How to grow Ericas in the home garden

Erica formosa 'White Bells' Picture courtesy MadibriErica formosa 'White Bells' Picture courtesy MadibriEricas grow well in most parts of South Africa and this article describes many of our most popular species for the garden. Learn how to grow them successfully in garden beds and in pots.

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

It’s difficult to describe ericas - their flowers are simply enchanting and sure to capture your heart. All gardeners feel the same, and Ericas are grown in gardens and parks all over the world for their irresistible beauty. As long as their needs are met, they are fairly adaptable and will grow in most regions of South Africa, with the exception of those very dry summer rainfall regions, or humid subtropical areas. Potted ericas for patios or entryways is still very trendy, making these little gems suitable for gardens small and large.

Ericas provide interest in the garden throughout the year with their small needle-like leaves arranged in small tufts, but during their peak flowering season, they display an intriguing variety of flower shapes, which can be tubular, bell, or urn-shaped. Some flowers are accompanied by ornamental bracts, and stamens may be included or project far out, and some blooms hang down while others point upward. Some flowers are bicolored or even tricolored, and they come in all colours except blue; including delightful shades of orange, yellow, scarlet, pink, white, and lilac. The species with tubular flowers attract sunbirds in search of nectar, and the bell and urn-shaped flowers attract bees and other insects.

Erica mammosa 'White Heart' Picture courtesy MadibriErica mammosa 'White Heart' Picture courtesy MadibriAlthough most of the Fynbos species occur only in the winter rainfall regions of the Western Cape, they also spread into parts of the Eastern Cape. Many Proteas like Pincushions and Leucospermums also occur naturally in the summer rainfall regions of South Africa, and Erica species also spread east into the summer rainfall regions of the Drakensberg and up to Gauteng and other Highveld regions. They are absent from the dry Karoo regions. If you select the right varieties and give them the correct care, ericas will flourish inland.

The family Ericaceae has a nearly worldwide distribution, with the exception of desert regions, continental Antarctica, parts of the high Arctic, central Greenland, northern and central Australia, and much of the lowland tropics and neo-tropics. The family is largely composed of plants that can tolerate acidic, infertile conditions, and like other stress-tolerant plants, many Ericaceae have mycorrhizal fungi to assist with extracting nutrients from infertile soils, as well as evergreen foliage to conserve absorbed nutrients.

Most commonly they are dwarf shrubs and herbs, but some are large shrubs and even small trees, and because their distribution is so vast, these plants are well known in cultivation, and include many well-known garden and fruit favourites like, rhododendron and azalea, blueberries and cranberries.

Out of the 6 floral kingdoms represented around the world, fynbos is the most biodiverse, and the only one that is located entirely in one country. Ericas form one of the main constituents of this distinctive Cape flora, along with restios, proteas, buchus and brunias. And although the genus is made up of approximately 860 species worldwide, we are extraordinarily blessed to have 760 of those species here in South Africa.

The European Ericas are commonly called “heaths” or “heathers”, and refers to ones from the Calluna genus, whereas ours come from the Erica genus, and visitors to our shores from abroad are always delighted to see ours.  Southern Africa is home to nearly 90% of the world’s Erica species, and Kirstenbosch grows all the South African species in the gardens, attracting visitors from far and wide to see them in full bloom.

In late eighteenth-century England, the Cape ericas became very fashionable glasshouse subjects, and The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, as well as many avid plant collectors amassed extensive collections, including many species no longer known in cultivation, and some that are now rare or, perhaps, extinct. However, toward the middle of the nineteenth century, they lost their fashionable status to the European heaths, many of which grow easily outdoors in England.

Erica mammosa 'Red Heart' Picture courtesy MadibriErica mammosa 'Red Heart' Picture courtesy MadibriIn the Garden:

Ericas are indispensable in the fynbos garden, and in any wildlife garden they are a magnet for nectar feeding birds like sunbirds, which pollinate the flowers. Bees, and beetles like scarab beetles and protea beetles, plus a myriad of other insects are also attracted to the blooms, which in turn attract insect eating birds.

The shape, appearance or type of erica will influence how it is best used in the garden. Many species start flowering at an early age and are thus perfect for containers, and those which are more difficult to grow are best cultivated in pots where they can be closely monitored. If the pots are placed in an airy, sunny patio, and the plants are watered correctly, they will do exceptionally well.

In their natural environment ericas are often found growing in close proximity with Restios such as Elegia spp., Chondropetalum spp. and Thamnochortus spp. And if planted together with other Proteas, Pincushion Proteas, Brunia, Berzelia, Helichrysums, Agathosmas, Coleonema, Buchu, Euryops and even the little blue Felicia, will give a beautiful naturalistic display.

In moist areas of the garden, ericas which enjoy these conditions like the Prince of Wales Heath (Erica perspicua), and the Water Heath, Sweet-scented Heath (Erica caffra) can be planted with other moisture loving indigenous plants like the Swamp Daisy (Osmitopsis astericoides), the Marsh Pagoda (Mimetes hirtus) and Brunia..

The species which have smaller flowers are extremely striking if planted in massed displays, and in nature some species have learnt to live in close proximity with rocks, which provide some protection from the elements, and where the plants can send their roots down deep underneath the rocks, in order to find water and shade, making these ericas ideal rockery plants.

When in bloom, don’t be afraid to pick the flowers, it won’t damage the plants, and the flowers will last for a long time in a vase.

Ericas for the garden and containers:

Because flowering times may vary slightly from year to year, and region to region, bear this in mind when planning your garden. Also, there are just too many gorgeous varieties to list here, so do your own research to select the perfect ones for your garden and climate. Your local garden centre will stock those which are suitable for your region - another good reason to visit an accredited garden centre for the best advice. Hopefully the ones documented below will ‘wet your appetite’.

Keep in mind that most fynbos plants are relatively short-lived and will have to be replaced occasionally.

A big shout-out for PlantZAfrica - my go-to website for researching indigenous plants.

Click on highlighted text to see  beautiful photographs and to read more about the plants described.

Erica caffra 'Afric White' Picture courtesy MadibriErica caffra 'Afric White' Picture courtesy MadibriWater Heath, Sweet-scented Heath (Erica caffra)

The water heath is one of our largest ericas and has a variable growth habit, sometimes growing as  an upright bush, or, under favourable conditions, becoming a small tree up to 4.5m. On old plants the bark of the trunk is brown and deeply fissured, while that of younger trees is grey. The branches are long and thin and carry many slender twigs holding the long needle-like, hairy, deep green or grey leaves, arranged in groups of three.

