Heather crops are traditionally associated only with magnificent garden landscapes, and are practically unknown as indoor plants. Meanwhile, it is in room culture that an amazing representative of heathers – Erica, which is often confused with genuine heathers, even at home, reveals its flowering in a new way. The gorgeous red palette of unusual inflorescences and the textured, inimitable greenery makes this plant a virtually unrivaled soloist. Erika is traditionally grown as a seasonal winter plant, discarded after flowering is complete. But during these long months, during which the bushes tirelessly release new inflorescences and look like a living bouquet, there is no equal to this, not so capricious beauty.
Indoor “heathers” and their catchy beauty
Representatives of the genus Eric (Erica), which in nature are considered an invariable decoration of the Scandinavian and British landscapes and are known mainly for the beauty of the moorlands, are able to surprise with their diversity. In the genus Eric, which is part of the family of the same name, there are more than 5 hundred species of plants. And although most of them remain wild plants that have not been introduced into horticultural culture, and the most famous erikas are garden plants, there are still among the five hundred varieties of those that will not give up growing as a solo indoor plant. Genuine heathers (Calluna) are also grown in room culture, but their maintenance requires a somewhat specific approach and heather should be outdoors for most of the year.
As a houseplant, only two, but incomparable types of Erica are grown – Erica grassy (Erica herbacea), which has many magnificent varieties with different colors of inflorescences and less capricious, but also less spectacular erika graceful (Erica gracilis). Both plants have a lot of similarities in the type of flowering, and in size, and in the structure of the bushes. Moreover, almost all specimens on the modern market are hybrid varieties and their specific origin is sometimes not quite easy to find out. And species of plants are often confused with each other and sold under the name of each other. But you can still distinguish the herbal Erica from the graceful one: in the first, the flowers are painted only in pink or red, in the second – in pink-lilac-purple tones. Everything else in plants is very similar.
They are actively experimenting with other types of eric today in the West, trying to increase the range of these plants in indoor representation, but there is no talk of any noticeable “breakthrough” in other types of speech. On sale today are sometimes found Erica Wilmore (Erica x willmorei) with long, up to 2 cm bells of flowers and growing in the form of a spherical bush Erica bloated (Erica ventricosa), but they are rare.
On a note. If you have copies of other eric species or heathers in your garden, you can try growing them as a houseplant using the cuttings method and not transferring the plants after rooting to open soil, but replanting them into a pot and adapting them to indoor conditions from an early age. These are great plants to experiment with.
Indoor eriks are undersized, very dense evergreen shrubs, the maximum height of which does not exceed half a meter, and often is completely limited to 40 cm.The diameter of the bushes always exceeds their height, in healthy and strong specimens it can reach 60 cm or more. These shrubs are constantly growing and, if grown as perennials, require larger containers or timely separation. Erik’s shoots are erect, densely branching, forming a dense crown. The leaves are typical of all heathers, strikingly small, rich medium to light to dark green color, needle-like, densely arranged, which creates a unique crown texture.
But despite all the beauty of the greenery, flowering remains the most noticeable feature of indoor eriks, like their garden counterparts. The apical racemose or spike-shaped, elongated inflorescences, consisting of bell-shaped, often almost spherical, miniature, brightly colored flowers, conquer both with an amazing palette of colors and the ability to produce inflorescences in an unimaginable amount. Small flowers in dense inflorescences are in harmony with small leaves. During flowering, the bushes are so abundantly strewn with inflorescences that they turn into a single color (and textural) spot.
Indoor eriks traditionally bloom on the eve of winter or at the very beginning and flaunt flowers until spring. At this time, the rich shades of the red spectrum – pink, lilac, purple flowers – are unusual and unique, not found in any other plants, except for heathers, or white-flowering elegant varieties of Erica seem to be an outlandish vision and real strangers in interiors.
To succeed in growing indoor Erica as perennials, it is enough to keep them cool. This is the main and basic requirement of these plants, but far from the only one. Eric can hardly be called an easy-to-grow culture, this plant is suitable only for experienced growers who are ready for difficulties, capable of providing this heather beauty with special care and special conditions of detention. This plant is for connoisseurs looking for original accents and non-standard solutions. All the difficulties in growing Erica are more than compensated for by its beauty. Today, it is considered one of the most promising and fashionable among winter seasonal plants. But we are just beginning to look closely at it, and on sale flowering bushes just for indoor maintenance can not be found so often.
Erica’s growing strategy
After flowering, ericas are most often thrown away. But doing so is not only not necessary, but also wrong. The plant can be:
- transfer to a garden, plant in open soil, and then provide shelter for the first winter (or give to friends and neighbors for planting in the soil);
- take out to the garden and put away for the winter-flowering in the greenhouse or return to the room;
- grow as an indoor perennial, keeping an eye on the plant in summer and choosing a cool temperature for it for the winter.
Caring for Erica at home
Growing as a perennial requires experimentation and intuition, as the plant often behaves in an unpredictable manner. But for flower growers and gardeners who love difficult tasks, Erica has prepared a lot of pleasures.
Lighting for Erica
Lighting for Erica is very easy to find. If the plants are in living rooms or in any rooms in the house, then eriks need to provide a sunny place (if possible, then with protection from direct sunlight at noon in summer), the maximum possible lighting brightness. If Erica is placed on a balcony, loggia, or taken out into the open air in the summer, then the place for this culture should be semi-shaded. Bright light dries up the shoots quickly and the plant becomes much more vulnerable to pests and diseases.
The selection of a comfortable temperature for Erica is considered a rather difficult task. For flowering, this plant is suitable for an air temperature of up to 15 degrees Celsius, while Erica feels good in warm rooms, provided that air is available and good lighting is provided: higher temperatures are easily compensated by an increase in air humidity. The longest flowering of this shrub can be observed at a temperature of 7-8 degrees on a cool loggia or balcony, at temperatures up to 15 degrees, flowering is reduced by several weeks.
