Actual topic

Heather plants rare in culture

Our garden has been studying plants of the heather family for 37 years (Ericaceae). Despite the rather harsh agro-climatic conditions, we managed to collect a fairly rich collection. It now numbers 24 genera, 123 species, 70 varieties and forms of heather, 66 hybrids of rhododendrons of our selection and hybrids of free pollination. This is one of the largest heather collections in our country.

White multifoliate (Andromeda polifolia)

The most widely represented species and varieties of the genus rhododendrons (Rhododendron L.). For the most part, they amaze with the splendor of forms, bright colors, an abundance of flowering, a variety of autumn colors of leaves and are irreplaceable in garden compositions. True, in recent years, gardens with restrained, discreet beauty and natural outlines are becoming more and more fashionable. Representatives of the heather family may well satisfy these needs of gardeners. Now for this purpose, varieties of common heather are mainly used (Callunavulgaris (L.) Hull), species and varieties of erica herbal (Ericaherbacea L.) and Erica Darlenskaya (Erica× darleyensis Bean). The rest of the family members are still not widespread in culture.

Common heather (Сalluna vulgaris)Erica vagans

Every year, a variety of species and varieties of heather grows on sale, they are mainly purchased from abroad and do not always grow successfully in the conditions of central Russia.

Long-term experience of working with heathers allowed us, on the basis of studying their winter hardiness and ability for generative development, to identify promising and unpromising species for introduction in central Russia.

This work summarizes the results of the introduction of representatives of heather plants, which are not yet widespread in culture in our country, only 90 species from 21 genera.


Erica herbaceaErica herbacea Alba

Group I - the most promising species

The group includes 13 genera, 41 species. These species are quite winter-hardy. Most of them, even in unfavorable winters, are not damaged or slightly damaged, they bloom almost every year and abundantly, many bear fruit and have full seed reproduction. All species have retained their natural growth form.

Many species of this group have reached a very respectable age in our culture: Albrecht's rhododendron (Rhododendronalbrechtii) - 35 years old, tall blueberry (Vacciniumcorymbosum) - 34 years old, redberry (Vacciniumpraestans) - 30 years old, etc.

Albrecht's rhododendron (Rhododendron albrechtii)
Redberry (Vaccinium praestans)Redberry (Vaccinium praestans)
Shield blueberry, or tall blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)Shield blueberry, or tall blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

The decorativeness of the species in this group is different. There are many beautifully flowering species, for example: narrow-leaved Kalmia (Kalmiaangustifolia), piyeris profusely blooming (Pierisfloribunda), common heather (WITHallunavulgaris)lyonia privet (Lyonialigustrina), types of childbirth eric (Erica L.), wild rosemary (Ledum L.), rhododendron (Rhododendron L.).

Narrow-leaved Kalmia (Kalmia angustifolia)Lionia privet (Lyonia ligustrina)
Marsh Ledum (Ledum palustre)

Representatives of the genus leukotoe (Leucothoe D. Don) are distinguished by beautiful evergreen foliage (their flowers are located under the leaves), species of the genus Gault (Gaultheria) attractive for their unusual fruits.

Gaultheria pyroloidesGaultheria pyroloides
Gaultheria procumbensMenziesia pilosa (Menziesia pilosa)

Some species, for example mencises Menziesiaferruginea andMenziesia pilosa, have small nondescript flowers, bloom poorly and are not very decorative. Unfortunately, many of our native species, for example: Vacciniummyrtillus, V. palustre, V. uliginosum, V. vitis-idaea, also do not differ in abundant flowering and fruiting in our country and are much inferior in decorativeness and productivity to foreign species: V. angustifolium, V. corymbosum, V. praestans... In this group:

