Winter heathers are completely unfazed by winter. Snow, ice and cutting winds leave their dainty bells shining in the weak sunshine and, unlike other heathers, they’re happy with a little lime in the soil. With wiry stems clothed in evergreen needles, usually deep green but sometimes in other shades, winter heathers are usually derived from Erica carnea, which grows wild in the Alps and other cool mountainous regions.
They often stretch sideways to make a good, weed-suppressing ground cover. Winter heathers thrive in sun and, although they tolerate a little shade, it can make their stems stretch too much, rendering them untidy. Some varieties start to flower as early as November, while others come into bloom as late as April – January to March is usually their peak. Few reach more than 25cm in height, but some make notable specimens.
Heathers are an excellent and low-maintenance addition to the winter garden. In this video guide, David Edge of The Heather Society gives his three top tips for growing heathers, including pruning and feeding:
Browse our pick of the best winter heathers, below.
Erica arborea var. alpina ‘Albert’s Gold’
Erica arborea var. alpina ‘Albert’s Gold’ bears soft, golden-green foliage on tall, upright plants, with fragrant white flowers.
Height x spread: 1.5m x 80cm
Erica carnea alba ‘Springwood White’
Dainty white bells with chocolate anthers clothe stems of darkest green. A striking variety and perfect for cutting.
H x S: 15cm x 60cm
Erica x darleyensis ‘Darley Dale’
This pretty pink-and-cream-flowering variety flowers over a long period.
H x S: 30cm x 60cm
Erica x veitchii ‘Exeter’
Erica x veitchii ‘Exeter’ bears tall spikes of slightly almond-scented, white flowers in late winter and spring.
H x S: 2m x 2m
Erica carnea ‘Vivellii’
Gorgeous pink-purple blooms are enhanced by rich bronze winter foliage.
H x S: 15cm x 50cm