Erica x hybrid: Heath

Most annuals and perennials suitable for growing in a window-box or earthenware urn flower in summer. In spring, however, window-boxes are generally empty and bleak. That is why plants that flower in early spring, albeit only briefly, are so popular.

The hybrid, raised in France, is derived from crossings about which little is known. The parents were probably hybrids of unkown origin — Erica x cylindrica and E. x willmorei. Their progeny are relatively robust plants, up to 50 cm (20 in) high, bearing long trumpet-shaped flowers, coloured whitish pink, pale pink to bright red, in spring. In many cultivars they are set almost at right angles to the stem.

The type species, which yielded also the group of cultivars designated E. x hybrida, are from the mountains of South Africa, so that even plants grown in cultivation are not frost-resistant. However, they are naturally tolerant of cold conditions and even require them, likewise plenty of fresh air. They should be overwintered at a temperature of 5 to 8°C, (41 to 47°F), in other words the same as azaleas and camellias. They are fairly demanding as regards soil, which should be acidic with a pH of 4 to 4.5, and will thus appreciate a mixture of peat, well-rotted pine-leaf litter and coarse river sand. They should be fed with care, only with organic fertilizers that have ample nitrogen. Heaths need a sunny situation and regular, moderate watering.

The plants are put outdoors in a window-box, earthenware urn or stone trough on the patio in spring. They are particularly attractive in a setting with conifers and grasses.

Heaths are propagated by cuttings taken either in winter (between January and March) or summer (in June or July). In warm and moist conditions they will form roots in about a month and a month after that the growing tips should be pinched to promote branching; they will flower the following year.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Erica x hybrid: Heath

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