Last updated on May 21st, 2023 at 08:59 am

Widely cultivated in rock gardens for cut flower arrangements, heather varieties are most commonly found in Europe and Asia Minor. They are also naturalized in parts of North America, Australia, New Zealand, and the Falkland Islands. These flowers are found in copious amounts in Scotland. The name heather comes from the Scottish word haeddre, which describes a heathland or a shrubland habitat.

Heather (scientific name: Calluna vulgaris), also known as Common Heather Ling, is an evergreen bush.

One of the primary plant species grown on poor, acidic sandy soils. They bloom in the late summer from July to September. The common heather comes in white to pink and a wide range of purples and reds. Normally mauve in wild plants, white-flowered plants also occur but only occasionally. Even though the flowers turn brown, they remain on the plant overwinter and can make for interesting decorative effects.

Calluna is closely related to the genus Erica (also called true heaths). Richard Anthony Salisbury first distinguished it. The Calluna is distinguished from Erica by its petals(corolla) and sepals(calyx). Calluna has miniature scale leaves (less than 2–3 mm long) borne in the opposite, crossing pairs, whereas Erica leaves are larger and in whorls of 3–4, sometimes 5. Calluna sometimes wears dual flowers. Calluna is sometimes referred to as Summer (or Autumn) heather to differentiate it from winter or spring flowering species of Erica.

Calluna vulgaris has numerous uses. The juicy young shoots and the heather seeds are the principal food of the red grouse, and many other birds eat the ripe heather seeds. Large stems of the heather flower are made into brooms, shorter ones are tied into bundles to form brushes, and long trailing shoots are woven into baskets. Additionally, the plant is also used for bedding. With the peat about its roots, it serves as an effective fuel. 

Furthermore, the huts of Scottish Highlanders were formerly made of heather and heath stems cemented with peat mud mixed with dry grass or straw. Today temporary sheds are often built similarly and roofed with heather.

What does the Heather flower symbolize?

The heather flower’s meaning is powerful because of the Scottish legend. There was once a woman named Malvina who married a warrior, Oscar. Unfortunately, Oscar was killed in a battle, and a messenger delivered Malvina this message along with heather flowers that were a token of love. This flower was bright pink, but as soon as Malvina started crying, it turned white. From then on, Malvina wished that whoever received heather flowers would have happiness and good luck.

Due to her appreciation for Scottish lore and traditions, Queen Victoria popularized the meaning of heather as good luck in England. Due to the scarcity of the heather flower in the Victorian era, the flower was associated with good luck.

A Scottish clan, in the sixteenth century, Clan Ranald, believed they had won a battle. They wore white heather in their bonnets, giving them luck and protection.

R.L. Stevenson, a Scottish poet and writer, wrote a poem called ‘Heather Ale.’ The poem is about the Vikings and the Pictish King. According to the poem, the Picts’ army defeated the Vikings. The Vikings cornered the king and his son on a cliff to gain the recipe for Heather Ale. The king said he would rather be thrown off the cliff than give up the recipe of Heather Ale. The king loses the battle and takes the recipe to his grave.

All in all, the heather flower symbolic meanings are:

  • good luck
  • admiration
  • protection
  • independence
  • confidence
  • beauty, admiration
  • solitude

Meaning of the Heather flower colors

Purple color

This color symbolizes beauty, strength, and adoration. Purple heather flowers are considered an ideal gift for telling someone how beautiful and essential they are to you and how much you respect and admire them.

Pink color

They stand for femininity, friendship, love, and passion. So, pink heather flower bouquets express your feelings towards the woman in your life. It also shows how much you love them and want them to be a part of your life.

White color

Brides use white heather flowers in their bouquets and floral wedding arrangements. It is also used as decor to bring positive energy and good luck at home. The white flowers represent good luck, protection, innocence, and purity.

Red color

In ancient times, red and pink heather flowers were considered a sign of bad luck because they were connected to blood. Therefore, people avoided taking these colors into their homes or even as a gift to others.

Yellow color

Yellow heather symbolizes wealth, positivity, and good luck for the future.

Interesting facts about the Heather flowers

  • Common heather is a perennial plant that can survive for 30-40 years in the wild.
  • A heather flower has about 30 Heather seeds. So, a heather plant will produce close to 150,000 seeds per season. This is why they are so abundant with such a wide distribution.
  • In the past, they were used as a source of yellow-orange pigment for painting wool.
  • The scientific name of Heather, Calluna vulgaris, comes from two words – ‘Kallune,’ a Greek word meaning to clean or brush, and ‘vulgaris,’ a Latin word that means common.
  • Sometimes also referred to as ‘Ling,’ derived from old Norse, Lyng, or Anglo Saxon, Lig. It means fire and is further referred to as use for fuel.
  • These flowers are used in Swedish herbal medicine as a traditional remedy.
  • Common heather is used for manufacturing beddings, stuffing for pillows, ropes, baskets, and packaging material.
  • Heather tea is used to dissolve kidney stones.
  • Some still use it to aid in the urinary tract and digestive conditions, among other things.
  • It is also a flavoring agent in the beer, wine, and tea industries.
  • The cosmetic industry also uses heather to produce shampoos, lotions, baths, and perfumes.
  • It’s also used topically, as the plant has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties.
  • People also put it into the bath to promote healthy skin.
  • It’s also used in aromatherapy in several forms to treat anxiety and insomnia, both as an essential oil and in candles.
  • Honey made from common heather has a jelly-like texture and a strong taste.
  • Some people also relate heather flowers to good luck and fortune and choose to carry them at all times like a lucky charm.
  • According to some legends, whenever you see a heather flower blossoming, it is said that fairies are living nearby.

How to grow Heather flowers

Heather, with flowers ranging from white to neon pink, can add color to even the dullest winter garden or provide nearly maintenance-free interest during the hottest summer months.

  1. Plant the heathers in acidic, preferably moist (but not soggy) soil.
  2. Place them in a spot where they can get afternoon shade.
  3. Add some organic matter or peat moss to its soil
  4. Water them faithfully when young.
  5. Fertilize once at planting time. 

How to care for Heather flowers

  1. Water is required to keep the soil evenly moist but never soggy.
  2. Apply an annual mulch of bark, peat, or ericaceous compost to help suppress weeds. 
  3. Re-apply the plant food from late winter to mid-spring.
  4. Prune the plants in early spring to encourage faster growth.
  5. Shear lightly in spring before buds set or for winter-blooming types after the flowers have faded to encourage bushiness.

Best time to gift Heather flowers

A heather floral arrangement will be a great idea if you want to show someone who you think is independent and can handle any hard situation. This will help lift their spirits.

It would also make an excellent gift for someone who requires a little good luck in something they want to achieve or even as a parting gift.

Heather flowers can be gifted to the women in your life to let them know they are beautiful and loving, like the flowers.

It makes for an exceptional gift for someone when you want to express your love feelings or show how much you admire them and value their presence in your life.


Heather has traditionally been associated with protection and good fortune, and it is still significant for its beauty and practical applications. Regardless of the season, these flowers will offer your garden a rustic touch and charm.

After looking at the characteristics and symbols of this magnificent flower, we all agree that it’s one of the most undervalued plants out there, and we should try to bring it to the forefront of our attention more often.

If you want to know and learn more about flowers, we at PansyMaiden can help you. Check out our fun, easy-to-read, and informative flower-related content that you will surely enjoy!