False Heather/Allyson Heather

Diposting oleh alexandria joseph | 03.00

A plant that captures my attention at the nursery every year during the summer months is Mexican Heather or False Heather or Allyson Heather.  Whatever you call it, it's a great compact plant that LOVES full sun.  False Heather can be seen when the weather starts warming up around town....and when I say warming up, I mean the 90's and 100's!  This plant thrives in sun but looks shabby in winter.  On an impulse buy, I purchased several of these plants 2 years ago and loved their performance in the hot weather. In previous winters, the plant snapped back, but unfortuneatly this last extreme winter freeze killed mostly all of them. Only 2 have returned and they were situated in the fuller sun area.   I'll buy more again but not for mass plantings or permanent settings.  These are going to go into pots and planters around the place. They add a nice punch to an area, but get leggy at times. This is what I would call a tender perennial. Freezes back, but snaps back in spring. 

Here are the facts from Jack Scheper with some side comments from me....


"Mexican false heather is a small tropical evergreen sub-shrub with many charming attributes including compact form and fine textured foliage. Growing to a maximum height of about 24 in (61 cm), false heather grows to form flat topped mounds 18-36 in (45.7-91 cm) in diameter. The plant's flat feathery sprays of foliage are 12-18 in (30.5 cm) long and are highly branched. The small oblong leaves resemble those of Scotch heather (Calluna vulgaris also known by its synonym Erica vulgaris) and are about 3/4 to 1 in (1.9 cm) long and 1/4 to 1/2 in (0.6-1.3 cm) wide. They are arranged alternately the length of the stems giving the plant a fernlike appearance.

In tropical climates tiny flowers emerge from the axils (the points where the leaf attaches to a stem) to create a show of color that lasts for much of the year. False heather flowers range from the typical purple and lavender to the less frequently seen white, pink and deep rose varieties.

As one of its common names implies, Mexican false heather in native to a region extending from Mexico south into Guatemala. In the last decade or so, its popularity in warm winter areas as a garden plant has increased greatly - you see the stuff everywhere!


Prune lightly in spring if the plant becomes scraggly. Prefers well drained fertile soil so provide a good slow release fertilizer in late winter, spring and summer for best flowering. Indoors use a liquid fertilizer according to manufacturer's directions.

Light: Foliage color is prettiest when grown in broken shade. False heather can take full sun but the plant looses its rich green color. When grown as a house plant provide lots of bright light but protect from direct sunlight.

Moisture: Needs regular watering to look good, but mine seem to be rather durable, surviving short periods of drought.(In Tucson, if it's in direct sun, watering is fine, but make sure the water can easily drain and not sit.  Our clay soil can trap water for periods of time which is not good for the plant.)
Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. This is a tender tropical shrub and it will be killed to the ground by freezing temperature. (Here in Tucson, Zone 9, only a small few are returning back to their healthy forms.)  Propagation: Large clumps may be divided. It can also be propagated by taking short, 4-6 in (10.2-15.2 cm) tip cuttings. In warms areas, Mexican false heather may self-sow.(but doesn't do so in Tucson as the ground is a bit hard.) It is easily grown from seed planted in spring.


In tropical areas Mexican false heather is a perfect choice as a permanent evergreen groundcover(I wouldn't use this as a permanent ground cover in Tucson) and delivering an almost non-stop flower show as a bonus. Requiring only minimal pruning and bothered by few pests, this low maintenance shrub is excellent for commercial plantings. Also works well in beds and borders(yes!!! For Tucson, I recommend this plant be used for planters and pots that receive lots of sun!) as its fine textured medium green foliage provides gentle contrast to coarser leaved varieties. Its height also recommends it for use in mid-bed plantings where its 2 ft (0.6 m) height is sufficient to hide late summer legginess in background plants while itself providing a pleasing background for showier, shorter bloomers in the foreground. This plant is also a good candidate for greenhouse and conservatory where it delivers lots of color and satisfaction but requires little effort.


False heather's compact size and evergreen nature make it a perfect permanent addition to small spaces. It blends nicely with other plants in container gardens and rarely requires special attention. Combine false heather with it's close cousin, cigar plant (Cuphea ignea) for a sensational color combination of orange and purple. False heather is easy to find at most garden centers and nurseries. It is cheap and easy to grow so plant a few and all kinds of sulfur butterflies will come running to dine on this vibrantly colored feast that you have set!" End of article. Until next time....

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