Backyard Landscaping Ideas: Planning a Heather Garden

Heather gardens can give your landscape brilliant colour and bring any dull yard to life. A heather bed should always be positioned in full sun, away from trees. These type of flower beds do well in a southern location on your property. While heather gardening does take some work, and requires maintenance, the long-run return of it’s beauty is well worth it. Here are landscaping ideas for heather gardening.

Backyard Landscaping Ideas: Planning a Heather Garden

Remove the sandpit edging and check if the wood can be reused. Then carefully remove the turf from areas planned as flowerbeds. This can be used to repair bald patches elsewhere in the lawn.

Break up the soil with a garden fork or rotavator, taking care not to damage the silver birch roots. Next, focus on the path edging. Either use log sections laid horizontally – these can be screwed to short pointed stakes, which are hammered into the soil – or use sections of log roll or wood planks inserted vertically to keep the path and planting areas separate.

Once you have broken up the soil, adapt it to suit the plants you intend to grow by digging in compost and washed sand – use 40 litres of compost and 20-40 litres of sand per square metre of soil.

Work it in thoroughly with a hoe, covering the area where the roots of the silver birch are close to the surface, but stopping short of the trunk.

To prevent weeds growing up into the path, level off its base and then put down a layer of porous matting before filling with a layer of crushed stone, bark mulch or wood chips.

Next, position features such as rocks, stepping stones and old tree stumps. Look at the bed from all sides before setting out the plants – still in their pots for now.

Move them around until you are happy with their positions. It’s a good idea to arrange evergreen trees first and then position the dwarf conifers and heathers.

For the best visual effect, plant heathers in groups of at least five plants of a single variety, 20-25cm apart.

Once you are satisfied with your arrangement, you can begin planting.

Firm the soil and water each plant, using a watering can without a rose or a hose without a spray attachment so that the water can penetrate the roots effectively. Firm the soil again and apply a thick layer of wood chips or bark mulch.






Summer-flowering heathers (Calluna vulgaris)

‘Alba Plena’

Broad, upright habit; height up to about 40cm; green/grey leaves; pure white flowers, Aug-Oct.


Compact; height up to 30cm; golden yellow shoots; pale purple flowers, Aug-Oct.


Upright habit; height up to 50cm; grey-green leaves; evergreen; free-flowering, crimson flowers, Aug-Oct.

‘County Wicklow’

Particularly low-growing and semi-prostrate; height up to 20cm; bronze-coloured shoots and pale pink flowers, Aug-Sep.

‘H.E. Beale’ 

Compact; semi-prostrate; height up to 25cm; salmon pink flowers, Aug-Sep.

Winter-flowering heathers (Erica carnea)

‘Myretoun Ruby’ 

Dark green leaves; height up to 20cm; wine red flowers, Mar-Apr.

‘Ruby Glow’

Low-growing, compact habit; late flowering with profuse crimson flowers, Mar-May.

‘Snow Queen’

Bright green leaves; upright habit; height up to 30cm; large white flowers, Jan-Mar.


Low-growing; height up to 20cm; leaves dark green in summer, bronze-red in winter; crimson flowers, Feb-Mar.

‘Winter Beauty’

Very compact and short-sprigged shape with dark 

Make Life Easier

Position log slices or stone stepping stones throughout the planting area to make access and maintenance easier. Fill the gaps between the plants with a 3cm layer of bark mulch to suppress weed growth until the plants have grown sufficiently to fill the gaps.

Watch Out for…

Heathers are robust but do not like to sit in waterlogged soil; ensure that the top 30cm of soil is broken up and dug over thoroughly, and check that it drains well before planting. Heathers do not thrive in limey soil, although some winter-flowering ones will tolerate it

30 Minute Tasks

In May to June cut back winter flowering heathers.

Cut back summer flowering heathers in November to December.