  • Whitened multifaceted (Andromedapolifolia L.) and its varieties
  • Common heather (WITHallunavulgaris (L.) Hull) and its varieties
  • Marsh myrtle (Chamaedaphne calyculata (L.) Moench)
  • Erica herbal (Ericaherbacea L.). and its varieties and forms
  • Erica darlenskaya (Erica × darleyensis Bean)
  • Erica holly (Erica spiculifolia Salisb.)
  • Erica four-dimensional (Erica tetralix L.)
  • Erica the wandering (Ericavagans L.)
  • Haulteria (Gaultheria cuneata (Rehd et Wils) Bean)
  • Mikel's Gault (Gaultheria pyroloides Hook. f. et Thoms. ex Miq.)
  • Haulteria recumbent (Gaultheria procumbens L.)
  • Narrow-leaved Kalmia (Kalmia angustifolia L.)
  • Ledum Columbian (Ledum columbianum Piper)
  • Ledum ferruginous (Ledum glandulosum Nutt.)
  • Large-leaved wild rosemary (Ledum macrophyllum Tolm.)
  • Marsh wild rosemary (Ledumpalustre L.)
  • Ledum greenland (Ledumpalustressp. groenlandicum (Oeder) Hultén)
  • Leukotoe Catsby (Leucothoe catesbaei (Walt) Gray)
  • Leukotoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana (Steud.) Sleum.)
  • Walter's Leukotoe (L. walteri (Willd.) Melvin.)
  • Lionia privet (Lyonia ligustrina (L.) DC.)
  • Menzisia rusty (Menziesia ferruginea Sm.)
  • Mencisia hairy (Menziesia pilosa (Michx.) Juss.)
  • Pieris profusely blooming (Pieris floribunda (Pursh) Benth. et Hook.f.)
  • Rhododendron Albrecht (Rhododendron albrechtii Maxim.)
  • Atlantic rhododendron (Rhododendron atlanticum (Ashe) Rehd.)
  • Kamchatka rhododendron (Rhododendron camtschaticum Pall.)
  • Caucasian rhododendron (Rhododendron caucasicum Pall.)
  • Rhododendron is equidistant (Rhododendron fastigiatum Franch.)
  • Rhododendron rusty (Rhododendron ferrugineum L.)
  • Rhododendron harsh (Rhododendron hirsutum L.)
  • Ungern's rhododendron (Rhododendronungernii Trautv. ex Regel)
  • Angustifolia blueberry (Vacciniumangustifolium Ait.)
  • Blueberry (Vaccinium atrococcum (Gray) Heller)
  • Shield blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.)
  • Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.)
  • Marsh cranberry (Vaccinium palustre Salisb.)
  • Krasnika, or klopovka (Vaccinium praestans Lamb.)
  • Blueberry (Vacciniumuliginosum L.)
  • Cowberry (Vacciniumvitis-idaea L.) and its varieties.
Kamchatka rhododendron (Rhododendron camtschaticum)
Equal rhododendron (Rhododendron fastigiatum)Rhododendron ungernii


Group II - less promising species

It includes 8 genera, 20 species. This is a transitional team group. The species here are heterogeneous in their stability.

There are, for example, winter-hardy species, but due to their young age, they have not yet entered the generative phase.Empetrum nigrum L., Loiseleuria procumbens (L.) Desv., Leucothoe axillaris (Lam.) D. Don, Rhododendron oreodoxa Franch., Rhododendronaureum Georgi, Rhododendronmakino Tagg ex Nakai., Rhododendroninsigne Hemsl. et E.H. Wils, Rhododendronmetternichii Siebold et Zucc., Rhododendronwardii W.W. Sm.

There are species that are winter-hardy and that have died for accidental reasons, they require re-introduction, for example, Bryanthus musciformis (Poir.) Nakai., Rhododendronwilliamsianum Rehder et E.H. Wilson.

Elliottia bracteata

This group includes and Eubotrysracemosa Nutt - with a sufficiently large age (12 years) and good winter hardiness, it has not yet entered the generative phase, so the status of this species is still uncertain.

It is difficult for now to say something about the tree-like oxydendrum (Oxydendrumarboreum (L.) DC). At home in the United States, this tree is from 4 to 25 m tall, and it is unlikely that it will appear before us in all its beauty. We have it in our collection for 6 years, it freezes badly in unfavorable winters. It remains to be hoped that it will remain in bushy form and at least please with the magnificent scarlet-red color of the leaves in the fall.

This group also includes species that do not freeze under normal conditions, bloom and bear fruit, but suffer in critical cold winters, some flower buds die, others also have perennial shoots, so they bloom and bear fruit irregularly, only after warm winters. These are types such as

  • Leucothoe grayana Maxim,
  • Rhododendron campanulatum D. Don,
  • Rhododendron degronianum Carr.,
  • Rhododendron occidentale (Torr. Et A. Gray) A. Gray,
  • Rhododendron pachytrichum Franch.,
  • Vaccinium arctostaphylos L.,
  • Vaccinium deliciosum Piper.,
  • Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.
Degron Rhododendron (Rhododendron degronianum ssp degronianum)

At the same time, most species develop normally, retaining their inherent growth form in nature. For example, Rhododendronpachytrichum reached a height of 2 m with us.Others lose it, for example Leucothoegrayana has a very dense, almost cushion-shaped bush with a height of 0.4 m, which is probably aided by frequent frost damage in youth.

It is difficult to judge the decorativeness of these species due to their unstable winter hardiness and irregular flowering. Perhaps some of them will be more stable over time, with particular hope for their reproduction.


