When creating depth and layers in your garden landscaping, it is important to include some plants for ground cover. There are many options available, and which you choose depends on the look you wish to create. It is also important to consider the conditions in your garden, as not all plants are suitable for all environments. One option that you might want to consider is the Italian heather plant. Here is an overview of this plant and how to care for an Italian heather plant, so it thrives in your garden.
What Is an Italian Heather Plant?
Contrary to its name, the Italian Heather plant is not Italian, as it originates from Derbyshire, England. It is a hybrid of E. Erigena and Erica carnea that was created as a volunteer seedling in the early 1900s. The plant is primarily used for ground cover, as it grows to approximately two-feet high and has a spread that is also around two-feet. It has dark green leaves with a needle-like shape and tubular flowers that appear at the ends of the branches from winter to spring. The flower colors include red, pink, lavender, and white. There are various Italian heather cultivars, and you should choose them for their height and color. The original cultivar was the Darley Dale, which has a lavender-pink color.
A visually appealing cultivar is the Kramer’s Red, which has red flowers and bronze foliage. If you prefer white Italian heathers, then there are several options depending on your preferred height. While the White Glow and Springwood White are two of the shortest at 10-inches, one of the tallest white cultivars is White Perfection. For a white flowering plant of medium height, opt for the 12-inch tall Mediterranean White. To create a visual impact in your garden, mix white plants with plants of different colors. According to Hunker, the coverage provided by this plant makes it a good option for rockeries. It is also a great choice for lining walkways or filling space in larger garden plots.
What Are the Best Soil Conditions for Italian Heather Plants?
Although many Erica plants need acidic soil to thrive, the Italian heather plant is a hardier variety that can also tolerate living in neutral soil conditions. However, the best soil condition for this plant is acidic soil, and you should not plant them in an area with heavy clay soil. You will find that your plant is at its best if it is growing in soil that is rich in organic material. Therefore, it is best to mix the existing soil with compost or humus before planting your Italian heather plant. It is advisable to enrich the soil with compost or humus annually to help your plant to continue to thrive, says SF Gate. If the Italian heather plant looks like it needs some encouragement to grow or flower, then you may also need to add some acidic fertilizer. It is also worth noting that good drainage is essential if you want this plant to thrive.
Where Is It Best to Plant an Italian Heather Plant?
In addition to making sure you have the right soil conditions for your Italian heather plant, it is also essential to choose the right spot for planting to give your plant the best chance of surviving and growing well. This plant is best suited to climates that are similar to those in western and northern Europe. Although they grow best in a position that benefits from the full exposure of the sun as they need lots of light, they prefer cool, moist summers. Due to their need for light, Italian heather plants will begin to wilt almost immediately if you plant them in a shaded area. Therefore, you should avoid planting them below trees or against a wall that blocks out the sunlight. If you are planting your Italian heather plants in pots, then Balcony Garden Web recommends large, wide pots. You may also need to replant the heather in a larger pot as it grows.
How to Care for Your Italian Heather Plants
The two main considerations when caring for Italian heather plants are water and pruning. In relation to watering your plant, the levels of water in the soil is a serious consideration. While an Italian heather plant cannot live in dry conditions, it will also die if the water is too soggy. When you first plant the Italian heather, water it generously. Then, in the months that follow, only water between rainfalls. If the soil dries out in the dry summer heat, then you need to water your plant more regularly. To counteract heavy rain, make sure that your soil has good drainage to avoid the soil becoming too soggy. Mixing sand or gravel with the soil can improve the drainage in the area around the plant. Italian heather plants are relatively low maintenance in terms of pruning. You only need to prune these plants occasionally after they have flowered. When the flowers begin to fade, shear off the ends of the branch, as this will encourage new blooms to grow. It is essential to take care not to shear the plants too far back or down to the bare wood, as this may prevent the branches and flowers from regrowing. Horticulturalists recommend pruning Italian heather plants in June.
Caring for Italian Heather Plants: The Final Verdict
Italian heather plants are a relatively low-maintenance option that provides good ground coverage and is ideal for rockeries and walkways. They prefer acidic soil and a position that exposes them to light. These plants also need good drainage, as too much water will kill them. You will only need to water the plants between rainfalls and in times of drought to avoid the soil around the plant becoming too dry. Pruning is also an easy process, as they only need pruning as the flowers start to fade to encourage branch and flower regrowth.