Heather crops are traditionally associated only with magnificent garden landscapes, and as indoor plants we are practically unknown. Meanwhile, it is in room culture that an amazing representative of heathers - Erica, who is often confused with genuine heathers even at home, reveals her bloom in a new way. The magnificent red palette of unusual inflorescences and the textural, inimitable greenery make this plant a soloist practically unaware of competitors. Traditionally, Erica is grown as a seasonal winter plant, throwing it away after flowering is complete. But during these long months, during which the bushes relentlessly produce new inflorescences and are like a living bouquet, there is no match for this, not so whimsical beauty.
Indoor "heathers" and their catchy beauty
Representatives of the genus Erika (Erica), which in nature is considered the invariable decoration of the Scandinavian and British landscapes and is known mainly for the beauty of moorlands, they are able to surprise with their diversity. In the genus Erica, part of the family of the same name, more than 5 hundred species of plants. And although most of them remain wild plants that have not been introduced into the garden culture, and the most famous erics are garden plants, there are still among the five hundred varieties and those species that will not refuse to grow as a solo houseplant. Authentic heathers (Calluna) are also grown in room culture, but their content requires a somewhat specific approach, and most of the year heather should be outdoors.
As a houseplant, only two are grown, but on the other hand, incomparable types of eric - erica grassy (Erica herbacea), which has many magnificent varieties with different colors of inflorescences and less capricious, but also less spectacular Erica is graceful (Erica gracilis) Both plants have a lot of similar in type of flowering, and in size, and in the structure of bushes. Moreover, almost all the specimens presented on the modern market are hybrid varieties, and their specific origin is sometimes not quite clear. And species plants are often confused with each other and sold under each other's name. But you can still distinguish herbal eric from elegant: 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. Today, they are actively experimenting with other types of Eric in the West, trying to increase the assortment of these plants in a room representation, but there is no talk of any noticeable “breakthrough” of other types. On sale today sometimes found Erica Wilmore (Erica x willmorei) with long, up to 2 cm flower bells and growing in the form of a spherical bush Erica swollen (Erica ventricosa), but they can be met rarely.
On a note. If you have instances of Eric of other species or heathers in your garden, you can try to grow them as a houseplant, using the cuttings method and not transferring the plants after rooting in open soil, but replanting them in a pot and adapting them to room conditions from an early age. These are wonderful plants for experimentation.
Indoor ericas are low-growing, 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 ever-larger containers or timely separation. Eric shoots are erect, densely branched, form a dense crown. The leaves are typical of all heathers, strikingly small, saturated in medium, light or dark green color, needle-shaped, densely arranged, which creates a unique crown texture.
But despite all the beauty of greenery, the most noticeable feature of indoor Ericas, as well as their garden counterparts, is blooming. The apical racemose or spike-shaped, elongated inflorescences, consisting of bell-shaped, often almost spherical, miniature, brightly colored flowers, are conquered by an amazing palette of colors, and the ability to produce inflorescences in an unimaginably large amount. Small flowers in dense inflorescences harmonize with small leaves. During flowering, the bushes are so abundantly strewn with inflorescences that they turn into a single color (and texture) spot.
Indoor Erica traditionally blooms 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 - unusual and unique, not found in any plants other than heathers, or the white-flowering elegant varieties of Erica seem outlandish and real strangers in the interiors.
To succeed in growing indoor eric as perennials, it is enough to provide them with coolness. This is the main and basic requirement of these plants, but far from the only one. Eric can hardly be called a simple cultivation crop, this plant is suitable only for experienced gardeners, ready for difficulties, able to provide this heather beauty with special care and special conditions of detention. This plant is for connoisseurs who are looking for original accents and innovative solutions. All the difficulties in growing Erica is more than paid for by its beauty. Today, it is considered among the most promising and fashionable among seasonal winter plants. But we are just starting to look at it, and on sale flowering bushes for indoor use can be found not so often.
Erica Growing Strategy
After flowering, Erica is most often thrown away. But to do so is not only not necessary, but also wrong. The plant can:
- transfer to the garden, planted in open soil, and then provide shelter for the first winter (or give it to friends and neighbors for planting in the soil);
- take to the garden and put away for the winter-flowering in the greenhouse or return to the room;
- to grow as an indoor perennial, following the plant in the summer and picking it a cool temperature for the winter.
Erica Home Care
Growing as a perennial requires experimentation and intuition, because often the plant behaves unpredictably. But for gardeners and gardeners who love difficult tasks, Erica has prepared a lot of pleasures.
Lighting for Erica
Lighting for Erica is very easy to pick up. If the plants are in living rooms or in any room in the house, then eriks need to provide a sunny place (if possible, then protected from direct sunlight at noon in the summer), the maximum possible brightness of lighting. If Erica is placed on the balcony, loggia or taken out in the summer in the open air, then the place for this culture should be partial shade. Bright lighting quickly dries the shoots and the plant becomes much more vulnerable to pests and diseases.