On a warm day in late winter, spring or early summer, a strong sweet smell is sometimes the first indication that it is in bloom. And, if you look up, you will see the grey bark and tiny white, cream or yellowish, bell or urn-shaped flowers clustered in groups of 2 or 3 in the axils of the leaves, and standing out beautifully from the surrounding greenery. They are long lasting on the bush and in the vase, with a strong and long-lasting honey scent. The seeds are as fine as dust, and it is estimated that there are about 50 000 of them in a single gram, and that about 30 seeds would weigh as much as a single poppy seed!

This is one of very few Ericas which reaches tree status and is also highly scented, and because it is wonderful in a wet garden, it’s a great pity that is not often seen in garden centres, except for more specialized indigenous nurseries.

In the wild the water heath is a very widespread species, more so than most Erica species. It can be found in the northwest from Van Rhynsdorp and the Cedarberg, all the way down to the Cape Peninsula, then eastward to the Transkei and up into Lesotho, growing at altitudes from sea level to about 1 800m. It tolerates a fairly wide range of conditions as long as the soils remain damp, and is found where the rainfall ranges from fairly low to quite high, and where rainfall occurs in winter, summer, or all year round.

The water heath always occurs in wet or damp places and is part of what is called “riparian vegetation”. Riparian vegetation grows along banks of a waterway extending to the edge of the floodplain (also known as fringing vegetation). This includes the emergent aquatic plants growing at the edge of the waterway channel, and the ground cover plants, shrubs and trees within the riparian zone. Riparian vegetation also offers some protection from fires.

Although the water heath is an attractive plant when in flower, it can look rather scruffy for the rest of the year. However, if you require a plant for a wet plot it is a good choice, and if combined with other riparian plants it will add fine texture to a streamside planting. It grows in acidic, damp or even wet soils, as long as they are not stagnant. About 50% of the soil must be humus for successful growing.

In the garden it is generally pruned to keep it about 2m tall and 1.5m wide. Inland, it will need regular watering, and once established will take light frost. If pruned regularly, it makes a good plant for large containers.

Madibri nursery grows a variety called “Afric White” which produces white flowers in winter and spring and is excellent for pot culture. It grows +-2m tall and 1.5m wide and tolerates light frost once established. Visit their website to see which retail outlets in Gauteng stock their plants.

Click to visit PlantZAfrica for beautiful photographs and more information on this plant

Erica mammosa' Pink Heart' Picture courtesy MadibriErica mammosa' Pink Heart' Picture courtesy MadibriNine-pin Heath, Rooiklossieheide (Erica mammosa)

This is one of the few Erica species that has a spectacular range of flower colours which vary from locality to locality and from bush to bush, with flower colours ranging from orange-red to dark red, various shades of pink and purple, to greenish-cream and white. The long, inflated tubular flowers have a closed mouth, and are borne singly or in pairs towards the tips of the main branches, and in the axils of the small linear leaves which are arranged in whorls of 4 to 6. Although flowers can be found on the bushes sporadically throughout the year, the main flowering season is in summer and autumn, (December to April).

In the wild Erica mammosa grows in sandy, well-drained soil which is nutrient-poor and acidic. It is commonly found on the sandy flats at sea level up to the higher mountain slopes, but tends to favour sandy seepage areas. It is widespread from the Cold Bokkeveld to Hermanus and occurs in Clanwilliam, Pikketberg, Ceres, Worcester, Tulbagh, Paarl, Malmesbury, Stellenbosch, the Caledon District, and on the Cape Peninsula.

Erica mammosa 'Ballerina Heart' Picture courtesy MadibriErica mammosa 'Ballerina Heart' Picture courtesy MadibriErica mammosa is an erect but well-branched shrub and although it is slow growing, it is long-lived. It grows +-50cm to 1m tall, but if left undisturbed can attain a height of 1.8m. It is very hardy, and because it tolerates frost, is able to grow in the Highveld areas. Give young plants protection from extreme cold and frost until they are established. Once established, this Erica is also more drought hardy than others.

This shrub is well suited to garden cultivation and if planted amongst indigenous proteas, buchus, bulbs, daisies, and other species of Erica with different flowering times, will help greatly in providing colour all year round.

Madibri grows four beautiful varieties called “Pink Heart”, “Ballerina Heart”, “Red Heart” and “White Heart”.

‘Pink Heart’ can flower sporadically throughout the year and grows +-1.5m tall but only about 50cm wide. It is hardy to moderate frost and drought once established.

‘Ballerina Heart’ can flower sporadically throughout the year and grows +-1m tall and 50cm wide. It tolerates light frost and drought once established.

‘Red Heart’ flowers in spring to summer and grows +-1.5m tall and 50cm wide. It tolerates light frost and drought once established.

‘White Heart’ flowers in spring and grows +-1.5m tall and 50cm wide. It tolerates moderate frost and drought once established.

Click here to find retail outlets in Gauteng which stock Madibri ericas.

Visit PlantZAfrica for beautiful photographs and more information on Erica mammosa.

Erica 'Blennasun' Hybrid from blenna Picture courtesy MadibriErica 'Blennasun' Hybrid from blenna Picture courtesy MadibriLantern Heath, Riversdale Heath, Belletjieheide (Erica blenna)

This is one of the most magnificent Ericas and is well known despite its relative unavailability to gardeners. However, for the connoisseurs out there, seeds and plants can be found online, and Madibri nursery grows the beautiful Erica blenna, and a hybrid called “Blennasun” so visit their website to see which retail outlets in Gauteng stock it.

The lantern heath is found in two forms or variations: The smaller-flowered Erica blenna var. blenna occurs between Swellendam and Riversdale, and is a small shrub +- 50cm tall with an equal spread. It is more common than Erica blenna var. grandiflora, which is taller and far better known, with its large, strikingly beautiful flowers.

Erica blenna var. grandiflora is a tall, erect, woody shrub which usually produces a single, thin woody stem with few side branches, +- 1.2 to 1.5m high. It is found on the lower southern slopes of the Langeberg Mountain Range between Heidelberg and Riversdale, between 500 and 900m above sea level, where it can be found growing in relatively moist mountain fynbos, and closely associated with other medium-sized, moisture-loving shrubs like brunias. Although it is relatively short-lived, mature specimens seen in their natural habitat are estimated to be over 10 years old.

Erica 'Blenna' Picture courtesy MadibriErica 'Blenna' Picture courtesy MadibriThe leaves and flowers are borne on short side branches, at, or near the top of the stems. The bark is greyish brown, and its deep-green leaves are neatly arranged around the stem, pointing upwards and slightly curved at their ends. The large, sticky, bright orange flowers with their lovely green tips are urn-shaped, and borne at the tips of the branches from April to November.

