This, the true Scotch heather, is native to Europe and Asia Minor. It bears tiny, needlelike, dark green leaves and spikes of rosy pink, bell-shaped flowers. Garden types (far more common than the species) range from dwarf ground cover and rock garden sorts only a couple of inches high to plants reaching 3 ft. tall. Blossom colors include white, pale-to-deep pink, lavender, and purple. Most selections flower in mid- to late summer; a few continue on into late fall. Handsome foliagepale and deeper greens, chartreuse, yellow, gray, or russetoften changes color in winter.
Unfortunately, despite its obvious appeal, Scotch heather is difficult to grow in the South. This attractive plant does best where conditions are neither too hot nor too cold, too dry nor too wet, and it must be grown in strongly acid, sandy or peaty, well-drained soil that is low in nutrients. You can amend the soil with organic matter, but don't apply fertilizer. Avoid cultivating near the plant, as this may damage shallow feeder roots. Mulch thoroughly to keep the soil cool and retain its moisture. Water during summer droughts. To prune, shear off faded flowers and branch tips immediately after bloom (for types blooming into late fall, delay pruning until late winter).
Hundreds of selections are available from specialty nurseries. Try them if you're adventurous, but keep in mind that unless you live in the Upper South or high up in the Appalachians, Scotch heather will probably be short lived in your garden. It is not browsed by deer.