In summer, during the rest period, this beauty feels great in almost any, even hot, conditions, but with one “but”: it is not sensitive to temperatures only when exposed to the open air. When kept indoors, Erica still prefers coolness or as low a temperature as possible (18-20 degrees). At the end of autumn, to stimulate flowering, Erica needs to be placed in a cool place (5-10 degrees), it can start on the street when the temperature drops, but you still need to monitor the weather and not even allow “zero” marks.
For this plant, it is extremely important to provide constant ventilation, access to fresh air and free air circulation around the crown. Erica is rarely displayed together with other plants, she requires a separate and fairly free location. It can be kept outdoors throughout the warm season and feels great on balconies and terraces.
Watering and air humidity
This plant needs abundant watering, between which only the upper soil in the pots should dry out. It is important for Erica to maintain a stable soil moisture. But at the same time, droughts will not be detrimental to the shrub at all, although they have a negative effect on the intensity of flowering. If irrigation mistakes were made, the substrate is too dry, then it is best to saturate with an earthen lump by immersing the pot with the plant in a container filled with soft warm water until bubbles stop appearing, and then letting the excess moisture drain completely. The water in the Erica trays should not be allowed to stagnate. If Erica is exposed in the cool, then watering for her should be very careful, but still maintain constant soil moisture.
The higher the air temperature, the more demanding this culture is in terms of air humidity. When kept cool, Erica can be content with even the driest conditions. If the indicators exceed 15 degrees, then the air humidity should be increased to 60%. The optimal strategy for this shrub is to place humidifiers side by side or place the pot in containers filled with damp peat, pebbles, moss, expanded clay, or decorative soils. In this case, the bottom of the container with Erica should not touch the water in any case. Spraying for this shrub is undesirable in the flowering phase. If Erica is not blooming yet or you have the skill to spray so carefully, wetting only the foliage, then these procedures will be quite comfortable for her.
Erica hates rubbing leaves; and any form of shower or washing, even if the plant is affected by diseases or pests, cannot be carried out. Do not use leaf polish and various foliage shine sprays on this shrub.
Top dressing for Erica
Fertilizers for this plant are applied at a standard frequency during the flowering period. Once every 2-3 weeks, a standard dose of special liquid complex fertilizers recommended by the manufacturer for rhododendrons or other plants that prefer an acidic environment is added to the water for irrigation.
As such, Erica does not need formative pruning. The shrub naturally develops in the form of a stunningly compact plant with a dense crown, constantly expanding in breadth. But the plant needs cleaning. True, individual wilting flowers in inflorescences do not have to be plucked or removed. It is enough to periodically turn the plants and shake them slightly so that the dry flowers fall off and you can remove them. After flowering, Erica is cut to the height of the peduncles or slightly lower. It is better to remove damaged, crumbling or dry branches immediately.
Transplant and substrate
Despite the fact that Erica is most often thrown away after flowering, it is quite possible to keep it as a perennial plant, in which case she will need a transplant. After flowering, it can either be transplanted into a garden in open soil, or transferred to a new pot. The timing of the transplant is not critical for Erica: you can carry it out immediately after pruning, or you can – only at the beginning of spring, when the weather is steadily warm and daylight hours begin to increase.
It is very easy to choose a substrate for Eric. It must necessarily be acidic, consist mainly of peat or be pure peat, be coarse, sufficiently dense. Erica responds well to substrates for rhododendrons, a mixture of equal parts of coniferous, peat soil, humus and sand.
The transplant procedure for this plant is not quite typical. It is advisable to load Eric, keeping an earthen lump around the roots. A middle drainage layer is laid on the bottom of the tank. But during transplantation, the soil is not left loose, but compacted very well over the roots, creating a dense layer of soil that perfectly holds the shrub.
Diseases and pests of Erica
Eric can hardly be called an invulnerable houseplant. In a room culture, especially in the absence of constant ventilation and access to fresh air, it very often suffers from pests. Spider mites and scale insects are especially dangerous for the plant. It is difficult to wash this plant, and these procedures are often destructive, therefore, it is best to immediately deal with the problem with insecticidal preparations. Of course, you should not forget about the need to maintain high air humidity either.
Common problems in growing Erica:
- falling leaves when the soil dries out;
- drying of shoots in a heat and uncomfortable environment;
- lack of flowering in the warmth.
Reproduction of Erica
This rare, but beautiful indoor shrub is propagated mainly by vegetative methods. New Erica bushes can be obtained both from cuttings and by rooting cuttings.
To obtain a layering, it is enough to dig in the soil and fix the strong shoot of Erica with a hairpin, wait for it to take root, and then separate it from the mother bush as an independent plant. At the same time, it is advisable to fix the shoots in the ground during the spring, and not in summer or autumn.
And the grafting of this plant is quite simple. In a shrub, only the tops of non-flowering shoots are cut, usually choosing strong branches at the end of summer and cutting off the tops 7-10 cm long. Rooting is carried out after treatment with growth stimulants in a mixture of peat and sand (ratio – 2 to 1). It is necessary to ensure that the cuttings of Erica are cool, in temperatures from 5 to 15 degrees Celsius and not higher, it is imperative to maintain constant soil moisture. But it is not necessary to cover the cuttings with a cap, but it is advisable to simplify maintenance.
You can also use a simpler method – divide large bushes into 2-3 smaller ones during transplantation.
The seed method is also suitable. Erika seeds are sown in a peat substrate superficially, covered with glass or film, germinated in warmth, but immediately after the emergence of shoots, the containers are transferred to the cool.