Calluna vulgaris

Scotch Heather




  • native to much of Europe
  • zone 5, warmer parts of 4

Habit and Form

  • a low-growing evergreen groundcover
  • 2' to 3' tall with an equivalent spread
  • branching is upright and thick mats are formed
  • old plants become irregular and untidy
  • generally dense and compact

Summer Foliage

  • leaves are very small, mostly 0.05" to .1" long
  • evergreen
  • scale-like leaves
  • opposite arrangement
  • 4-ranked, making shoots look squarish
  • medium green color

Autumn Foliage

  • exposure in winter makes foliage develop a bronze, yellow, reddish or silvery cast depending on the cultivar


  • rosy to purplish pink for species
  • blooms in late summer and early autumn
  • individual flowers are only 0.25" long, but are clustered in several inch ling racemes


  • small dehiscent capsule
  • matures in October
  • not an ornamental feature


  • not or ornamental importance


  • full sun
  • perfectly-drained, moist, acidic soil high in organic matter
  • avoid high fertility at all costs
  • transplant from containers
  • avoid dry, windswept sites
  • do not allow to dry out and do not overwater

Landscape Use

  • foreground of a border
  • foundation plant
  • for its bloom in late summer
  • as a groundcover
  • for rock gardens


  • a difficult plant to get to survive in most landscapes
  • perfect soil drainage and adequate soil moisture are required
  • guaranteed to die if given too much nitrogen

ID Features

  • small, 4-ranked leaves forming a square-appearing shoot
  • separate from Erica sp. by the bloom time; late summer for Calluna, early spring for Erica


  • by seed
  • cultivars by cuttings


There are probable 1000 or more cultivars of Calluna vulgaris. Below are some brief descriptions of some cultivars to give an appreciation of the range of variation that exists.

'Alba' - Flowers white

'Alba Erecta' - Branching upright, flowers white

'Alportii' - Flowers crimson, foliage gray

'Aurea' - 18" tall; flowers pink; Aug. - Oct; foliage yellow

'County Wicklow' - 18" tall; flowers pink, double; Aug. - Oct.

'Cuprea' - 12" tall; flowers purple; Aug. - Oct; foliage yellow

'Else Frye' - Flowers double, white; foliage bright green

'Foxii Nana' - 4" tall; flowers purple; Aug. - Oct

'H.E. Beale' - 24" tall; flowers silvery-pink; Aug. - Oct; considered to be one of the best heathers

'J.H. Hamilton' - 9" tall; flowers pink, double; Aug. - Oct; best of the pinks

'Juno' - 8-12" tall; flowers lavender

'Mairs Variety' - 24" tall; flowers white; July - Sept

'Mrs. Pat' - 8" tall; flowers light purple; July - Sept; foliage pink in spring

'Mrs. Ronald Gray' - 4" tall; flowers reddish; July - Sept; very low growing

'Nana Compacta' - 6" tall; flowers pink; July - Sept

'Plena Multiplex' - 18" tall; flowers pink, double; Aug. - Oct.

'Pygmaea' - Plant dwarf and mat-forming; flowers purple

'Ronald Gray' - Plant prostrate; flowers lavender

'Searlei Aurea' - 12" tall; flowers white; Aug. - Oct; foliage yellow

'Silver Knight' - To 15" tall; lavender flowers in late summer, gray foliage all year; compact; popular

'Sister Anne' - 6" tall; flowers pink; Aug - Sept

'Tib' - Plant forms an open mound; flowers dark purple, double; popular form

'Tomentosa' - 10" tall; flowers lavender; July - Sept

'Valorian' - Plant mat-forming; flowers deep-lavender

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

The digital materials (images and text) available from the UConn Plant Database are protected by copyright. Public use via the Internet for non-profit and educational purposes is permitted. Use of the materials for profit is prohibited.

Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.