In addition to blue heath, there are about twenty other species in the Phyllodoce genus, growing in North America and Eurasia. Blue heath is a low spreading sub-shrub, growing naturally in Finland, particularly north of Kuusamo. The leaves are narrow, leathery and evergreen. The flowers, borne in pairs on longish stalks, are barrel- or bell-shaped, nodding at the stem tips. Blue heath avoids the most exposed, windiest situations. It is commonly found in the wild together with the somewhat similar-looking crowberry (Empetrum).
Like many other native sub-shrubs of the bogs and fells, blue heath is rarely found in gardens, but Mustila’s White Cedar Valley has a handsome thicket, which is thought to be of Lapland origin. However, because it is so much taller than the form found in Lapland, there is reason to suspect it may have originated from the Far East or North America. Formerly, the yellow-flowered mountain heath (Phyllodoce aleutica) grew in the same area, but gradually declined and disappeared during the 1990s.
Blue heath is extremely suitable for use in woodland, moorland or bog gardens in company with many other species of the heath family (Ericaceae). In the Arboretum these include the fetterbush, or mountain pieris (Pieris floribunda), calico bush or mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), and Labrador tea (Rhododendron hypoleucum).