Lantern heaths grow in rocky, sandy, acidic soils, and in some places the soil is quite organic (peaty) and wet. The plants closely compete with other shrubs and therefore grow up to present their flowers at, or just above the vegetation level. There is very little or no side branching, nor leaves up the long woody stem, except at the very the top of the plant. This gives the plant an unfortunate ‘woody’ growth habit, so regular pruning is recommended to keep the plants well branched and compact. Plants that are pruned will also produce more flowers.

The lantern heath grows best in gardens in the winter rainfall regions, and if grown inland it will need special attention because it is not very frost tolerant and must be watered well through the summer. It tolerates temperatures ranging from about 10 to 30°, and higher and lower temperatures will only be tolerated for short periods at a time.

It grows very well in pots, and potted plants can be better catered for. Pots can easily be moved to ensure the plant always gets sufficient sunshine, and the plant's feeding and watering can also be better controlled.

In the garden, plant it where it receives good ventilation, preferably a cool breeze. It does not do as well when planted in isolation, where it has shown stress symptoms such as yellowing leaves and dieback of branches, so plant it with other fynbos plants for support and protection. Companion plants may include other ericas, buchus, brunias, and restios.

Madibri Nursery grow “Blenna” and a hybrid from Blenna called “Blennasun”  which only grows +-50cm tall and 50cm wide and produces its long tubular scarlet red flowers with a constricted mouth, and pretty green tips sporadically throughout the year.  Visit their website to find retail outlets which stock them in Gauteng

Visit PlantZAfrica for beautiful photographs and more information on Erica blenna var. grandiflora.

Erica chamissonis Picture courtesy MadibriErica chamissonis Picture courtesy MadibriGrahamstown Heath (Erica chamissonis)

Very little information is available on this gorgeous little Erica that is endemic to the Eastern Cape Province, occurring on the flat to middle slopes of the Kouga mountain range on the border of the Eastern and Western Cape provinces of South Africa, and extending to Grahamstown.

The landscape of the area is dominated by the Kouga and Baviaanskloof Mountains, which run parallel to each other in an east-west orientation, and are part of the Cape Folded Mountains. The Kouga range separates the Baviaanskloof and Langkloof ranges from each other, and is the larger of the two. Many high peaks occur in the western and central parts of this range while the eastern end is less rugged, with plateaus and hills generally less than 900m in altitude. Smutsberg is the highest peak at 1757m above sea level.

If you take a hike in this spectacular region anytime from late September to May you may be lucky enough to spot these little gems blooming in the wild.  The shrublets only grow about 60cm tall, but what they lack in stature they certainly make up for in flower power, and when in full bloom they are smothered with small cup-shaped flowers in a most delightful shade of pink to purplish-pink.

Erica chamissonis can be grown in a small pot and is grown by Madibri, so if you simply have to have one, visit their website to find a retailer who stocks them in Gauteng.

Erica canaliculata 'Fairy Confetti' Picture courtesy MadibriErica canaliculata 'Fairy Confetti' Picture courtesy MadibriChannelled Heath (Erica canaliculata)

This impressive species grows slowly into an erect shrub +-2 to 3m high, or a small tree up to 5m tall, putting on spectacular displays of flowers in summer (November to February) when the plants are blanketed with thousands of dainty bell-shaped pink flowers that are distinguished by their very long styles, which protrude from the flowers. These displays occur all along the coastal plains, on the margins of indigenous forests, and in the thick fynbos-filled valleys of the Western and Eastern Cape, from George to Humansdorp.

This Erica grows in impoverished, well drained, acidic soils derived from weathered quartzite, and is more commonly found along the margins of indigenous forests where it gets some shade, and where it also grows taller than those found growing on moist flats and lower slopes, in full sun.

It got its strange species name ‘canaliculata’ from the Latin word, 'canaliculatus' which means channelled, and refers to the grooves in the stems of old, established plants. It is well-branched and covered with small green leaves giving the plant an overall fine, soft textured look. The greyish-brown bark is grooved, and on large specimens the main stem can be up to 100mm in diameter.

Once established, channelled heath is hardy to moderate frost and is recommended as a strong growing, reliable garden plant which is easy to maintain in average Mediterranean conditions. It is ideal for a fynbos garden or any semi-shade garden, as long as it gets some direct sunlight in the day. It is perfect for large pots, and the fresh flowers have a strong, unusual fragrance – kind of musty, with a sweet soapy smell.

This Erica will tolerate heavy soil with little to occasional irrigation, and it is best not to over irrigate in summer. It is fairly hardy to moderate frost once it is established, but young plants will need protection. In cold regions it is perfect for large pots.

Madibri grows a beautiful variety called “Fairy Confetti” with lovely pink flowers in spring. Once established it is hardy to moderate frost, and is excellent for containers because it only grows +-1m tall and 50cm wide.  Visit their website to find retailer who stocks them in Gauteng.

Visit PlantZAfrica for beautiful photographs and more information on this plant.

Erica cyathiformis 'Fairy Early' Picture courtesy MadibriErica cyathiformis 'Fairy Early' Picture courtesy MadibriKraaifontein Heath (Erica bolusiae var. cyathiformis)

This beautiful little Erica which only grows +-20cm tall and 15cm wide is now extinct in the wild due to urban expansion, agriculture and grazing, combined with an alien acacia invasion, which lead to the complete loss of this taxon's fynbos habitat near Kraaifontein on the Cape Flats, where it flourished in seepage areas, on the acid soils of these sandy flats.

Fortunately, the plants are cultivated at Kirstenbosch Gardens, and other professional growers are also growing them.  These little beauties are also available as cut flowers.

Madibri has a beautiful garden cultivar called "Fairy Early” which may only grow +-50cm tall and 50cm wide, but which bears masses of light pink flowers in late winter and spring. Once established it is reasonably frost and drought tolerant, but in cold gardens it is perfect in smaller pots. 

Visit their website to find retailer who stocks them in Gauteng. Click here.

Erica hirtiflora 'Fairy Hairy' Picture courtesy MadibriErica hirtiflora 'Fairy Hairy' Picture courtesy MadibriHairy-flower Heath (Erica hirtiflora)

This beautiful shrub flowers sporadically almost all year round, peaking from summer to autumn (January to April). It adds an elegant touch to gardens with its masses of long, egg-shaped blooms with a constricted mouth, and which are covered with fine white hairs which glisten in the sunlight.

The hairy-flower heath is indigenous to the Cape Peninsula; and on the slopes above Kirstenbosch where it is common, it turns the mountain slopes a glorious purplish-pink during its flowering season. The flowers are borne all over the main branches as well as the side branches, making it very floriferous.

