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Heather has a reputation as an easy-care ornament for heather gardens and resting places. Annual pruning plays a key role in the expert care program. These cutting instructions explain in a comprehensible and practical way when and how to cut heather perfectly.

The flowering time dictates the time of pruning

Two genres - one name

Hobby gardeners are familiar with two popular types of heather under the term heather: summer heather (Calluna) and winter heather (Erica). For all those who now fear a risk of confusion when cutting, the all-clear is given. Both genera thrive as flowering dwarf shrubs that are subject to uniform pruning.

Why is cutting useful?

Heather remains at a maximum growth height of 50 centimeters, which superficially makes regular pruning superfluous. However, it is not advisable to let the distinctive dwarf shrubs grow uncut. Characteristic of heather herbs is premature senescence with a decreasing willingness to flower. The more massive the degree of lignification, the fewer flower buds the plant develops.

Furthermore, the mini shrubs grow sprawling and space-consuming. During this process, new shoots become shorter and shorter, so that a dense carpet of flowers can no longer form. With an annual pruning, you counteract the disadvantageous growth in a targeted manner.

Flowering time determines pruning time

The perfect time to cut heather depends on when it is in bloom. Some of the most beautiful varieties have withered at the end of January, others last until March. Furthermore, picturesque erica hybrids inspire with distinctive flowers in early and late summer. It does not follow from this that home gardeners need to keep a special pruning calendar for their heather. In garden practice, these two rules of thumb have proven themselves for the ideal pruning date:

  • End of flowering before St. John's Day (June 24): cut after flowering
  • End of flowering after St. John's Day: cut in February

Please do not be tempted to cut late summer heather in autumn. The pruning causes a sap accumulation, which encourages previously inactive buds to sprout. So close to the onset of the cold season, the proverbial hardiness of Erica and Calluna is severely compromised. The still herbaceous shoot tips freeze back and affect the entire heather.

cutting instructions

The primary goal of pruning is to keep heather compact and floriferous. For this purpose, an annual cut prevents progressive woody growth and encourages young shoots to sprout. How to cut correctly:

  • Best cutting tool: Secateurs for individual plants, hedge shears (€24.99) for extensive heather
  • Cut off all faded shoots
  • Choose the intersection point in the leafy area above the old wood

The lowest needle-like leaves indicate where to place the scissor blades. Ideally, the pruning leaves only short stubs from which fresh, flowering shoots sprout.


The furious cushions of flowers hide the fact that heather is stingy with sleeping eyes. The dwarf shrub usually sprouts very sparsely or not at all from old wood. A rejuvenation pruning of summer or winter heather only has a chance of success if you cut in the leafy area or if the over-aged heather still has a few young, slightly woody ground shoots to offer for a new growth.

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