Heroku buildpack: Wordpress on Heroku


Heroku buildpack: WordPress on Heroku

See also

Heroku now (2015) supports PHP in the standard stack.

This is a Heroku buildpack for running WordPress on Heroku

It uses this WordPress project template to bootstrap a highly tuned WordPress site built on the following stack:

  • nginx - Nginx for serving web content. Built specifically for Heroku. See compile options.
  • php - PHP-FPM for process management. See compile options.
  • wordpress - Downloaded directly from wordpress.org.
  • MySQL - ClearDB for the MySQL backend.
  • Sendgrid - Sendgrid for the email backend.
  • MemCachier - MemCachier for the memcached backend.

You can see a live demo at WordPress on Heroku.

Getting started in 60 seconds

Fork and rename the WordPress project template.

Let's clone the repository for a new blog, 99catfacts.com

$ git clone git://github.com/your_name/wordpress-on-heroku.git 99catfacts.com

Create WordPress on Heroku.

$ cd 99catfacts.com
$ heroku create -s cedar
$ heroku config:add BUILDPACK_URL=https://github.com/mchung/heroku-buildpack-wordpress.git

Don't have the Heroku Toolbelt installed? Follow these quickstart instructions. Takes about 2 minutes.

Deploy your WordPress site to Heroku.

$ git push heroku master
-----> Heroku receiving push
-----> Fetching custom git buildpack... done
-----> WordPress app detected
-----> Discovering process types
       Procfile declares types     -> (none)
       Default types for WordPress -> web
-----> Compiled slug size: 33.7MB
-----> Launching... done, v7

Open your new WordPress site in a web browser.

$ heroku apps:open

Happy? Add your site to the growing list of WordPress sites runnning on Heroku.


The buildpack bootstraps a WordPress site using the mchung/wordpress-on-heroku project template. That repo contains everything required to run your own WordPress site on Heroku.

There are several files available in config for configuring your new WordPress site.

└── config                # Your config files goes here.
    ├── public            # The public directory
    │   └── wp-content    # WordPress themes and plugins
    │       ├── plugins
    │       └── themes
    └── vendor            # Config files for vendored apps
        ├── nginx
        │   └── conf      # nginx.conf + your site.conf
        └── php
            └── etc       # php.ini & php-fpm.conf

When you deploy WordPress to Heroku, everything in config is copied over to Heroku. You can configure your blog by making changes to these files.

A few WordPress environment variables can be controlled via Heroku using heroku config:set:

To add a Heroku environment variable: heroku config:set GOOG_UA_ID=UA=1234777-9

See wp-config.php and documentation from WordPress for details.

Enabling and configuring the following WordPress plugins will also speed up WordPress on Heroku significantly.

  • heroku-sendgrid - Configures phpmailer to send SMTP email with Sendgrid.
  • heroku-google-analytics - Configures Google Analytics to display on your WordPress site.
    • GOOG_UA_ID=UA-9999999
  • wpro - Configures WordPress to upload everything to S3.
  • batcache - Configures WordPress to use memcached for caching.
  • memcachier - Use a modern memcached plugin.
  • cloudflare - OPTIONAL, but very awesome.
    • If Cloudflare is installed, the plugin configures WordPress to play nicely with CloudFlare. It sets the correct IP addresses from visitors and comments, and also protects WordPress from spammers.
    • Keep in mind that the free version doesn't support SSL, so you'll need to set both FORCE_SSL_ADMIN and FORCE_SSL_LOGIN to false in order to login.


Creating your WordPress site on Heroku

$ git clone git://github.com/username/wordpress-on-heroku.git myblog
$ cd myblog
$ heroku create -s cedar
$ heroku config:add BUILDPACK_URL=https://github.com/mchung/heroku-buildpack-wordpress.git
$ git push heroku master

Adding a custom domain name

$ heroku domains:add marcchung.org
$ heroku domains:add www.marcchung.org

Note: Adding a domain still requires some DNS setup work. Basically you'll want to do something like this:

ALIAS marcchung.org -> proxy.herokuapp.com
CNAME www.marcchung.org -> proxy.herokuapp.com

I use DNSimple and you should too.

Adding a theme

$ cp -r appply config/public/wp-content/themes/
$ git add .
$ git commit -m "New theme"
$ git push heroku master

Adding a plugin

$ cp -r google-analytics config/public/wp-content/plugins/
$ git add .
$ git commit -m "New plugin"
$ git push heroku master

Plugins and themes must be activated via the Plugins panel.

Adding custom secret keys to wp-config.php

Use the WordPress.org secret-key service to override the default ones in wp-config.php.

