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Best uses

This plant suits larger borders and can be planted in courtyard containers. Excellent for cut flowers.

Physical characteristics

A bushy, evergreen shrub that grows 1m tall and 1m wide.

Flowers and foliage

Through April to July this Erica produces masses of small pinky purple bell-shaped flowers all along the stems. The leaves are smal green and needle-like.

Preferred site

This plant prefers full sun and acidic, sandy soil. Generally frost hardy, but does need protection when young and not fully established.

Preparation for planting

Young plants are easier to establish than larger ones. These plants will grow quickly when planted in autumn when soil is moist and warm. Ericas do not like their roots drying out; add compost (avoiding manure and lime) to help water retention. Always choose healthy, well-grown plants. Shrubs may be planted at any time throughout the year, provided they are watered during dry periods. Planting success is often improved on clay soils by adding extra topsoil and forming raised beds. Incorporate coarse sand, bark and compost to improve soil structure. Before planting, ensure that the root ball is saturated and remove planter pot with minimal root disturbance. Trim any broken roots or branches and plant at the same level as in the container. Long term, slow-release fertilisers may be added at this stage. As soil is placed in the prepared, hole tread firmly to bring soil in close contact with the root ball. Water thoroughly, making sure that moisture penetrates to the depth of the root ball.

Maintenance tips

Young plants require thorough watering during dry periods. Mulching conserves moisture and suppresses weeds. Prune plants after flowering to keep them compact and promote growth of next season’s flowering wood.

Feeding is essential for plant maintenance. Controlled-release fertilisers that release nutrients on warm days in the presence of water (e.g. osmocote or horticote) have proved effective, provided they are low in phosphates. Follow instructions provided with the product or apply 20 - 30 granules per plant in autumn and spring. Kelpac is also useful as a root growth stimulant. Ericas do not like their roots drying out, so add compost to help water retention (avoid manure and lime).

Slow-release fertiliser is recommended, as using a liquid fertiliser can add too much nitrogen which encourages leaf growth but not flower production. The root ball sometimes dries out despite the surrounding soil being moist. When this occurs, directly water down the plant stem to saturate the root ball. The first summer and autumn after planting is critical for young plants; water thoroughly during dry periods. A good mulch containing citrus peel will add some acidity. Keep mulching material away from plant stems.

Pests and diseases

Usually pest and disease free.

Location at Auckland Botanic Gardens

African Garden