Erica hirtiflora occurs from Malmesbury to the Peninsula, and to Caledon, Riviersonderend, and Swellendam, where it can commonly be found growing on acidic soils in marshy places and slightly moist slopes. It grows into an upright, bushy yet lax shrub, +- 50cm to 1m tall. The small needle-like leaves are usually arranged in whorls of four. The seeds are very small and difficult to harvest.

Like most Ericas, it should be grown in a sunny open area where there is good air circulation, and the soil should be acidic. Once established it is moderately frost hardy and drought tolerant. Because it is an excellent container plant, in cold regions it is best to plant it into a pot.

Madibri has a lovely variety called “Fairy Hairy”, so if you simply have to have one, visit their website to find retailer who stocks them in Gauteng.

Visit PlantZAfrica for beautiful photographs and more information on this plant.

Erica quadrangularis 'Fairy Red' Picture courtesy MadibriErica quadrangularis 'Fairy Red' Picture courtesy MadibriBaby Heath, Square Heath (Erica quadrangularis)

Baby heath is a graceful and easy to grow shrub, up to 60cm tall, with branches extending outwards almost horizontally. During its flowering season from mid-winter to early summer (July to November), the entire bush is smothered in with masses of small cup-shaped flowers which can either be white, white tinged with pink, or delightful shades of pink, from pale to rosy-pink.

It occurs from Clanwilliam through the Boland to Knysna and inland as far as the Swartberg and Kammanassie mountain ranges, where it can be found growing in seepage areas on sandy flats, and on lower mountain slopes and moist clay banks. Under favourable conditions it often forms dense colonies.

This decorative garden shrub is also an excellent potted plant, and is well known to many gardeners all over the world. In South Africa it is widely available in retail nurseries and is grown for the cut flower industry.

Like most Ericas it should be grown in a sunny open area where there is good air circulation and the soil is acidic. Once established it is moderately frost hardy and drought tolerant. Because it is an excellent container plant, in cold regions it is best to plant it into a pot.

Madibri has two lovely varieties called “Fairy Pink” which grows +-50cm tall and 50cm wide and has bright pink flowers in spring; and “Fairy Red” which grows +-1m tall and 50cm wide with purple-red flowers in spring. Both will tolerate light frost and some drought once established.

Click here to visit Madibri website to find retailer who stocks them in Gauteng.

Visit PlantZAfrica for beautiful photographs and more information on this plant. 

Erica fastigiata var coventryi 'Four Brothers' Picture courtesy MadibriErica fastigiata var coventryi 'Four Brothers' Picture courtesy MadibriFour-sisters Heath (Erica fastigiata var. coventryi)

Although this erect to sprawling little shrublet only grows +-50cm tall, it puts on a spectacular display of flowers in late spring and summer (August to January). It has a very distinctive arrangement of four flowers at the end of each flowering branch, hence its common name “four sisters”. The medium to large flowers have spreading lobes which are sharply pointed and vary from pink to pale pink. The corolla is a dark red to purplish cylindrical tube about 10mm long with a dark greenish or pink ring at the opening of the mouth. In the Hottentots form, the dark, central 'eye' or ring is absent. The tight mouth and broad lobes of the flower suggest that it is pollinated by butterflies and flies with a long proboscis. The seeds are dispersed by wind.

The plants grow best in high-rainfall areas and have a wide distribution range. They can be found on flats and mountain slopes from Bain's Kloof to Caledon and are abundant in the Hottentots Holland and Kogelberg mountains of the Western Cape, where they are thrive at middle altitudes, in seepage areas, on moist slopes, and close to streams, and if conditions are favourable they can form very dense populations.

Four-sisters heath is an excellent container plant and tolerates light frost once established. In indigenous gardens it is lovely planted among other moisture-loving plants, such as the Swamp Daisy (Osmitopsis astericoides), the Marsh Pagoda (Mimetes hirtus), and the Prince of Wales Heath (Erica perspicua).

Madibri has a lovely variety called “Four Brothers”, so if you simply have to have one, visit their website to find retailer in Gauteng who stocks them.

Erica scabriuscula syn. gibbosa. Picture courtesy MadibriErica scabriuscula syn. gibbosa. Picture courtesy MadibriErica scabriuscula syn. E. gibbosa

This erica has no recorded common name, a pity for such an impressive specimen which can grow into a very large erect shrub, and which flowers sporadically throughout summer, and when it does, is festooned with thousands of small white or sometimes pale pink, rounded to urn-shaped flowers. It is a well branched plant and its branches and dark green leaves are covered with tiny glandular hairs giving it a fine and soft, textured look.

However, when touched these hairs are rough, and this feature gave rise to its newest specific name “scabriuscula”, which means ‘slightly rough to the touch’, and is derived from the Latin words “scaber” meaning rough, and “usculus” indicating the diminutive hairs.

This erica is a southern Cape species which is very common along the mountains and coastal plains, occurring primarily from the eastern Langeberg, along the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountain ranges as well as along the coastal plains and valleys from Mossel Bay to Humansdorp in the southern Western and Eastern Cape. It also occurs in the Swartberg range near Oudtshoorn.

It is hardy and relatively long-lived for a fynbos species, and because it is large, it is able to compete in tall fynbos. It grows in poor, well-draining, acidic soils derived from weathered quartzite, and favours more protected, moister and cooler south-facing slopes, the margins of forests, and semi-shaded valleys, where it may develop into a small tree +-5m tall. When it is found growing on moist flats and lower mountain slopes in full sun, it has a compact growth habit +-2 to 3m tall. It is also able to survive quite happily in more exposed areas but will remain small.

Because it is very showy species when in full bloom, and a vigorous and reliable garden plant which is easy to maintain in average Mediterranean conditions, this species is ideal for a fynbos garden or even for a semi-shade garden, as long as it gets at least half a day of direct sunlight. In the garden it needs to be planted where there is enough space for it to expand and grow - a good measure is a radius of at least 2m. It will grow near the sea as long as it is protected from direct exposure to strong salt-laden winds, and is also hardy to moderate frost once established. It grows very well in large pots, and in colder inland gardens, this may be the best option.

Madibri grows it so click here visit their website to find retailer in Gauteng who stocks it.

Visit PlantZAfrica for beautiful photographs and more information on this plant.