The selection of a temperature that is comfortable for Erica is considered quite a challenge. For flowering, this plant is suitable for air temperatures of up to 15 degrees Celsius, while Erica feels rather well in warm rooms, provided that there is air access and good lighting: higher temperature readings are easily compensated by increased 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 a temperature of 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”: she is not sensitive to temperatures only when she is exposed in the open air. When Eric is kept indoors, he still prefers coolness or the highest possible restrained temperature (18-20 degrees). In late autumn, to stimulate flowering, Erica should be kept cool (5-10 degrees), it can start on the street when the temperature drops, but you still need to monitor the weather and prevent even “zero” marks.
For this plant, it is extremely important to ensure constant ventilation, access to fresh air and free circulation of air around the crown. Eric is rarely exposed together with other plants, it requires a separate and fairly free location. It can be kept outdoors during the entire warm season, it feels great on balconies and terraces.
Watering and humidity
This plant needs abundant watering, between which only the upper soil pass in pots should dry. It is important for Erica to maintain a stable soil moisture. But at the same time, droughts will not be destructive for the shrub, although they negatively affect the flowering intensity. If mistakes were made in irrigation, the substrate was too dry, it is best to saturate the earthen lump by immersing the pot with the plant in a container filled with soft warm water until the bubbles no longer appear and then allow excess moisture to completely drain. You should not allow stagnant water in Eric's pallets. If Erica is exposed in coolness, then watering for her should be very accurate, but still maintain constant soil moisture.
The higher the air temperature, the more demanding this culture is for air humidity. When kept cool, Eric can be content with even the driest conditions. If the indicators exceed 15 degrees, then you should increase the air humidity to 60%. The optimal strategy for this shrub is to place nearby moisturizers or place the pot in containers filled with wet peat, pebbles, moss, expanded clay or decorative primers. In this case, the bottom of the tank 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 sufficient dexterity to spray so gently soaking only the foliage, then these procedures will be quite comfortable for her.
Erica hates rubbing the leaves; and any form of showering or washing, even if the plant is affected by diseases or pests, cannot be carried out. On this shrub, you can not use a polish for leaves and various sprays for shine of foliage.
Feeding for Eric
Fertilizers for this plant are applied at 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, Eric does not need formative pruning. Shrub naturally develops in the form of a stunningly compact plant with a dense crown, constantly expanding in breadth. But cleaning the plant is necessary. True, individual fading flowers in inflorescences do not have to be plucked or removed. It is enough to rotate the plants periodically well 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. Damaged, showered or dry twigs should be removed immediately.
Transplant and substrate
Despite the fact that Erica is most often thrown away after flowering, it is quite possible to save it as a perennial plant, in which case she will need a transplant. After flowering is complete, it can either be transplanted into the garden in open soil, or transferred to a new pot. The timing of transplantation for Erica is not critical: you can do it right after pruning, or you can only do it in early spring, when the weather is stable and the daylight hours begin to increase.
It is very easy to pick up a substrate for Eric. It must necessarily be acidic, consist mainly of peat or be pure peat, be coarse, fairly dense. Erica responds well to substrates for rhododendrons, a mixture of equal parts of coniferous, peat, humus and sand.
The transplant procedure for this plant is not entirely typical. It is advisable to overload Eric, keeping an earthen lump around the roots. At the bottom of the tank lays the middle layer of drainage. But during the transplantation, the soil is not left loose, but tamped very well above the roots, creating a dense layer of soil that perfectly holds the shrub.
Eric's diseases and pests
Eric can hardly be called an invulnerable indoor plant. In indoor culture, especially in the absence of constant ventilation and access to fresh air, it often suffers from pests. Especially dangerous for the plant are spider mites and scale insects. It is difficult to wash this plant, and these procedures are often fatal, therefore it is best to deal with the problem immediately with insecticidal drugs. Of course, one should not forget about the need to maintain high humidity.
Common problems in growing Erica:
- leaf fall when the soil dries;
- drying of shoots in heat and uncomfortable surroundings;
- lack of flowering in the heat.
This rare but beautiful indoor shrub is propagated mainly by vegetative methods. New Erica bushes can be obtained both from cuttings and by the method of rooting layering.
To get a layering, just dig in the soil and secure with a hairpin the strong shoot of Erica, wait for its rooting, and then separate it from the mother bush as an independent plant. At the same time, it is advisable to fix shoots in the ground during spring, and not in summer or autumn.
And the cuttings of this plant are quite simple. At the bush, only the tops of non-flowering shoots are cut, usually picking strong twigs at the end of summer and cutting the tops 7-10 cm long. Rooting is carried out after treatment with growth stimulants in a mixture of peat and sand (2 to 1 ratio). It is necessary to ensure that Erica cuttings are cool, at temperatures from 5 to 15 degrees Celsius and not higher, it is imperative to maintain a constant soil moisture. But to cover the cuttings with a cap is optional, but it is desirable to simplify care.
You can also use a simpler method - divide large bushes into 2-3 smaller ones during transplantation.
The seed method is also suitable. Erica seeds are sown in a peat substrate superficially, covered with glass or film, germinated in heat, but immediately after emergence, the containers are transferred to cool.