When to prune heaths and heathers

Question From: T. McKeel - Carnation, Washington, United States
Q: I have several varieties of heather--most are doing fine. One group (planted 4 summers ago) has never dropped old brown flowers, so never gets any new flowers. I've even forgotten what color they should be. These are right next to white and purple mounds that are doing fine, so I believe it is not a soil or drainage issue. I read in one site that heather should be pruned--but my goal was to have them grow large and take over the landscape--do I still need to prune? if so, when?

A: Toni, I do not have first hand experience growth heaths and heathers as they demand well drained acidic soil and I dig in heavy alkaline clay soil. It's a right plant right place issue. Everything I have ever read on Healths and Heathers recommends pruning them and most suggest doing so right after they bloom. However, I would shear off all the tips of the stems of those that have never bloomed. They certainly will look better. Also, some varieties of Heather produce buds that never open. Could that be the problem? There is a lot of good information on growing and caring for Heaths on the North Coast Gardening website including a video on pruning (www.northcoastgardening.com). Check it out. Best And Happy Yardening, Nancy