Erica cerinthoides 'Highveld Red' Picture courtesy MadibriErica cerinthoides 'Highveld Red' Picture courtesy MadibriFire Erica, Red Hairy Heath, Rooihaartjie, Klipheide (Erica cerinthoides)

The fire erica is the most widely distributed of the ericas in southern Africa, and is an extremely variable species over its vast range. In South Africa it occurs from the Cedarberg Mountains in the Western Cape, though the Eastern Cape, Transkei, Natal Drakensberg, into Mpumalanga, Lesotho, Swaziland, and as far north as the Soutpansberg in the Northern Province.

Any plant with such a wide distribution has distinct advantages over those confined to a narrow range, and Erica cerinthoides is a tough plant that grows easily in various parts of South Africa, and may be expected to survive for a long time in the garden. It can bloom almost constantly, but its main flowering time is in spring and summer, although flowering times will vary from province to province.

Erica cerinthoides 'Highveld Pink' Picture courtesy MadibriErica cerinthoides 'Highveld Pink' Picture courtesy MadibriErica cerinthoides is one of only a few ericas that re-sprout from a woody rootstock after fire, resulting in the production of clusters of lovely inflated, very sticky tubular red flowers, produced at the ends of short branches. Fire will stimulate flowering at any time of the year, and if fires don’t go through, after a number of years the plants will grow taller, up to 1.5m, and they become straggly with fewer flowers. Their ability to survive and respond to fire, and to freely produce seed, is a major factor in their success as a survivor of adverse growing conditions.

The plants vary from locality to locality, particularly in growth habit, the hairiness of the leaves and flowers, and also in the size, shape, and colour of its flowers. For example, in the southern Cape it is known to grow taller than those from other areas. However, most of the differences are found in the summer rainfall regions, resulting in the recognition of a separate variety, Erica cerinthoides var. barbertona, which has shorter flower tubes. A white flowering form has also been recorded from Mpumalanga and Swaziland.

Erica cerinthoides will tolerate drought and light frost once established and does very well in containers where it can be kept compact by pruning after flowering. It is also lovely in garden beds and rockeries. 

Madribi grows two beautiful varieties: “Highveld Red” and “Highveld Pink”

Both flower in spring, grow +-1m tall and 50cm wide, and are excellent pot plants which are hardy to moderate frost and drought once established. ‘Highveld Red’ has bright red flowers and ‘Highveld Pink’ has dark pink flowers. Visit their website to find out which garden centres in Gauteng stock their plants.

Visit PlantZAfrica for beautiful photographs and more information on this plant.

Erica peziza 'Honey Heath' Picture courtesy MadibriErica peziza 'Honey Heath' Picture courtesy MadibriWoolly-snow Heath, Velvet Bell Heath, Kapokkie (Erica peziza)

This striking Erica produces masses of small snowy white, bell to urn-shaped flowers in early spring and summer (August to November), and because the flowers are also entirely covered in white woolly hairs, it appears that the bushes are covered in snow, hence its common names.

The plant is erect and well-branched, usually growing +-60cm to 1m tall, but it can reach 2m in height. It is endemic to the Western Cape and occurs in the mountains of the Montagu, Robertson, Caledon, Riviersonderend and Swellendam Districts. In its range it is a fairly common species and can form stands with dense populations. It is found mostly on moderately rocky slopes and at relatively low altitudes, often in partial shade on south-facing slopes, and growing on well-drained, sandy soil derived from sandstone.

Madribi grows this beautiful species – visit their website to find out which garden centres in Gauteng stock their plants.

Visit PlantZAfrica for beautiful photographs and more information on this plant.

Erica patersonii x nana 'Johansgold' Picture courtesy MadibriErica patersonii x nana 'Johansgold' Picture courtesy MadibriGengold Heath (Erica patersonii x nana 'Gengold')

John Winter, an avid plant collector and former Curator of Kirstenbosch who is celebrated for his dedication in developing Kirstenbosch into the internationally renowned garden it is today, made numerous trips up mountains and into valleys to gather seed or cuttings of a variety of beautiful protea and erica species.

In 1971 he collected seed of Erica nana and Erica patersonii, which was germinated and grown in the Harold Porter Botanical Garden, at Betty's Bay. The plants bloomed well, and seed collected from them produced a sport, so the new plant was isolated when planted in the garden. The result was a superb hybrid combining all the best attributes of both parents; the compact habit of Erica nana and the vigour and dense foliage of Erica patersonii. Both Erica nana and Erica patersonii are good horticultural plants and not difficult to grow.

Erica nana has a low and spreading growth habit, and is found growing wild at relatively high altitudes, where it sprawls over rocks and cliff faces, growing only +-30cm high, with diameter of about 1m. It may become taller and will tolerate semi-shade as long as the light quality is good. In spring and summer (August to October) the bushes are covered in a profusion of luminescent tubular yellow flowers which cover the entire bush.

Erica patersonii is a tall growing species up to 1m tall which produces spikes of packed tubular yellow flowers that look like corn on the cob, hence its common name, “mealie heath”. This species occurs in marshy flats and coastal plains from Cape Point to the Hermanus area.

Later, cuttings from the sport which were brought back to Kirstenbosch proved easy to root, and soon a number of plants were established in the collection. The golden hue of the flowers gave rise to its registered name Erica 'Gengold'. Gengold shows the good attributes of both its parents, but has more attributes inherited from Erica nana. Nana means “dwarf” and this shrub forms a densely growing, sturdy and compact plant with a thick woody base, and closely-knit branches no more than 30 to 40cm in height. The flowers appear in spring and summer (August, September and October) providing awesome displays of bright yellow blooms which cover the entire plant.

Erica ‘Gengold’ is easy to grow in gardens, and like Erica nana, it tolerates light shade, but will flower better if placed in full sun. It will tolerate light frost once established but is not drought tolerant. This garden hybrid is an ideal pot plant for smaller containers, and because it keeps it shape naturally, does not need much pruning. It will also do well in rockeries where drainage is good, and where it can spill over and fill in the gaps between the rocks.

Madibri nursery grows “Johansgold” which is an excellent pot plant with gorgeous orange-gold flowers in spring. It tolerates light frost once established, and grows +-50cm tall with an equal or broader spread.

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Erica regia Picture courtesy MadibriErica regia Picture courtesy MadibriElim Heath, Belletjieheide (Erica regia subsp. regia)

The Elim heath remains a very popular garden plant in South Africa because it is easy to grow in the garden and in pots. It is found in various colours, but the variegated white and red form is particularly sought after. This wonderful species is endangered in its natural habitat and its popularity amongst gardeners can help save it from extinction.