Configuring cron

By default, wp-cron is fired on every page load and scheduled to run jobs like future posts or backups. This buildpack disables wp-cron so that visitors don't have to wait to see the site.

Heroku allows you to trigger wp-cron from their scheduler.

$ heroku addons:add scheduler:standard

# Visit the Heroku scheduler dashboard and add a new task:

Alternatively, you may also re-enable wp-cron.

$ heroku config:set DISABLE_WP_CRON=false

Enable system access

The alternative PHP cache and a generic PHPINFO page is available at /apc.php and /phpinfo.php.

$ heroku config:set ENABLE_SYSTEM_DEBUG=true
$ heroku config:set SYSTEM_USERNAME=admin
$ heroku config:set SYSTEM_PASSWORD=secret123
# Visit /apc.php or /phpinfo.php

Remove the PHP-FPM status page /status.html

Delete the directive from nginx.conf.erb.

Add a favicon.ico drop one into public

See #22 for details.

Specifying WordPress installation directory

Specifying a WordPress installation directory may help local development as you can just unzip wordpress into a subdirectory and .gitignore that folder.

$ heroku config:set WORDPRESS_DIR=mywordpress


define( 'WP_CONTENT_DIR', $_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT'].'/wp-content' );
define( 'WP_CONTENT_URL', 'http://' . $_SERVER['HTTP_HOST'] .'/wp-content' );
define('WP_SITEURL', 'http://' . $_SERVER['HTTP_HOST'] . '/mywordpress');

Choosing specific versions of vendored packages

See VERSIONS for how to pick specific versions of Nginx, PHP, and WordPress

Workflow (optional)

By keeping your changes separate, it'll be easier to pull in changes from the WordPress site template.

Assign a remote upstream

$ git remote add upstream https://github.com/your_name/wordpress-on-heroku.git

Track changes in a separate branch called production.

$ git checkout -B production
$ git push heroku production:master
# This keeps upstream (my) changes separate from (your) blog changes.

Pull changes from upstream into master.

$ git co master
$ git pull
$ git co production
$ git merge master

Pull changes from upstream into production.

$ git pull --rebase upstream master

How fast is this?

Pretty freaking fast.

System setup

  • Single Heroku dyno
  • Default WordPress installation
  • Default twentytwelve theme
  • Caching turned up
  • Cron disabled
  • Memcachier + ClearDB

Here are some benchmarks from Google PageSpeed, Blitz.io, and Web Page Test.

Google PageSpeed

Results from PageSpeed Insights: 94/100

See the PageSpeed report


Results from a blitz.io rush

Blitz.io rush

Over 200 page views per second with less than 100ms response time sustained for a minute.

See the Blitz.io report

Web Page Performance Test

Results from WebPageTest

See the WebPageTest report

These tests are periodically rerun on WordPress on Heroku.

But doesn't Heroku only run Ruby applications?

Not anymore. Heroku's latest offerings (See Celadon Cedar stack) makes it easy (well, easyish) for developers to install and run any language, or service.

Constraints with Heroku

The ephemeral filesystem

  • End-users cannot upload media assets to Heroku. WORKAROUND: Enable wpro and use that plugin to upload media assets to S3 instead.
  • End-users cannot update themes or plugins from the admin page. WORKAROUND: Add them to config/public/wp-content/themes or config/public/wp-content/plugins then push to Heroku.

Security disclosure

Each time WordPress is deployed, Heroku will fetch the latest buildpack from GitHub and execute the instructions in compile and deploy. This buildpack will download the latest precompiled versions of Nginx, PHP, and WordPress from my personal S3 bucket then add in config files from the config directory.

Hacking and Contributing

Not comfortable downloading and running a copy of someone else's PHP or Nginx executables? Not a problem! The support directory also contains a handful of compilation and deployment scripts to automate several processes, which are currently used for maintenance and repo management.

  • package_nginx - Used to compile and upload the latest version of Nginx to S3.
  • package_php - Used to compile and upload the latest version of PHP to S3.
  • wordup - Really useful helper script for creating and destroying WordPress sites.


  • End-users shouldn't be able to do things that aren't supported on Heroku. Write plugins to hide everything.
  • Integrate New Relic.
  • CDN support.
  • Combine CSS/JS files

Authors and Contributors


Thanks for reading this all the way through.

If you use this buildpack in production, please update the list of WordPress sites running on Heroku.


The MIT License - Copyright (c) 2013 Marc Chung

take my code with you
and do whatever you want
but please don't blame me
— Aaron Swartz

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