Erica turns brown and dead in summer

x97lim1August 20, 2007

I am first-time gardener for Erica and Calluna. I'm living in Zone 5a, Michigan. I bought several cultivars of Erica and Calluna this recent spring. All were delivered in excellent condition, mostly leaves and apparently healthy with some winter damage. I prepped the soil where I later planted these Erica and Calluna in mostly full sun. I kept on the watering schedule when the soil was dry. Suddenly, several of the Erica cultivars just appeared to start dropping the leaves. It was around late June-beginning July then. Now I have just twigs on the ones I think are dead. What has just happened? These haven't even seen their first Michigan winter yet .... I was quite discouraged. Thanks.

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Most likely a watering issue :-(( Heaths and heathers are quite drought tolerant once established but prefer an evenly moist soil until that happens - after at least one full growing season, often more. If they are allowed to dry out, they are pretty much toast.

They are most at home in coastal areas and where the soil is naturally acidic and very well draining - excessive moisture, especially during winter, and heavy soils are not much to their liking. I've not heard too many reports of those who are successful in growing heathers in the midwest and suspect soil and weather conditions are difficult to work with. But it can be done - you may need to prepare some special raised beds to accomodate soil pH and be very attentive to watering during your hot summers.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2007 at 9:58PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

It would be helpful if you posted the varieties you had trouble with.
I don't think there was a heatwave in the northern tier of states this year that would have killed them off. You say you watered. So this is a bit of a mystery.
IIRC have read some parts of Michigan have chalky or alkaline soil. Do you? Do you have very hard irrigation water that is alkaline? In that case you should have planted an alkaline tolerant species.
Did you over water? I think they would hard to kill with overwatering, but, who knows. The way I see some people watering obsessively I think anything is possible. I think some amateur gardeners over-water newly planted items. I have a couple Ericas I planted this spring from small pots, we had a terrible drought and I think I only watered them 2 or 3 times during the whole summer and they are fine. (Maryland zn 7, sun is stronger than your sun)

In my experience Erica carnea is about the easiest to grow, if you had these problems with that plant something is seriously wrong. OTOH I have found heathers tricky to establish in a continental climate.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 1:06AM
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