How do I take care of a heather plant?

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The heather plant (Calluna vulgaris) grows up to 1 metre with an equal spread at maturity. This evergreen shrub produces deep green scale-like leaves that give way to showy white, red or pink flowers that bloom in the summer and autumn.

Heather grows best in well-drained soil in moorland areas but you can cultivate your own plants at home. With proper care, the heather plant will continue to bloom year after year.

Provide the heather plant with moist soil at all times using a sprinkler or soaker hose. Water the heather weekly at a rate of 2.5 cm of water per week, in lieu of rain. Twice a week waterings may be necessary if the weather is exceptionally dry.

Suppress weeds with a 7 to 10 cm layer of mulch. A layer of bark chips or straw will also improve water drainage and protect the roots of the heather from winter frost and the hot summer sun.

Remove dead and damaged branches during the early spring before new growth appears. Use a pruning tool to cut the branches at a 45-degree angle, 2.5 cm away from the growth point. Pruning will keep the heather plant neat and tidy and also encourage new growth.

Feed the heather plant a diet of all-purpose fertiliser. Apply either a water-soluble or a granulated fertiliser to the soil around the heather plant according to manufacturer's instructions. Heather plants appreciate a dose of fertiliser in the early spring before new foliage develops.

Control spider mites using an insecticidal soap product. Heather plants are prone to spider mites, especially during hot summers. Apply the insecticidal soap according to the manufacturer's instructions.