Gaultheria – what kind of plant is it and what does it look like?
Gaultheria (Gaultheria) is a popular plant classified as ericaceae. In its natural habitat, this plant appears in South America. But it’s grown as a potted and garden plant all over the world.
Gaultheria is characteristic because it doesn’t grow tall – maximally 20 cm. It’s a creeping plant, hence its other popular name – creeping wintergreen.
American wintergreen has decorative leaves, which make it distinct from other garden plants and houseplants. The leaves are small, dark green and shiny. In autumn one can notice changing of their color to brown or red-brown.
Gaultheria is also characteristic during its blooming season. That’s when it gets covered with small pink flowers. After they finish blooming, they get replaced by red fruits (or white in some varieties, e.g., in Gaultheria mucronata) – they remain throughout the entire winter and make an excellent decoration of the plant.
What does teaberry smell like?
Gaultheria is valued not only for its attractive appearance, but also for the fragrance. Interestingly enough, it’s not the flowers that have an amazing aroma, but fruits which appear around October and remain during the whole winter. Many note they smell like camphor. The scent might not be attractive to everyone – keep that in mind.
Not only the fruits are valued for their smell. The juice of the leaves is also aromatic. It can be retrieved to make special oil.
Gaultheria – popular varieties of teaberry
Gaultheria is a plant of many varieties. They differ between each other by their blooming periods, fruits sizes and even colors.
Gaultheria Linnea is one of the most popular varieties, which belongs to early plants. Interestingly enough, this plant might bloom in May, which is quite unusual. Because of this, the ornamental fruit also appears earlier. Sometimes, they might develop as early as July.
The most popular late varieties include:
- gaultheria Ida,
- gaultheria Koralle.
These are not the only noteworthy plants of this type. You can also find interesting plants among varieties cultivated in containers – indoors or on patios. They include the following types of wintergreen shrubs:
- Red Baron,
- Winter Pearls,
- Big Berry,
Gaultheria in the garden – picking the best location for the plant
Gaultheria is not very demanding as for where it grows. It feels best in slightly shaded spots. Keep that in mind especially if you have a potted version of teaberry. Don’t place the container on a windowsill where the plant would be exposed to direct sunlight.
What’s also worth noting, the plant doesn’t like high temperatures. For this reason, don’t place the pot next to a radiator. Make sure the room temperature doesn’t rise too high – it might be dangerous to the plant.
What is the best soil for a wintergreen shrub?
Gaultheria belongs to the group of Ericaceae. That’s why the soil for it must be slightly acidic. Also, it has to be permeable. Experts advise mixing the soil with some peat. If you have no prior experience with preparing soil for plants, you can purchase a mix in a gardening store.
Potted teaberry – growing gaultheria indoors and on a balcony
Gaultheria in a container is the most common method of this plant’s cultivation. In such a form, the plant decorates interiors, and when it gets warmer – balconies and patios.
Keep in mind that checkerberry is a creeping plant, and it spreads quickly. Make sure to plant it in a large enough container, so that it can grow freely.
Gaultheria – watering and fertilizing
Teaberry likes moderate moisture in its soil, so don’t water it excessively. Check the condition of the soil regularly and supply it with water as it starts getting dry, making sure there’s no standing liquid in the container.
Fertilizing is equally important. Do it regularly – especially during the vegetation period from spring to fall. Strengthen the plant every 2-3 weeks using a special fertilizing mix. You can purchase such a product in every gardening store.
When looking for a fertilizer for your teaberry plant, make sure the product doesn’t contain calcium. It might negatively affect the plant.
Experienced plants enthusiasts often decide to acidify the soil for gaultheria on their own. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not difficult. Just add a few drops of lemon juice to the water used for watering.
When to plant gaultheria?
One can grow creeping wintergreen from seeds. In this case, the seeds have to be sown at the beginning of May. But note that the plant won’t start sprouting until the next season.
You can also purchase gaultheria seedlings, which is a much more popular solution. You can plant young wintergreen plants in May – either in containers or in the ground. Frosts are no longer a risk then – planting them earlier might damage young plants.
When grown outdoors, gaultherias usually appear in rock gardens, where they are a perfect decoration among other plants. Thanks to the berries, checkerberry looks quite distinct.
How to propagate a gaultheria?
Propagating a teaberry is quite easy. You can do it in two ways. Rooting the plant’s cuttings is the most popular method. Experienced gardeners can also decide to divide the plant. In this case, one has to be extra careful not to damage the plant.
Is teaberry poisonous?
Many people are unnecessarily concerned that checkerberry might be poisonous – especially when it comes to the fruits. In fact, the berries are edible, and you don’t have to worry about any adverse reactions after their consumption. But they aren’t very tasty, some even claim that they are unpalatable. That’s why we suggest leaving them on the plant for decoration.
What are the health benefits of creeping wintergreen?
Gaultheria, or teaberry is quite popular not only because of its attractive appearance, but also for the health benefits it carries. They result from the juice found in the leaves, which is used for essential oil production. It has the following properties:
What’s more, dried checkerberry leaves can be brewed. Wintergreen tea is typically used for sore throat (as a rinse) or to treat skin ulcers and inflammation (for cleansing).
Gaultheria – pests and dangers
Gaultheria is not likelt to catch pests or diseases. Excess water in the soil is the biggest threat to the plant. If water stands in the soil for a long time, it might lead to gray mold or root rot.
As for pests, the plant might occasionally get attacked by aphids. But it rarely happens and only if the plant is weakened.
📍 When to plant creeping wintergreen?
Gaultheria procumbens should be planted at the beginning of May. If the plant grows in a container, it's not that important, as there's no exposure to external weather conditions. If you want to plant teaberry e.g., in a rock garden, you have to make sure there's no risk of frost.
📍 Where to buy a gaultheria?
Gaultheria is a quite popular plant. Its seeds and seedlings can be purchased in supermarkets, gardening stores and plant nurseries. The latter two make a better option.
📍 How to take care of a teaberry plant?
Gaultheria is not difficult to take care of, although it has certain needs. Make sure it grows in half shade. The soil should be permeable, acidic and mixed with peat. Water it moderately and fertilize regularly – every 2-3 weeks during the vegetation period.
📍 How to water a gaultheria?
Moderation is the most significant rule when it comes to watering a gaultheria. The plant doesn't like dry soil, but neither does it like excessive moisture. Control the soil regularly.