What Are Heirloom Flowers? Plus, 5 Easy-Growing Varieties

Vintage Burpee flower seed catalog

Whether you are a beginner gardener or someone who has been gardening for a long time, you have probably heard the term “heirloom”. So, what are heirloom flowers? To put it simply, an heirloom flower is a flower that is open-pollinated and that dates back at least 50 years. Hybrid flowers, on the other hand, are varieties derived from new seed or crossed with other flowers to yield desired traits such as heat resistance or height.

While both hybrid and heirloom flowers have characteristics that make them special, heirlooms have a distinct reputation when it comes to growing a memorable garden. Many gardeners save seeds of their favorite heirloom flower varieties to pass down generationally. From sunshine-loving marigolds to night-blooming moonflowers, there are heirloom flowers that suit anyone’s garden!

How Are Heirloom Flowers Created?

Heirloom flowers are created when open pollination occurs. Open pollination is a biological process in which plants are pollinated by insects, birds, wind or humans. Heirlooms are not hybridized, meaning they are not the offspring of two different parent varieties. The seeds that are produced by an heirloom are true to their breed, meaning they will exhibit traits of their parent plants.

Why Grow Heirloom Flowers?

The beauty of growing heirloom plants, aside from their beauty, lies in tradition. When you think about a family heirloom, usually it is a meaningful antique or gift that is passed down from generation to generation. The same idea applies to heirloom seeds. Think about your grandmother’s favorite flowers. Do they evoke a special memory or feeling when you think about them? Maybe they have a comforting scent that brings back old memories.

Heirlooms are typically easy to grow, even if you’re a beginner gardener. With their high germination and success rates, heirlooms are a great choice if you are just starting your garden. Below are 5 beautiful heirloom flower varieties that will win your heart over for many growing seasons to come.

5 Heirloom Flower Recommendations

Heirloom Zinnia 'Cactus Flowered Mix'Heirloom Zinnia 'Cactus Flowered Mix'

1. ‘Cactus Flowered Mix’ Zinnia

Not only do zinnias add bold color to your garden, but they also make the perfect rest stop for spring and summer pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Introduced by Burpee in 1921, ‘Cactus Flowered Mix’ zinnias bring texture to bouquets and borders with their unique quilled petals. Since these love the sun, they pair well with other sun-loving flowers such as sunflowers and sweet peas.

Heirloom Sunflower 'Mammoth'Heirloom Sunflower 'Mammoth'

2. ‘Mammoth’ Sunflower

The towering ‘Mammoth’ sunflower catches the eye in any garden setting. Since these giants are so tall, place them towards the back of your garden to let shorter flowers thrive in the front. This creates the effect of a “live bouquet”. Why stop appreciating your sunflowers after their season is over? ‘Mammoth’ provides an abundance of seeds that can be saved or eaten!

Heirloom Poppy 'Hungarian Blue'Heirloom Poppy 'Hungarian Blue'

3. ‘Hungarian Blue’ Poppy

With its captivating purple color and stunning height, this poppy is like no other. ‘Hungarian Blue’ is delicately beautiful with thin petals and lingering seed pods. These poppies make great additions to any flower arrangement and complement the outer borders of gardens.

Heirloom Cosmos 'Sensation Mix'Heirloom Cosmos 'Sensation Mix'

4. ‘Sensation Mix’ Cosmos

Cosmos are especially beautiful because of their varying colors and vibrance. All-time classic ‘Sensation Mix’ cosmos are also resistant to many common plant diseases such as powdery mildew, root rot and blight. Being a beginner gardener or even someone with a few growing seasons under their belt, we can all appreciate the fulfillment of growing a healthy flower!

Heirloom Nasturtium 'Vesuvius'Heirloom Nasturtium 'Vesuvius'

5. ‘Vesuvius’ Nasturtium

Not only are nasturtiums container-friendly, but they are also edible! They pair well in salads and with other vegetables grown in the garden. Orange ‘Vesuvius’ nasturtiums will bring some bright color to your beds and some peppery flavor to your plate.

Want to grow heirloom vegetables, too? Check out our selection, including many varieties first introduced by Burpee!

Written by Caranne Ingram

Born and raised in upstate New York, Caranne Ingram received her Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, PA. Her love for nature, the outdoors, and the plant-human connection is what motivates her to change the world, one seed at a time.

January 4, 2022
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