The plant provides a great deal of nectar for pollinators. It was rated in the top 5 for most nectar production (nectar per unit cover per year) in a UK plants survey conducted by the AgriLand project which is supported by the UK Insect Pollinators Initiative.
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.
Bell heather is a source of heather honey.
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.
- "Which flowers are the best source of nectar?". Conservation Grade. 2014-10-15. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
- 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.
- "Bell Heather, Erica cinerea". Scottish Wildlife Trust.
- RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964.
- "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 36. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
- "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.