I don’t know about you, but here in Maine, by the time spring flowers start peeking out, I am more than ready for their arrival. Winters tend to be cold and dreary here in the Pine Tree State, and there’s nothing like that first pop of color to brighten another slushy mud-season day.
Although just about any flower can bring a smile to my face, I do have my favorites, and today I’m going to discuss the symbolism of seven different varieties and where they might be seen in fiction.
Flower symbolism is often used in fiction, with roses possibly being the most common floral motif. I could write a whole blog post on roses alone, but this post will be focused on flowers that bloom in the spring.
#7 – Peony
I love how fluffy peonies look from a distance—huge clumps of petals bursting with color. They can symbolize honor, beauty, shame, wealth, and especially romance. Their colors, which range from white to deep red, each have specific meanings.
White peonies symbolize both beauty and shame, making them the perfect motif for a character seeking forgiveness for a past wrong.
Pink peonies (such as those in the picture above) symbolize romance, the kind that leads to wedding bells—they are often present during wedding celebrations and would serve as a pretty backdrop to a proposal scene.
Red peonies symbolize passionate love as well as honor and wealth. They would not be out of place in a mansion or castle garden, serving as the springtime equivalent of the more frequently seen rose.
#6 – Bleeding Hearts
Bleeding hearts hold a special place in my heart thanks to a childhood memory of these bright pink flowers blooming beside the driveway of my grandmother’s home. I only saw them a few times, but their unique shape and eye-catching color are unforgettable. These flowers, as you may have already guessed, symbolize love and emotion.
Red bleeding hearts, of course, symbolize passionate love just like red peonies, but they can also refer to unrequited love. Some say that they first grew from the ground where a rejected prince’s lifeblood fell—a heartbreaking but evocative legend.
Pink bleeding hearts have a quieter but still powerful symbolism—unconditional love, compassion, and spiritual connection. They might be found in the garden of a kind young lady who has yet to meet her true love.
White bleeding hearts represent purity, faith, and innocence. They are a rarer variety of the flower and would make a unique symbolic addition to a story with themes of trust and hope.
#5 – Bluebell
Although the name bluebell always brings to mind a certain character from a beloved TV miniseries (The 10th Kingdom), these flowers are a favorite of mine for their vivid blue color.
Bluebells symbolize everlasting love, gratitude, and humility—the latter most likely due to the drooping nature of their flowers. They can also reference magic, as it is said that ringing them can call faeries. A fantasy novel might feature such a flower or perhaps even a character (human, fae, or otherwise) who bears its name and possibly its attributes.
#4 – Magnolia
There is something spectacular about a magnolia tree in full bloom, its rich, broad petals spread wide and glowing in the sunlight. They have a variety of magnolias in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, which I have had the pleasure of visiting a few times, and their stately magnificence always takes my breath away.
Though all magnolia flowers carry the symbolism of beauty, each color has its own symbolism as well.
Purple magnolia flowers symbolize royalty, dignity, and spirituality. A king’s garden, in the right climate, might feature a few of these trees, or even a small orchard.
Red magnolia flowers represent—you guessed it—passion and romance. Trees bearing these gorgeous blooms would serve well as a replacement for the common rosebush as a background to a kiss or marriage proposal.
Pink magnolia flowers symbolize both romance and femininity, making them the perfect blooms for a romantic princess to sigh over while daydreaming of her one true love.
Yellow magnolia flowers symbolize friendship and happiness. They would make a good centerpiece for a springtime festival or celebration feast.
White magnolia flowers symbolize innocence, spirituality, and purity. A young lady, not yet betrothed, might wear one in her hair, or they might adorn the tables at her wedding celebration.
#3 – Lily of the Valley
These beautiful little bell-like flowers, bright against their broad green leaves, always capture my attention when I see them. Their small form and white color symbolize purity, humility, and chastity, as well as returning happiness. They would work well as a motif in a story about a woman waiting for her love to return.
#2 – Snowdrop
I will admit that these beautiful white flowers almost made it into the number one spot on this list. The first wildflower of the Maine spring, at least around my forest dwelling, these tiny blooms push their way through the snow, a quiet but lovely reminder that spring is on its way.
Snowdrops symbolize rebirth, innocence, hope, and sympathy, motifs reflected both in their white petals and delicate yet hardy nature. They can bring tears to the eyes of those who have survived a harsh winter and remind those who feel lost that there is still hope.
#1 – Sakura Flower (Cherry Blossoms)
I fell in love with the sakura flower the first time I saw blooming cherry trees in an animated film. That love only deepened when I had the chance a few years ago to visit a cherry orchard in full bloom. Their soft colors, usually shades of pink but sometimes white or even yellow, are both soothing and uplifting.
Sakura flowers symbolize both the coming of spring and the shortness of youth. Though they bloom only briefly each year, they are a mesmerizing sight.
Pink sakura flowers are the most common, ranging in shade from light to dark. They symbolize love and affection and would serve well as a backdrop to a sweet springtime romance.
White sakura flowers, like many white flowers, symbolize purity, spirituality, and innocence. Their presence in a princess’s or lady’s garden speaks to her pure spirit.
Yellow sakura flowers represent happiness and positive energy, as well as the bonds of friendship and family. They might be found in a story focused on a family’s trials and triumphs or in a tale following the ups and downs of a platonic relationship.
This Is Just the Beginning
The symbolism of flowers has roots in many cultures, and although this post has touched upon some of the meanings of a few beautiful varieties, it is only a small glimpse of the colorful selections that exist.
Have you done your own research on flower symbolism? What is your favorite spring flower, and what symbolism does it carry?
Though a part-time editor by day, Heather Hayden’s not-so-secret identity is that of a writer—at night she pours heart and soul into science fiction and fantasy novels. Fueled by chocolate and moonlight, Heather is currently working on Upgrade (the sequel to her first published novel) and an as-yet-untitled series of fairy tale novelizations.