Heirloom Plant

Last Updated: June 14, 2017

Definition - What does Heirloom Plant mean?

On its own, the word heirloom refers to "something of special value handed down from one generation to another." The same definition applies to heirloom plants.

Heirloom plants are older cultivars of a particular fruit or vegetable that are grown in very small numbers today. Heirlooms do not play a large role in modern agriculture because they don’t always ripen consistently and often end up growing in peculiar shapes or appearances.

Instead, heirlooms are perfect for home gardeners who find these varieties unique and fun to grow. Most heirloom plants are grown by gardeners or farmers in small, isolated areas.

Note that the term heirloom does not automatically denote “organic”, but it does mean that the plant has not been genetically modified (non-GMO).

MaximumYield explains Heirloom Plant

There’s a lot of discussion today about the benefits of heirloom plants, but it can be difficult to understand exactly what the word “heirloom” actually means. Really, it’s nothing more than a notation that the particular plant in question is an older cultivar, often dating back decades, or even centuries.

An heirloom plant may or may not be a genetic cross or a variety developed by a specific individual or company in the past. However, heirloom plants are distinct from hybrids in that they breed true to type, and are often localized to better withstand geographic-specific conditions like drought or mineral-depleted soils.

Heirlooms are chosen specifically by some farmers and gardeners because of the benefits they can often provide. For instance, many farmers cite that heirloom varieties have more flavor than conventionally grown vegetables and fruits. Heirloom plants are also open pollinated, which means that insects or even the wind facilitate pollination with no outside help from humans needed.

However, an heirloom plant may suffer from problems that are not inherent with modern, hybrid plants. For instance, hybrids are prized for producing quickly, and for their consistency in terms of size and color. An heirloom plant may not produce fruits that are the same size, color, or even shape.

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