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Heather Flower Meaning and Symbolism

Heather Flower Meaning and Symbolism

The winter heather plant, commonly known as Scotland heather, is most known for its unique spiky look with tiny bell-shaped flowers that once made brooms. The woodsy scent makes them popular for fragrances. Meanings of the heather flower include beauty, strength, protection, and good luck. Keep reading to find out what does Heather look like, symbolizes, uses, and history.

About the Heather Flower

Heather flowers are scientifically known as Calluna vulgaris, which comes from the Greek word for brush or clean – Kallune – and the Latin word for common – Vulgaris.

The inspiration for the scientific name comes from the most common use of the Scottish heather plant – brooms. It’s also a reference to the plant being a popular wildflower in its native regions. 

History and Origin

The heather flower is a plant that’s native to Scandinavia, Ireland, North America, Russia, and Scotland, found in regions with harsh growing conditions. It’s most popular for its heavy growth throughout Scottish moors.

Heather bushes have a significant historical past with many uses throughout the world. This plant grows wild and is a popular choice for landscaping, gardens, and cuttings, including formal floral arrangements. 


The most common color is purple Heather. But besides the purple heather plant, there are also the white heather plant and pink heather plant. These shrubby bushes produce tiny ¼” bell or cup-shaped flowers with a dark corona, surrounded by erect sepals on 1″ to 12″ long stems.

These low-growing evergreen plants can reach 4″ to 24″ in height and grow in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 6. In spring, the plants are bright green, while they explode into many long colorful stems in summer. The foliage color deepens in hue and becomes a richer tone in fall.

Heather flowers have around 30 seeds each, while one plant can produce over 150,000 seeds in a season. Many places use fire to control the growth of heather plants, which allow young, new plants to flourish. 

Heather Flower Care

Healthy plants are easy to care for and thrive in poor and unfavorable growing conditions. They do best in acidic soils, although they adjust to the earth, even if it’s alkaline. 

You will need to ensure that the soil is well-drained, humid, and rich and that you give plenty of water daily in summer and as needed through winter and autumn. It can handle slightly shady or full sun exposure.

You’ll need to apply a liquid fertilizer acid reaction every two weeks during the flowering season. And after the bloom season ends, you should prune back the stems to a compact, shrunken size, which encourages faster reflowering.

Uses Throughout History

There have been many uses for the heather plant over time. The tenderness of new heather shoots serves as food for sheep and cattle in rural areas and wildlife. 

Heather is a popular ingredient for flavoring, used in beverages and food. For example, it’s used for making honey, tea, and mead-like drinks, like heather wines – made by fermenting blooming racemes. It’s also a flavoring for spirits and beer. 

In cosmetics, heather flowers are used for fragrancing soaps, lotions, body washes, perfumes, and oils. The musky scent makes it a popular choice for fragrances for men. 

Another historical use is for crafts. The rich color makes it popular for making paints and dies for fabrics. It’s also an ingredient for jewelry making, tinder, and building material.

It’s also medicinal, with many healing abilities, being used in Europe since the 6th century. For example, a German doctor – Paulus Aegineta – discovered that the flowers, stems, and leaves could treat external and internal sores. 

And a Benedictine monk – Nicolas Alexandre – made teas from the extract of heather leaves and flowers, which he believed was good for the kidneys when consumed regularly. 

Herbal tea can also reduce kidney stone pains and dissolve stones, still used today. It’s also an alternative medicine for digestive and health issues related to the urinary tract. 

Ancient Greeks also used the stems of Heather to make brooms and other cleaning tools. There are also myths that witches’ brooms are made with heather flowers and that these brooms can conjure ghosts. 

Heather has also been used to make bedding, like mattresses and pillows. The leaves and twigs went towards the feet while dried flowers made up the head. 

Other uses are baskets, brushes, ropes, and peat that make fuel. In historical times, Heather was used for roofing.

Heather Flower Symbolism

There are multiple winter heather flower symbolisms. The heather flower meaning can also vary by color, as much as by region. Common definitions include protection, admiration, good luck, solitude, independence, and beauty. 

Etymological Meaning

The name Heather flower comes from hather, the English word for an open field of flowers. These plants grow best on hilly, nearly rocky grounds, showing their strength and durability. Later, the name evolved from hather to Heather.

Scottish Meaning

Scottish lore also makes symbolic connections between pink and red Heather flowers and blood – bloodshed. This association causes many people to avoid bringing the plants inside their homes.

It was also expected to avoid Heather flowers in a broad circle, especially when white because it believed this is where fairies live. 

And another legend that dates back to the 3rd century tells the story of the daughter of poet Ossian. Malvina was a beauty who loved a powerful warrior, Oscar. When Oscar died during the battle, Malvina fled to the fields of Heather. 

As her tears landed on the purple flowers, they turned white. Afterward, Malvina declared that white Heather flowers would bring good luck to anyone who found them.


The Heather flower is historically symbolic of protection in Scotland. In times past, people carried a heather plant in their pocket to get protection from negative energy. It was also an amulet worn for protection during battle.


This flower is also symbolic of admiration. Giving this fower to someone sends the message that you feel admiration for that person. It can also symbolize your feelings of respect. Sending these flowers to someone says you care.


Because these flowers bloom in winter, even growing up out of the snow with dainty cup flowers in bright colors, they’re also a symbol of beauty. 

Good Luck

Heather plants are also flower symbols of fortune and good luck. You can gift it to a person who needs to receive blessings of good fortune. Carrying a heather flower can bring you good luck, while bringing a heather plant indoors attracts luck to your home.

Heather Color Meaning

The meaning can also change based on the color of the flower. Here are some different heather color meanings. 


The white heather flower is associated with fortune and good luck. 


A purple heather flower is symbolic of your feelings of respect and admiration towards a person. It’s an excellent gift for a special and important person in your life.  


Pink Heather is rare and also symbolizes good luck.


Because red has associations with blood and death, red Heather is bad luck. 

Heather Flower FAQ

Before you go, finish learning everything about the Heather flower by checking out these frequently asked questions.

When Should You Give Someone a Heather Flower?

Give heather flowers to demonstrate your admiration and love to an important person or loved one going through a challenging time. But it can also be a negative association in some contexts.

Are Heather Flowers Fragrant?

Heather flowers have a light rustic, mossy, woodsy scent popular for masculine cosmetic products. 

Are Heather Flower’s Poisonous?

Heather flowers are not poisonous to humans and some animals. They are not dangerous to dogs unless eaten in large quantities. They are safe for livestock and wild animals but can be quite toxic to cats.

Final Thoughts

Heather has a rich history with associations of good luck and protection. The unique look and ability to thrive in unfavorable conditions also make this flower represent beauty, independence, and strength.