What Is the Meaning of the Heather Flower?

Updated July 19, 2017

The hardy, pretty plant known as heather is perhaps best known for covering the moors of Scotland with its beautiful purple blooms. However, the heather plant is more than just an attractive ground cover. It has played an important role in history and beyond that, it has a deeper symbolic meaning for people.


Heather is native to the regions of Ireland, Scotland, Scandinavia, Russia and North America. Heather is known for its hardiness and its ability to thrive in areas with poor, rocky soil and extreme temperatures. For this reason, the heather plant played an important historical role in daily life, as it was used as thatch for roofing, bedding, fuel, and the making of brooms, baskets and rope. Although heather still grows wild in many parts of the world, it has also been cultivated as a garden and landscaping plant, and cuttings are often used in formal flower arrangements.

Scientific Name

The scientific name of the heather plant is Calluna vulgaris, deriving from the Greek "Kallune," which means "to clean or brush" and the Latin "vulgaris," which means "common." The name refers both to the fact that in the past wild heather was often made into brooms for sweeping, and that it is an extremely common plant in the regions where it grows.

Color Variety

While the most common colour associated with wild heather is purple, the plant has been cultivated into different colours including white, pink, a wide range of purples and even red.


Flowers have long been assigned certain symbolic meanings, and the heather flower is no exception. It can represent admiration, beauty and good luck, and it can also be associated with solitude and protection. More specifically, the colour of the heather flower influences its meaning. Traditional purple heather is used to represent admiration, beauty and solitude, while pink heather is associated with good luck. If white heather is chosen, it means protection from danger.

Facts about Heather

Heather is an extremely prolific plant. Each heather flower contains about 30 seeds, and in one season a single plant can produce more than 150,000 seeds.

In some parts of the world, heather growth is managed with controlled burns, which helps to encourage the growth of new young heather plants. The tender new shoots provide plentiful grazing for both wildlife and the cattle and sheep raised in rural areas.

In addition to its usefulness in the countryside, the modern uses of heather include its popularity for landscaping in gardens large and small. Heather plants are easy to grow and are resistant to most pests and diseases. Today the plant is prized for its toughness and ability to provide colour in the garden all year long.

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About the Author

Caroline Shurr began writing professionally in 2002 as a freelance writer for "Acadiana LifeStyles." She later joined the staff of several newspapers as a reporter, including "The Daily Sun" in Florida. She has has written on a variety of lifestyle topics, including health, home and garden, religion and the arts. Shurr holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Louisiana State University.