Gaultheria procumbens

A large family of dwarf shrubs, many of which make excellent ground cover. Related to the heather family, it grows well with other acid loving plants, providing all-year-round interest.

Family: Ericaceae
Botanical Name: Gaultheria (gawl-the-ree-a)
Common Names: Checkerberry, wintergreen, boxberry, canterberry.

Foliage: Evergreen, rounded to short and narrow leathery leaves. The leaves often take on a reddish tinge in winter.

Flowers: Small urn or bell-shaped flowers, in shades of white or pink. Often followed by colourful fleshy fruits.

Flowering Period: Late spring or early summer.

Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (clay, sand or loam). Acid or neutral pH.

Conditions: Full sun or partial shade. Plant in a north, east, west or south facing aspect.

Habit: Spreading, low growing.

Type: Shrub.

Origin: America.

Hardiness: Hardy throughout the UK.

Toxicity: All parts of this plant can cause severe discomfort if eaten. Wear gloves and wash after handling.

Planting and Growing Gaultheria

Can be grown in sun or partial shade but flowers best in full sun.

Mixes well with other lovers of acid soils, such as camellias, rhododendrons or pieris.

Certain varieties can be invasive.

Taking Care of Gaultheria

Pruning Gaultheria

Pruning is not necessary except to keep the plants tidy, though they can be cut to almost ground level if necessary.

Pests and Diseases

Generally trouble free.

Propagating Gaultheria

Most species spread by underground runners, which can be cut and the plant divided. Alternatively, increase from seed or take semi-hardwood cuttings.

Popular Varieties of Gaultheria

G. procumbens is the most commonly available species.

Gaultheria cuneata (wintergreen) is a good compact form, with small glossy leaves tinted with red in the winter. Bears white flowers and white fruit.

Gaultheria mucronata (Formerly Pernettya mucronata) an evergreen low shrub with glossy dark green leaves and attractive colourful berries. Cultivar 'Signal' has glossy foliage with bright red berries in winter. For sale at Crocus. 'Snow White' bears delicate large white berries and beautiful flowers. For sale at Crocus.

Gaultheria procumbens (Creeping Wintergreen) is a low growing spreading evergreen with small, bell-shaped white or pinkish flowers, followed by scarlet berries. Height to 6in (15cm). For sale at Thompson & Morgan.

Gaultheria shallon is another popular form with attractive pink-tinged flowers and purple fruit.

Companion Plants for Gaultheria

Boxberry grows well with other acid loving plants, such as:

Azalea in bloom


erica heather