Group III - unpromising species

Includes 8 genera of 29 species.

Most of the species of this group have a large mortality rate or die completely after the first 1-2 winters in the open field. Flower buds either do not lay at all, despite their mature age, or they regularly freeze out, these species bloom rarely and only after very favorable winters. As a result, seed reproduction is difficult or more often impossible for them, and almost all of these species have not survived in our collection. Moreover, many species have been tested in a large number of samples, so Daboeciawithanthabrica was involved 12 times, Ericacinerea – 13, Gaultheriaschallon - 11, etc., they landed in different years. This is very important, as winters have not been stable lately, and we had the opportunity to test these species under different weather conditions. Some specimens of the species of this group were able to stay in the collection longer, some even for a considerable period, for example, Japanese pieris (Pierisjaponica) - 10 years, Rhododendronambiguum even 20 years, but they developed poorly, were severely damaged in winter, flowering was one-time, scarce, or none at all, and the plants later died. Among the dead there are many species with southern ranges that have not been able to adapt to our cold winters (most species Erica, Gaultheria and etc.). In this group:

  • Daboecia canthabrica (Huds.) K. Koch.
  • Enkianthus campanulatus (Miq) Nicols
  • Erica arborea L.
  • Erica ciliaris L.
  • Erica cinerea L.
  • Erica erigena R. Ross
  • Erica multiflora L.
  • Erica scoparia L.
  • Erica terminalis Salisb.
  • Gaultheria mucronata (Linn.f.) Hook et Arn.
  • Gaultheria schallon Pursh.
  • Gaultheria wisleyensis March.ex D.J. Middl.
  • Pieris japonica (Tunb.) G. Don.
  • Rhododendron ambiguum Hemsl.
  • Rhododendron carolinianum Rehder
  • Rhododendron сoncinnum Hemsl.
  • Rhododendron decorum Franch.
  • Rhododendron micranthum Turcz.
  • Rhododendron fortunei Lindl.
  • Rhododendron kaempferi Planch.
  • Rhododendron kiusianum Makino
  • Rhododendron obtusum Hort. ex Wats.
  • Rhododendron poukhanense H. Lev.
  • Rhododendron racemosum Franch.
  • Rhododendron reticulatum D. Don ex G. Don f.
  • Rhododendron rubiginosum Franch
  • Rhododendron searsiae Rehd et Wils.
  • Vaccinium ovatum Pursh
  • Zenobia pulverulenta (Willd.) Pollard. 
Enkianthus campanulatus
Rhododendron racemosum (Rhododendron racemosum)Rhododendron poukhanense

Thus, a fairly large number of tested species (41) turned out to be in the group of the most promising species. In addition, there is a hope that some species from the 2nd group will later move to this group as they adapt.These species can be successfully used in green building in central Russia.

Recently, our collection has been replenished with interesting species: 3 species Gaylussacia Kunth, Elliottiabracteata (Maxim.) Benth. et Hook.f., Phyllodocecoerulea (L.) Bab., Rhododendrontschonoskii Maxim and some others. We hope that their introduction in our garden will be successful.

Photo by the author

Leafy Gaylussacia (Gaylussacia frondosa) Leafy Gaylussacia (Gaylussacia frondosa) Flourishing pieris (Pieris floribunda) Flourishing pieris (Pieris floribunda) Small rhododendron (Rhododendron minus) Small rhododendron (Rhododendron minus) Rhododendron rusty (Rhododendron ferrugineum) Rhododendron rusty (Rhododendron ferrugineum) Angus-leaved blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) Angus-leaved blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) Common lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) variety Coral Common lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) variety Coral Marsh cranberry (Oxicoccus palustris) varietal Cranberry marsh (Oxicoccus palustris) varietal Western rhododendron (Rhododendron occidentale) Western rhododendron (Rhododendron occidentale) Rhododendron ambiguum Rhododendron ambiguum Caucasian blueberry (Vaccinium arctostaphylos) Caucasian blueberry (Vaccinium arctostaphylos) Rhododendron pachytrichum Rhododendron pachytrichum Rhododendron degronianum ssp.yakushimanum Rhododendron degronianum ssp.yakushimanum Rhododendron magnificent (Rhododendron decorum ssp. Decorum) Rhododendron magnificent (Rhododendron decorum ssp. Decorum) Leucothoe catesbaei Leucothoe catesbaei Caucasian rhododendron (Rhododendron caucasicum) Caucasian rhododendron (Rhododendron caucasicum) Blueberries (Vaccinium uliginosum) Blueberries (Vaccinium uliginosum) Erica spiculifolia Erica spiculifolia Erica tetralix Erica tetralix

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