The Q&A Archives: Purple Heather Dying After Pruning

Question: I live in Charleston SC. We planted purple heather this spring and it did beautifully through the last week in November. I pruned in late October. I pruned from the top and sides because it was so bushy. It seemed to survive this but started to turn brown about four weeks later. Is this because of the pruning or cold weather? There is still some green at the base of the plants. Should I fertilize, should I cover the plants for the rest of winter? They have been getting plenty of water. What should I do?

Answer: Heather is usually cold-tolerant so I suspect you may have cut your plant back a little too hard. The easiest way to prune is to cut off just the flowering parts of the stems once the flowers begin to fade. New leaves will emerge from above and below the cuts, and new flowering stems will develop. If you cut back more than 1/3 of the live plant material, you may have caused your heather a great deal of stress. If the heather was otherwise healthy it should rebound, but it won't bloom until it recovers. Don't fertilize at this point - wait until you see signs of new growth before feeding. Heather doesn't like wet feet, so hold back on the watering for now. When the weather warms in the spring and summer, water deeply once a week. It isn't necessary to protect the plants from winter weather.

Hope your heather recovers!

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