Allegro Scotch HeatherCalluna vulgaris ‘Allegro'
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Calluna vulgaris ‘Allegro'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
Allegro Scotch Heather is a low, bushy shrub that forms a spiky mound about 18 inches tall and 2 feet across. The tiny dark-green leaves cover the branching stems, and from August to October the branches are covered in many small dark red blooms that give it a unique smokey look. Ideal for poor sandy soil and acid conditions it is perfect for slopes, among rocks, on retaining walls and with shrubs like dwarf pine and junipers, as well as with many sun-loving perennials like catmint and sages.
Allegro Scotch Heather should be planted in full sun or light partial shade and in acidic soil. It tolerates poor, sandy soils and very acidic ones, but will not grow in alkaline soils. It can be grown in pots if you don’t have suitable garden soil. Once established it is drought resistant and it tolerates salt-spray too. Pests, diseases and deer leave it alone, and it just takes a simple spring trim to keep it looking perfect.
In the past heather was so closely associated with poor land and poverty that no one would consider growing it in their gardens. That changed long ago and this low-growing plant might not be the first garden plant you think of, but if you have poor, sandy, acidic soil, it should definitely be your first choice. Tough and reliable, it is also handsome and colorful, bringing a unique look that no other plant has. Allegro Scotch Heather is one of the most colorful and dependable varieties, smothered in glowing deep-red color for months – a color that lasts even when you cut the branches and dry them. If you have suitable soil there are few plants that will give so much pleasure for such little effort, and solve the problem of sunny, dry places so well. The spreading habit and low growth makes it a unique groundcover plant for slopes and open areas, alone or in front of taller shrubs and trees such as pines. It is both drought tolerant and salt-resistant, growing in areas where few other plants can. An icon of Scotland, you don’t have to have Scottish roots to grow it, or have visited the wild moors there or in other parts of Europe, but since it’s a symbol of good luck around the world, surely your garden could use some good luck too?
Allegro Scotch Heather is a low-growing evergreen shrub that forms a spreading cluster of many upright or sprawling branches, rising to about 18 inches tall and spreading about 2 feet wide. The tiny scale-like leaves cling to the mid-brown stems, giving a unique look found in no other group of shrubs. The leaves are dark-green, becoming bronzy or purple in winter. Flowers develop on the upper sections of the branches, and this heather is often called a ‘late’ heather because it flowers in summer and into fall, instead of in spring as some others do. The flowers make up for their small size with their abundance and give the plant an almost smoky or hazy look. They are tiny tubular bells with four petals, clustered all around the upper parts of the stems, appearing in August and continuing to be colorful into October. The flowers are an elusive shade of dark red that can also look purple, depending on the light, and it produces a wonderful colored glow across the area of planting. Even when they die the blooms can remain colorful, or turn a fascinating shade of soft brown, giving winter interest as well. Few plants deliver so much color and charm over such a long time as this one. Bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds visit it, and it is an important food source for pollinating insects.
This plant is ideal for covering open sunny areas, and it can also be grown at the foot of rock gardens, on retaining walls and slopes, and in the foreground of garden beds. With its drought and salt resistance it is ideal for seashore plantings. It can even be grown in pots to decorate a terrace or bring inside into a porch in fall and winter. To grow it as a groundcover, space plants 15 to 18 inches apart in clusters – they will soon grow together into a solid covering.
Hardy into zone 5, Allegro grows well in all zones into zone 8, doing best in areas that have cooler summers.
Full sun is the best location for Allegro Scotch Heather, although it will grow in some partial shade as well. It grows best in light, sandy soils and the soil must be acidic, with a pH value no more than 6.5, and preferably lower. It tolerates extremely acidic soils with values of 5.0 or less. If you grow it in a pot use a potting soil blended for acid-loving plants. The soil should be well-drained, and once established this plant has good resistance to drought and also to salt-spray.
Water regularly until it is established, but after that little attention is needed. It is usually free of pests or diseases and deer won’t eat it. Annual pruning in early spring is advised, cutting back so that you leave just an inch of the stems that flowered in the previous year. Larger plantings can be sheared over with hedge trimmers. New growth will soon develop and flower by summer.
Scotch Heather, Calluna vulgaris, is also called Scots heather, or ling, and the name Calluna is Greek for ‘sweeps clean’, a reference to the long and enduring use of this plant to make brooms called besoms. It grows in open places, typically on hilltops and mountains, in poor sandy soils, and in moors, bogs and around pine forests. Since sheep and cattle won’t graze on it, heather is often found in poor areas where there has been over-grazing of hillsides. There are many different varieties developed for gardens, and the variety called ‘Allegro’ is an enduring favorite, grown for its red blooms. We don’t know where it was developed, but it was perhaps a unique seedling plant.
This plant is a real problem solver if you have poor acidic soil. Grow it with pine trees, both large and small, along with junipers, butterfly bushes, rosemary, ornamental grasses, and perennials like butterfly weed (Asclepias), flowering sage, catmint and Korean mint (Agastache). Many people grow heather for nostalgic reasons, or for good luck, so order now, because our stock will soon be sold out.