp spines last year-round, making gorse scrub ideal as a habitat for birds to hide from predators and shelter from bad weather. In gardens it makes a useful hedging plant that will provide nesting and feeding habitats for wildlife while creating dense, prickly barriers that will deter intruders.

How to grow Ulex europaeus

Gorse (Ulex europaeus). Getty Images
Gorse (Ulex europaeus). Getty Images

Gorse thrives in sunny spots in poor, acidic soil, so ensure you have these conditions before buying, as it may grow leggy if planted in fertile garden soil. Plant gorse at any time of year and keep well watered until established. Gorse bushes require pruning only every two to three years, although hedges benefit from an annual trim. Prune after flowering in late spring or early summer, checking thoroughly for evidence of nesting birds first. Wear gloves and protective clothing when working with these spiky plants. Propagate gorse by seed or by taking semi-hardwood cuttings.

Advice on buying Ulex europaeus

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  • Make sure you have a sunny site with suitable soil before buying plants
  • Bare-root and small cell-grown plants are much cheaper than potted plants, however bare-root gorse will need to be planted during the dormant season between November and March
  • Always check plants for signs of pests and disease 

Where to buy Ulex europaeus

Plant calendar

Take cuttingsyesyes
At its bestyesyes

Ulex and wildlife

Ulex is known for attracting bees, beneficial insects, birds and butterflies/moths. It is a caterpillar food plant, has nectar/pollen rich flowers and provides shelter and habitat.

Is known to attract Bees
Is known to attract Beneficial insects
Beneficial insects
Is known to attract Birds
Is known to attract Butterflies/​Moths
Is not known to attract Other pollinators
Other pollinators

Is Ulex poisonous?

Ulex has no toxic effects reported.

No reported toxicity to:
Is not known to attract Birds
Is not known to attract Cats
Is not known to attract Dogs
Is not known to attract Horses
Is not known to attract Livestock
Is not known to attract People
Plants that go well with Ulex Europaeus