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Hydrangea Meaning – Uncovering The Symbolism

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The big, round flower clusters of hydrangeas may be synonymous with summer, and to a lesser degree, the laid back south, but are there deeper meanings?

Hydrangeas have different meanings and symbolism depending on the culture, and even the color of the flowers. They can symbolize heartfelt emotion, apologies, or even stand for boastful arrogance.

Before you pass out these flowers to your friends and family, read about the historical significance of the hydrangea flower. There’s a lot more to these puffy bunches of flowers than meets the eye.

Origins Of Hydrangeas

These amazing flowers are native to both Asia and the Americas. History tells us that Japan was the first culture to cultivate hydrangeas, although scientists have found fossils of these flowers dating back to 40 to 65 million years ago.

Dissecting The Etymology Of The Hydrangea

Let’s travel back to 1739 and have a talk with the botanist named Grovonius, and before you ask, that name is real. I didn’t make it up. He noticed these plants had flowers that looked very similar to a water pitcher.

It also didn’t hurt the naming process that these plants required a lot of water, so the name hydrangea was born. Grovonius took the Latin words “hydro” meaning water and “angeion” meaning pitcher or barrel, and melded them together.

Sometimes these plants are  called “hortensia.” While there is a little bit of uncertainty about the true origin of this name, it’s likely the name came from the French common name Hortense. When translated from Latin, that word means “of the garden,” or “gardener.”

One legend states that a Frenchman named the flower after the woman he was having an affair with. Another similar legend states that the French botanist named the flower after the daughter of a prince the botanist met.

Hydrangea Meaning in Different Cultures

Though hydrangeas are often used in wedding bouquets, in European culture, a single lady who grew white hydrangeas in her own garden, or picked them would never get married. There are several cultural significances associated with the hydrangea, let’s dive in and find out what those are.

Hydrangeas In Japan

In Japan, hydrangeas are nearly as popular as cherry blossoms. Hydrangeas surround an ancient story about an emperor who fell in love with a girl but then ended up not being able to spend much time with her. Because of his duties and the workload, he ended up neglecting her.

In an effort to show her his regret and to show her how much he actually loved her, he brought her a large bouquet of blue hydrangeas. Since that story, blue hydrangeas have been associated with apologies and regret.

Throughout feudal Japan, warriors were apprehensive of Ajisai hydrangea flowers because of their multitude of colors in a single flower cluster. Apparently Nanahenge, or “Seven Transformations” was associated with the flower’s ability to change colors over time and spooked the warriors.

Today these flowers are used as decorations for festivals and tea ceremonies. Most hydrangeas are poisonous, but Hydrangea serrata which is native to mountainous regions of Japan and Korea are used in tea.

The Mountain Hydrangea contains a compound called phyllodulcin in the leaves which is exceptionally sweet. This tea is called amacha and it’s used to celebrate Buddha’s Birthday.

Hydrangeas In Korea

Native to Korea, hydrangeas symbolize gratitude, deep emotions, and understanding of certain situations. Colors can symbolize different emotions such as red symbolizing deep love and affection.

They are also signs of resilience and perseverance. In fact, these flowers are celebrated in the yearly Hydrangea Flower Cultural Festival in Taejongdae Park.

Hydrangeas In Native American Culture

The bright clusters of hydrangea flowers signify a connection to nature in Native American cultures. These flowers are used in many sacred rituals, have been utilized for medicinal purposes, and are sought after for their long lasting beauty.

Hydrangeas In Ancient Greece 

Because these plants often grow along streams, creeks, and rivers, they were associated with water in ancient Greece. If you gave someone a bouquet of hydrangea flowers in ancient Greece, you would likely be wishing them good health and abundant happiness.

The Ancient Greeks also felt that hydrangeas were associated with the god Apollo the sun god. Some also felt they were associated with the goddess Hera, Zeus’ wife and goddess of marriage.

Hydrangeas in Victorian Times

In Victorian England, hydrangeas could symbolize positive emotions, or be viewed as boastful and negative. It all depended on the color. 

Mostly, hydrangeas during this time stood for vanity, boastfulness, and arrogance because the flowers were big and showy while creating very few seeds. White hydrangeas were often associated with these negative connotations.

Hydrangeas were also given to individuals who didn’t accept one’s romantic advances. This symbolized their frigidity and coldness.

Although, in some circles, the different colors of hydrangeas could mean “I love you,” (pink flowers) or “I apologize” (blue flowers).

Any lady who grew white hydrangeas in their garden might blame being single and unmarried on the flowers, so they were hardly grown in personal flowerbeds.

What Do Hydrangeas Mean – Colors And Their Symbolism

In the culture today, hydrangeas often symbolize heartfelt emotions, regret, apology, thankfulness, happiness, and abundance, and are used to celebrate 4 year anniversaries.

The colors of the flowers can also have varied meanings, so let’s check out what those are.

What Do Pink Hydrangeas Symbolize?