Erica regia grows into a small shrub +-70cm tall, with thin woody branches which can become lanky if left unpruned. The bark is grey and the upper branches are covered in numerous light green, needle-like leaves. The shiny tubular flowers are produced in whorls near the ends of its branches, and can be red, white, or a combination of the two, depending on the form. It produces flowers throughout the year, but peak flowering is during spring and into summer (August to October)

It was originally part of a complex of three species and three varieties that have been reduced to one species and two subspecies. The other subspecies is Erica regia subsp. mariae which grows on tertiary limestone hills. The best-known variety was the variegated, white and red form known as E. regia var. variegata, which has now been included with E. regia subsp. regia.

Erica regia can be found growing wild on the windswept, acidic, sandy or gravelly coastal flats of the Agulhas Plain, from the western Bredasdorp area to near Elim and Vijoenshof, occuring on laterite soil, a rock type rich in iron and aluminium. Nearly all laterites are of rusty-red coloration because of their high iron oxide content, developed by intensive and prolonged weathering of the underlying parent rock.

It derives its name “regia” from the Latin word “regius”, meaning royal, and it is treated as such at Kirstenbosch Gardens, where it is grown with pride. It will flourish in gardens with well-drained, sandy soils. And, as long as it gets regular watering in summer, it will grow in quite hot and windy coastal conditions, in full sun. However, it prefers temperatures ranging from about 10 to 25°C, but will cope with higher or lower temperatures for short periods at a time. Inland it will tolerate short spells of light to moderate frost once established. In colder gardens pot culture is recommended.

Madibri nursery grows Regia, so visit their website to find out which retailers in Gauteng stock them.

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Erica versicolor 'Sunbird' Red Picture courtesy MadibriErica versicolor 'Sunbird' Red Picture courtesy MadibriTwo-colour Heath (Erica discolour)

The Erica discolour, versicolor, or unicolor group of ericas has proven to be very problematic to identify, because of considerable variation in most of their organs, and while there still remains much confusion in the group, the considerable variation has led botanists to retain four common and widespread species, Erica discolor, E. versicolor, E. unicolor and E. diaphana, and describe two new species namely, Erica croceovirens and E. prolata.

Erica discolor varies from locality to locality, making it very difficult to distinguish one species from another, so even with considerable field collections to study, botanists have not yet identified satisfactory morphological characteristics to separate the variants to species level. They have therefore determined they belong to one widespread and common species, with Erica discolour being the oldest name.

Erica discolor is an abundant and widespread species which is often found growing in dense stands on mountain slopes and hills all along the windy coastal plains of the southwestern and southern Cape, extending all the way to Port Elizabeth. It also grows on inland mountains from Matjiesfontein to the Swartberg. There is a taller, less-branched, reseeding form that is killed by fire and regenerates readily from seed, which is produced in copious amounts. The sprouting form tends to be shorter, growing up to about 1m tall. This form re-sprouts from an underground stem after fire, and it also regenerates from seed.

Erica versicolor 'Sunbird 5050' Picture courtesy MadibriErica versicolor 'Sunbird 5050' Picture courtesy MadibriThe sticky tubular flowers are slightly curved, and can be pink to dark orange-red, with pale yellow to white tips. The name “discolor” was given to describe the way the flower changes colour from the tip to the base. Green flowered forms are also known to exist. Flowers are produced singly or in groups of three at the ends of short, leafy side branches. The main flowering time is usually from middle to late summer and winter (January to July) but flowers can be produced sporadically throughout the year. This species is primarily pollinated by sunbirds.

Unlike most Erica species, the two-colour heath is a hardy species and not as fussy as others. It does well in gardens where the humidity is not too high, and once established it will tolerate moderate frost. In coastal gardens, it thrives on, sandy, rocky, acidic soils, as long as the plants are not exposed to direct salt-laden wind. It is drought tolerant and highly recommended because it flowers over several months and does extremely well in containers, as well as in open beds, on slopes, and in rockeries.

Madibri grows lovely varieties:  “Sunbird 50/50” and “Sunbird Red” so visit their website to see which retail outlets in Gauteng stock their plants.

“Sunbird 50/50” grows +-1.5m tall and 50cm wide and has long tubular, scarlet red and green flowers, which can appear throughout the year.

“Sunbird Red” grows 1.5m tall and 50cm wide and has long tubular red flowers, fading to pink at their tips.

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Erica diaphana 'Sunbird Pink' Picture courtesy MadibriErica diaphana 'Sunbird Pink' Picture courtesy MadibriDiaphanous Heath (Erica diaphana)

Erica diaphana is a strong-growing heath from the southern Cape which brings welcome summer colour to fynbos gardens with its profusion of long and sticky, pale pink to purplish, semi-transparent flowers with white to greenish tips. The flowers are pendulous and appear to be suspended from the branches, and like the leaves are produced in threes. Blooming time is from middle to late summer (December to March). The shrub is erect, growing +-1.8m tall, with rigid, spreading branches, and green needle-like leaves.

Erica diaphana grows on flats and rocky slopes, up to high altitudes, occurring from the Bontebok National Park near Swellendam, eastwards to George, Humansdorp and Uitenhage, and inland to the the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma Mountains, Langkloof and Baviaanskloof, of the Eastern and Western Cape.

This Erica is a strong grower which is well suited to fynbos, Mediterranean and coastal gardens with sandy, well-drained soils. However, it is not suitable to plant close to the dunes or in the salt-spray zone. Inland, it tolerates light frost once established as well as some drought.

It can be grown alone but remember that fynbos grows best when planted together with other fynbos plants to form dense stands that cover the ground, keeping the roots cool. It is lovely in rockeries, on slopes, terraced or retaining walls, and is excellent for pot culture.

Madibri grow “Sunbird Pink” which produces pretty pink flowers with white tips sporadically all year round. It is excellent in containers and tolerates light frost as well as drought once established, and grows +-1.5m tall and 50cm wide.

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Erica verticillata Picture courtesy MadibriErica verticillata Picture courtesy MadibriWhorled Heath, Marsh Heath (Erica verticillata)

The story of this strikingly beautiful erica is quite sad yet hopeful at the same time, because by the second half of the 20th century it was regarded as being extinct in it its natural habitat. It is what is called a “narrow endemic”, which means that it had a very limited distribution and only occurred in Sand Plain Fynbos on the Cape Flats of the Cape Peninsula, from the Black River to Zeekoevlei, where it favoured seasonally moist, sandy habitats, where the soils are acidic and depleted, and could also be found growing alongside the banks of streams on the Cape Flats.

Luckily, in 1984 it was rediscovered growing in a park in Pretoria, as well as in various botanical gardens around the world, which enabled this endangered gem to be brought to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. There it was lovingly nurtured with the help of Kirstenbosch horticulturists and Table Mountain National Park conservation staff, becoming one of Kirstenbosch's flagship conservation species. It has been re-established into three Sand Plain Fynbos reserves within the urban sprawl of Cape Town, including: Rondevlei Nature Reserve, Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area, and the Tokai Park under management of the South African National Parks. Its status remains extinct in the wild where it has been replanted, and its status will only be re-assessed when the new plants have survived three burn cycles in the wild without restocking or replanting.

