It is a low, spreading shrub growing to 15–60 cm (5.9–23.6 in) tall, with fine needle-like leaves 4–8 mm (0.16–0.31 in) long arranged in whorls of three. The flowers are bell-shaped, purple (rarely white), 4–7 mm (0.16–0.28 in) long, produced in mid- to late summer. The flowers are dry, similar in texture to the strawflower.
Erica cinerea is native to the west of Europe, where it is most abundant in Britain and Ireland, France, northern Spain and southern Norway. It also occurs in the Faroe Islands, Belgium, Germany, north-western Italy, and the Netherlands. It mostly occurs on moors and heathland with relatively dry, acidic, nutrient poor soils. It occurs in coastal dune heath and dune slack and occasionally in woodland. It is described as "of least concern" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
It is grown as an ornamental plant, cultivated in a wider range of colors. It is drought-tolerant and grows well in full sun with well-drained soil. Like most heathers, it is a calcifuge and dislikes alkaline soils (e.g. calcareous) which cause the symptoms of iron deficiency. Like other cultivated heathers, it is often seen as groundcover among plantings of dwarf conifers.
Bell heather is a source of heather honey.
- 'C.D. Eason'
- 'Pink Ice'
- 'Velvet Night'
- ′Eden Valley′ – with lavender flowers shading to white at the base of the corolla and a prostrate habit. The original plant was found on Trink Hill, Cornwall by Miss Gertrude Waterer.
- Harrison, Lorraine (2012). RHS Latin for gardeners. United Kingdom: Mitchell Beazley. p. 224. ISBN 9781845337315.
- "Erica cinerea". International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-2.RLTS.T203006A2758531.en.
- RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964.
- "Bell Heather, Erica cinerea". Scottish Wildlife Trust.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Erica cinerea 'C.D. Eason'". Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Erica cinerea 'Pink Ice'". Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Erica cinerea 'Velvet Night'". Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- Fordham, Roy (2000). Eden Valley. In Ludgvan A Century of Horticulture 1903-2003. Ludgvan: Ludgvan Horticultural Society. pp. 25–8.
Media related to Erica cinerea at Wikimedia Commons