Close up of pink hygrangeas
Close up of pink hygrangeas

One of the colors associated with love is pink, and pink hydrangeas symbolize all of those emotions. These colored flowers show someone you have sincere feelings of thoughtfulness, love, affection, and admiration.

Pink hydrangeas are sometimes associated with a beating heart, so if you give these to someone, you’re really making a statement of devotion.

A bouquet of pink hydrangeas tells someone you how much you care about them and can be a great gift after a few dates, or for someone you are truly in love with.

What Do White Hydrangeas Symbolize?

Flowering white hydrangeas
Flowering white hydrangeas

Don’t worry about the negative connotation of white hydrangeas that abounded during Victorian England because they no longer carry that stigma. Picking white hydrangeas won’t keep you single, so grow all you want.

Like white roses and other white flowers, hydrangeas symbolize innocence, purity, abundance, and grace. You’ll often see them decorating wedding parties or baby showers.

White hydrangeas in a vase make wonderful centerpieces on the dining table and are gorgeous summer decor.

What Do Blue Hydrangeas Symbolize?

Row of blue Hydrangeas
Row of blue Hydrangeas

Blue hydrangeas have a dual meaning, so be careful how you present them. Much like the Japanese legend of the emperor who gave his neglected love bouquets of blue hydrangeas, they still symbolize regret, apologies, and forgiveness.

We’ve all been there before, in the heat of an argument or disagreement we have said things we really don’t mean and then regret it later. A bouquet of blue hydrangeas may be a starting point for a heartfelt apology.

Blue hydrangeas also tend to symbolize gratitude and serenity. When you give a bouquet to someone you haven’t had an argument with, it’s often a symbol of graciousness and appreciation. These are often great hostess gifts, just be sure to tell them thanks, or leave a card expressing your gratitude so the meaning isn’t muddled.

What Do Purple Hydrangeas Symbolize?

Purlple Hydrangea flower
Purlple Hydrangea flower

The word royal often precedes purple. When it comes to purple hydrangeas that’s the perfect word as these colored flowers stand for royalty, wealth, and abundance. They also symbolize prosperity and understanding.

Purple hydrangeas are a perfect way to say congratulations to someone who recently got a big promotion. Tell them how proud of them you are and let them know you hope they get an abundance of wealth when they get a raise by sending a bouquet of purple hydrangeas.

You can also send that special person who you feel should be royalty for the day a large assortment of purple hydrangeas. These huge purple blooms will have them feeling like a king or queen.

What Do Green Hydrangeas Symbolize?

Close up of green Hydrangeas
Close up of green Hydrangeas

Green typically stands for money, wealth, fortune, and prosperity. It can also mean jealousy or being sick, but when it comes to hydrangeas, the green flowers take on the positive meanings.

Green Hydrangeas stand for rebirth, renewal, abundant health, youthfulness, and good fortune. When someone needs some positive energy in their life, surprise them with a bouquet of green hydrangeas.

These also are the perfect gift for someone just starting out in life, or for those who are seeking a fresh start. The beautiful green bloom will help establish the feelings of a fresh life and a new beginning.

Frequently Asked Questions:  

Are hydrangeas considered bad luck?

Hydrangeas are not considered bad luck. Most of their meanings are overwhelmingly positive. In Victorian times, hydrangeas could signify arrogance, and white hydrangea flowers were not grown or picked by single young women because it was thought they would never find a suitor if they did.

Do hydrangeas symbolize death?

Hydrangeas do not symbolize death, though the flowers are often sent to those who have lost loved ones. Bouquets of hydrangeas have been known to be sent to the bereaved to offer deep condolences and sympathy.

One reason that hydrangeas may mistakenly be associated with death is because the plants are mildly poisonous. They contain small amounts of cyanide, and when consumed they can cause dizziness, nausea, and vomiting, so keep them away from children and pets.

Why are hydrangeas important to humans?

Some people use parts of the hydrangea plant medicinally. Some cultures use the root of hydrangea plants to treat bladder infections and prostate problems such as infection and enlarged prostate. It’s also known to be used to help with kidney stones and inflammation of the kidneys but there is no solid scientific evidence to back these claims up.

Most hydrangeas are mildly poisonous and should not be consumed.

What is the symbolic meaning of hydrangeas?

Overall, hydrangea flowers symbolize love, strong emotions, regrets, happiness, abundance, and apologies. Depending on the culture and the colors of the flowers, hydrangeas can have many different meanings, but overall the flowers are positive and signify strong, happy emotions.

Wrapping Up With Our Final Thoughts

When you’re growing hydrangeas in your garden, don’t worry about what they symbolize. If they work with your color scheme and are pleasing to the eye, then grow whatever colors make you happy.

When you’re sending bouquets of hydrangeas, you may want to think about the culture the recipient is from, as well as your intentions. Depending on the color and the connotation you could be telling someone you absolutely love them, or you are offering an apology.

You could also be celebrating them with a certain color of hydrangea, or offering gratitude and wishing them happiness and abundance.

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