Erica verticillata is a handsome, strong growing, and hardy species, averaging between +-1.5 and 2m in height, but old specimens have been recorded to grow up to 3m tall. It produces beautiful pink, tubular flowers arranged in neat whorls up the principal stems, and near the tips of the sturdy branches. Peak flowering is from January to March, but flowers may appear intermittently throughout the year.

Erica verticillata is one of the relatively few reliable South African ericas that is comparatively hardy, disease resistant, and recommended for planting in both gardens and containers. It does best when planted in a sunny position, and on sandy, seasonally moist, well-drained, acidic, soils. Naturally it is perfect for average Mediterranean or warm-temperate garden conditions, where it tolerates some drought. Inland it is hardy to moderate frost once it is established.

There are eight cultivars of Erica verticillata at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. The various forms have also been endorsed with cultivar names and numbers by the international registrar of erica cultivar names.

See beautiful pictures of the cultivars registered at Kirstenbosch, read more about the history of Erica verticillata, and how to grow and propagate it at PlantZAfrica, a marvellous resource for knowledge on our indigenous plants.

Madribri grows it too – visit their website to find out which retail outlets in Gauteng stock their plants.

Erica formosa 'White Bells' Picture courtesy MadibriErica formosa 'White Bells' Picture courtesy MadibriWhite Heath, Witheide (Erica formosa)

This ericas species name “formosa” is derived from the Latin word “formosus” which means beautiful, an apt name for this truly charming Erica.  And, all along the southern Cape coast and its mountain ranges, where it is abundant, when it is in full bloom from midwinter to early summer (July to November), it paints the countryside white. The white heath is a compact, much-branched, bushy shrub +-60cm tall, with small and shiny dark green leaves arranged closely on thin stems. The pure white flowers are shaped like rounded or urn-shaped bells that are contracted at the throat, and a distinctive feature of this species is the eight grooves or channels in the flowers.

It normally grows together in colonies, or nestled in amongst other fynbos plants which provide it some protection from the elements, and it favours areas where the soil is acid and well drained, but slightly clayey. The white heath can be found all along the coastal flats, and on the moister lower slopes of south-facing mountains and hills, from the Swellendam District to Mossel Bay, and extending eastwards to Humansdorp. It is also found inland as far as the Kammanassie Mountains situated between the Swartberg and Outeniqua Mountains east of Oudtshoorn. This species also grows close to the sea on the windswept hills along the Otter Trail, but under these exposed coastal conditions it is stunted and remains smaller.

Erica formosa is quite hardy in Mediterranean conditions or in areas where there is no frost, and once established it tolerates drought. In inland gardens it will only tolerate light frost once established, so it is advisable to grow it in pots which can easily be moved or covered in winter. It is a very good pot plant and requires only the minimum of clipping to retain a good shape.

Because it has a neat growth habit, the white heath should be one of the first choices when planning a fynbos garden. It makes a good edging plant, and is breath-taking in massed displays. A combination of this Erica with pink buchu and Coleonema pulchellum planted behind it, and the smaller Acmadenia heterophylla in front, would be most rewarding. Erica formosa grows best when planted in full sunlight, although it can also grow in light shade, but in shade will produce less compact plants and fewer flowers.

It is ideal for rockeries and embankment, and  other companion fynbos plants may include other ericas, buchus, brunias, and small restios.

Madibri grows it - visit their website to find out which retailers in Gauteng stock their plants. 

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Bridal Heath, Albertinia Heath (Erica baueri subsp. baueri)

We could find not pictures of this beautiful Erica, so go to PlantZAfrica to find beautiful pictures and more information on propagating and growing this erica.

The bridal heath remains one of the most popular and widely cultivated ericas in South Africa because it fairly hardy and long lived in cultivation. It is a tall species reaching a height of +-1.5m, but if left unpruned it can become sparse and woody. The small leaves are a distinctive grey-green in colour, which makes this species easy to recognize in the wild even when it is not in flower. The reduced leaf size and grey texture of the leaves help this plant survive in an area of relatively low rainfall and where they are subjected to the desiccating effects of persistent, strong summer winds, making Erica baueri subsp. baueri a true water-wise plant.

The tubular-shaped flowers are a lovely soft pink, white, or a combination of pink and white, are grouped in attractive clusters near the ends of the branches, and appear sporadically throughout the year.

In nature this lovely species is threatened and is confined to certain limited areas of the Riversdale and Albertinia districts between the Langeberg and the sea, where it is becoming increasingly scarce. Within this area it can still be found growing in deep sandy flats, on well-drained, acid soils, amongst the tall thatching grass, Thamnochortus insignis.

This is a hardy species suitable for most gardens in South Africa, as long as humidity is not too high. It also does well under relatively harsh windy conditions at the coast, and grows well in the summer rainfall areas as long as it can be watered through winter. Established plants will tolerate mild to moderate frost, but young plants will need protection.

In the garden the bridal heath is adaptable and will grow in a range of soil types. Soils made up from quartzite or sandstone is ideal, as well as those derived from dolerite or granite. The heavier the soil (more clay content) the less water will be required. Heavy soils can be a problem in summer rainfall areas where large amounts of water fall in a short space of time.

The bridal heath is lovely in garden beds or pots but will need regular pruning to keep it compact. It is perfect on embankments and in rockeries, accompanied by other protea species.

Erica 'Liebengold' Picture courtesy MadibriErica 'Liebengold' Picture courtesy MadibriErica ‘Liebengold’

This garden hybrid is cultivated by Madibri for its pendant tubular flowers with their unique, soft orange-yellow colour. The blooms appear in spring and are produced on strong stems, making Liebengold a wonderful cut flower. Because it only grows +-50cm tall with an equal width, it is perfect for pot culture, and is wonderful in rockeries and borders. Once established it tolerates light frost and some drought.

Visit their website to see which retail outlets in Gauteng stock their plants.


Ericas are fairly adaptable, and as long as their needs are met they will grow in most regions of South Africa, with the exception of those extremely hot and dry summer rainfall regions, and humid, subtropical regions. Most don’t like much frost, but many will tolerate light to moderate frost if they are protected when young, or are grown in pots which can be moved in winter. Check the hardiness of the various species as described above.

