Bees rely on flowering plants to carry out processes of pollination that sustain their surrounding ecosystems. Many gardeners want to know which plants they can plant to specifically attract plenty of bees.
Heather plants are very popular among bees, primarily due to their nectar production and pollen production, to which bees flock. Several bee species like heather plants, including red-tailed bumblebees, white-tailed bumblebees, common carder bumblebees, and several other types of bumblebees.
In this article, you’ll learn about why bees like heather so much, and which bees tend to flock heather cultivars. You’ll also learn how to select and grow the best heather cultivar that will attract different kinds of bees, including tips on potting, planting, and cutting. Keep reading to learn more!
Does Heather Attract Bee?
Bees like heather because it supplies them with two key things – nectar and pollen. Bees need nectar specifically to sustain themselves with food. This gives them the energy they require to carry out the important task of pollination.
Bees also rely on pollen from flowering plants like heather, which they use to feed their larvae, get nutrients and protein, and pollinate plants around them. And since heather is an evergreen plant, there are some like Erica Carnea heather that even flower in the winter months to provide essential pollen and nectar.
Are Heathers Good For Bees?
Heather plants are good for bees as they provide their primary source of nutrients and sustenance (nectar and pollen). Heather is extra beneficial to bees because it is what is known as a “compact flowering plant”.
This means that heather has lots of flowers clustered together on individual stalks, which allows many bees to obtain nectar and pollen at the same time. In essence, heather can help to improve the efficiency of the hive.
They’re also beneficial to bees in the sense that they are perennials (they don’t require replanting every year). Heather are a constant for many bee species to rely on in the UK.
Best Heather For Bees
There are three primary kinds of heathers in the plant family – “daboecia”, “erica”, and “calluna”. Among this family, the “erica” seems to attract the most variety of bees.
These include “apis mellifera”, “bombus terrestris”, “bombus lapidarius”, and several others.
When it comes to heather cultivars that are going to supply nectar and pollen to bees during the “off-seasons”, you want to look at options like the “Pink Spangles” or “Foxhollow” Erica heathers. However, any heather advertised as a winter-flowering heather will work well to keep bees around throughout the year.
How To Grow Heather
Heather is small and compact enough to grow in small pots (around 10cm pot for a single plant), or you can plant them in the garden or beds. In order to grow healthy heathers, you need to give them plenty of well-draining soil with organic matter such as compost, dead leaves, lawn clippings, and other non-chemical fertilisers.
Erica heather typically needs soil that is slightly alkaline in nature (above 7 on the pH scale), whereas calluna and daboecia heathers require more acidic soil (pine mulch and other acidic organic matter can help with that). Ericaceous compost is specially formulated to cater to the needs of all acid-loving plants.
Try to make sure that your heathers get plenty of sunlight, but remember that they don’t need full sun to thrive. If you grow heather in containers, they’ll need more water than in-ground plants. During the first year of growth, these plants need regular watering, but after that, they are fairly drought-resistant.
When To Plant
Generally speaking, heathers need to be planted in the springtime or during autumn. But if you have winter-flowering heather, you can shift that timeframe slightly.
Will Heather Grow In A Rockery?
A rockery, or rock garden, is a nice way to show off landscaping skills and mix gardening with rock designs. When it comes to growing heather in this fashion – in the soul between rocks – you should have no problem getting them to grow and thrive.
A rockery is actually a nice location for these bee-loved perennials that spread out since you won’t be worrying about replanting them each year.
How To Make A Heather Rockery
As you plan to create your heather rockery, remember that you want a location that’s going to get at least six hours of sun per day. Avoid areas that get heavily shaded.
You also want to choose the right rocks. They should ideally be local to your area.
Once you’ve established a location and have your rocks, get started on a day that is temperate and after recent rain so that the soil is easy to work with. Next, you should take the following steps:
- Weed the soil that will lay beneath the rockery
- Add a layer of small rocks or pebbles to help with drainage
- Cover the ground with gardening fabric
- Place rocks on the area – large rocks first – into peak-like formations with small rocks at the top
- Adhere rocks together with fresh topsoil that has no weeds
- Use a soil rich in organic matter to fill the spaces between rocks
- Plant your heather in these soil-filled spots and secure them
Can Heather Be Planted In Pots?
Yes, heather is small and low-growing enough to plant in pots. However, it will spread out as its root system grows over time, so it may be beneficial to grow it in the ground or in a garden bed.
Can You Split Heather Plants?
You can try to split heather plants to multiply them, but it’s going to be difficult to avoid damaging the root system and health of the plant. An easier way to divide heather plants is to propagate the cuttings and plant those clone plants.
What To Plant With Heather
Since heather is typically a plant that needs acidic soil, you’ll need other acid-loving plants as companion plants. Some good options include hydrangea, clethra, and witch hazel.
When Does Heather Bloom?
In the UK, heather can begin blooming as early as July, but autumn months tend to be the best time for blooms. Otherwise, winter flowering heather will bloom in winter and spring.
How To Rejuvenate Heather
I’m general, heather is a pretty low-maintenance garden addition. But if your heather seems to be dwindling, consider how the current lighting, moisture, and soil quality are affecting its growth.
The pH level is important, and so is good drainage. When necessary, you can also prune off dead or diseased branches and blooms.
How To Take Heather Cuttings
To obtain cuttings from heather, simply cut the branches down about 15cm. Make sure these are healthy, pliable branches, and get rid of any leaves or flowers currently attached.
Get a small plant pot and fill it with rich compost soil. Put your cuttings bottom-down into the compost and wrap clear plastic bags around the pots. Set the pots in a spot that’s not too sunny for a few months until it takes root, then transplant these clones.
Where To Buy Heather Plants
You can get small potted heather plants at most plant nurseries. We recommend getting heather plants from Crocus UK.
Heather is a great flowering garden addition to attract a variety of bees. They’re pretty low-maintenance and can even be grown in rockeries.