Heirloom Plants: What You Need to Know
Heirloom plants can be enjoyed and preserved across many generations. Learn the history of some of your favorite plants and how to pass them on to future gardeners.
White Yarrow and Purple Coneflower
A garden that includes heirloom plants is a garden of memory as well as a place to preserve a slice of history. This white yarrow (Achillea), and the iris and purple coneflower (Echinaceae) in the background, have been grown and shared for many centuries for their beauty and herbal uses, but they have survived because they are durable in a wide range of conditions and easy to propagate and share – all important characteristics for a plant to become an heirloom.
The word “heirloom” comes from an old English term meaning “inherited tools” but now refers to anything – including plants – passed along or shared with others. Unlike a hand-me-down tool or even a cherished antique statue, which only one person at a time can possess, heirloom plants can be shared and preserved among countless gardeners, who keep the plants going for future generations to enjoy.
Along with their unique attributes, heirloom plants have the power to bring generations together. My grown children learned to make fruit preserves from their great-great-grandmother’s fig bush, and now they each have a “start” of the original tree in their own gardens.