The majority grow naturally in the winter rainfall regions of the Cape Province where the rainfall is high from autumn to spring. And, although rainfall is scarce in summer, because they grow on slopes in close proximity to the sea, the plants still receive some humidity and mist during the long, hot and dry summers. In these regions they are not often found on hot, northwest-facing slopes, so avoid planting them here. When growing these species inland, ensure that they are watered regularly from autumn to spring.

Ericas grow best if planted together with other fynbos plants where they can form dense stands that cover the ground. Once planted, the surface of the soil surface should be kept as cool as possible by mulching or inter-planting with companion fynbos shrubs and groundcovers. (See companions for ericas in the garden section above).

Smaller potted specimens are often best grown alone in pots so there is no competition for nutrients and water – rather just mulch the soil with pine bark chips to keep it cool. It is also very important that they have a reasonably windy site, as they will not enjoy growing in hot, enclosed courtyards, or in small walled gardens with little or no air flow. 

Most species thrive in full sun to light shade, or at least 6 hours sun a day. In very hot regions, and for pot cultivation, full morning sun is perfect, and preferable to the hot, afternoon sun.

Ericas have a fibrous root system and like many others of the fynbos family, hate having their roots disturbed. For this reason, when planting ericas in the garden, choose the position with care as transplanting is not recommended at all. 

Ericas adapt easier if they are planted during the cooler months. In the winter rainfall regions they are best planted out in autumn, just before the winter rains arrive; and inland the best time to plant is in spring or early summer, when all danger of frost has passed, but the days are still cool.

Erica quadrangularis 'Fairy Pink' Picture courtesy MadibriErica quadrangularis 'Fairy Pink' Picture courtesy MadibriCareful watering is half the secret of successful erica cultivation. Ericas growing in the wild are often found at high altitudes where the south-east winds bring clouds that provide moisture in summer and rain in winter. Also, bear in mind that although most species grow naturally in well-drained positions, there are some exceptions, with a few thriving with water passing by their roots most of the time.

In the winter rainfall areas of the country, water your ericas moderately during the summer to keep them looking at their best. In the summer rainfall regions, make sure they are well watered during the dry winter months. Drip irrigation is perfect for ericas, and overhead watering is best done in the early morning to allow the leaves to dry out thoroughly before nightfall. This is done to avoid fungal infections.

The type of soil they are grown in is also very important. It must be acidic (pH 5 to 6.5) and well-drained, (sandy). On heavier soils there must still be good aeration, with no more that 30% clay in the top and sub-soil. If your soil is less than perfect, try growing them in containers or raised beds.
Commercial fynbos soil mixes are available, but if you wish to make your own planting medium for pots and garden beds, combine together equal parts of composted pine bark or pine needles and river sand. A little (20%) loam may also be added.

Whether your soil is heavy or not, it is always advisable to prepare a small bed for planting fynbos plants, rather than preparing a smaller, single planting hole. After all your erica can live for a reasonably long time, so it’s best to give it a good start. Once the entire bed is nicely dug over, dig a single planting hole at least twice the size of the container the plant came in, and transplant carefully so as not to damage the roots. Never plant deeper than the depth the plant was growing in its nursery bag or pot, and plant firmly in the ground, watering well afterwards. For the first two years of growth, water regularly, after which the shrubs should be well established, and more tolerant of drought.

Because they grow naturally in very poor soils which are low phosphates, specimens growing in the garden do not generally need to be fed.  However, you can feed occasionally with organic fertilisers like Seagro, Bio Ganic All Purpose, and Bio Ocean.

Do not use concentrated fertilisers on fynbos plants, and especially those high in phosphates. Avoid all artificial fertilisers high in nitrogen and phosphates like: Bone meal, 2:3:2, or Superphosphate. Never add manure, or mushroom compost which is high in phosphorus, to the soil.

Apply organic mulches like eucalyptus, acid compost, pine bark chips, or well-aged pine needles. These will break down slowly and feed your plants the natural way. Apply the mulch regularly, but do not make it too thick, and keep it well away from the stems of your plants.  Mulch will also help to suppress weed growth and keep the soil cool. Read more about the ‘ins and outs’ of mulching here: articles/frugal-gardening-tips/homesteading/mulching-your-garden-the-ins-and-outs

Weeds that develop close to the plants should not even be pulled out by hand, rather cut them off just below soil level.

Many ericas thrive in pots but it is vital that you use a top-quality soil with excellent drainage, like bark based potting soils, or a specialist fynbos potting soil. Position the pot in a well-ventilated, sunny position, and ensure that the container has sufficient drainage holes. Cover the bottom with gravel before filling it with soil. Remove the plant from its container and plant without disturbing the root ball. Compact the soil firmly around the plant and mulch with bark chips.

Potted specimens will need more frequent watering than those growing in the garden, but when you do water, water deeply, as frequent light sprinklings are not beneficial. Also, if you are using drip trays, ensure that the pot is standing on top of a layer of gravel or on ‘pot feet’, and not in a tray filled with water, as this can cause root rot.


Ericas respond well to light but regular pruning from a young age, and should be ‘tip-pruned’ when still young, about six months after planting, to encourage branching and more compact bushes. To avoid the loss of new flowering buds, light pruning of established plants should be done every year after they have finished blooming. Also, always remove any weak, scarred, or poorly looking branches.


Ericas are propagated by seed which has been treated with a smoke extract, or by cuttings. Click on the links supplied to PlantsZAfrica in the individual plant species section above to find more detailed information on propagating each one.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

If grown correctly, ericas have very few pest problems, but they may be attacked by fungal diseases, and root diseases like phytophthora, which are encouraged by warm, wet conditions. The best thing to do to prevent this is to make sure that ericas are planted in well-drained, acid soil, and in regions which are not too humid. 

New growth tips may occasionally be damaged by thrips. These tiny, slender insects with fringed wings, from the Order Thysanoptera, puncture and suck on the softer new growth causing growth distortion and browning of the growth tips. Thrips infestations are easily controlled by applying a pesticide and by pruning and destroying the badly infected parts of the plant.

Fynbos may show signs of iron deficiency or leaf chlorosis. The symptoms are yellowing of the leaves while the veins still stay green. Chlorosis is typically caused by high soil alkalinity, too much clay content in the soil, or high levels of phosphorus, which hinders the proper absorption of iron. Improve the condition of your soil by adding lots of acidic organic material, and then apply 5ml of Iron chelate, dissolved in 1L of water, to about 1 square meter.


We did not find much on the toxicity of Ericas, and stated that Erica cerinthoides has no toxic effects reported. However, we have found reports that ericas are poisonous for horses. Therefore, it would be advisable to keep your furry friends away from them, and babies and small children should always be supervised in gardens.