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The Meaning of the Iris Flower

The Iris is an iconic, perennial flower that has inspired countless paintings, poems, and landscape designs. The meaning of the Iris flower is varied, depending on the country and color. The Iris makes an excellent cut flower and is popular in flower arrangements due to its intricate blooms.

Meaning of the Iris Flower

The History of the Iris Meaning

In the 16th century BC, the Iris was introduced to Egypt from Syria. The flower was revered by Egyptian royalty. The Iris was used in the design of Pharaoh’s scepters to symbolize victory and power.

In the middle ages,  Iris symbolism served the French monarchy as well in the form of the Fleur-De-Lis. This floral emblem was inspired by the Iris and appeared on the royalty’s coat of arms, on coins, and on shields. It’s believed that each of the three petals represented a class of people–nobility, the clergy, and the poor. 

Iris Symbolism in Greek Mythology

The word “Iris” translates to “rainbow” in Greek. Closely related, “eiris” translates to “messenger”. Together these two meanings are the basis of the first Greek myth associated with the Iris. 

The myth states that a Greek goddess named Iris was the messenger of the gods, delivering messages from Zeus and Hera to the Earth and Underworld. Iris used rainbows to travel back and forth between heaven and Earth. 

Iris was also tasked with escorting the deceased from Earth to the heavens. This association in Greek culture remained so strong that it has become a tradition to plant the Iris flower at grave sites. By planting the flowers it was meant to beckon the goddess to collect their loved one and escort them to the afterlife. 

Today there are over 200 species of Irises. The beauty of the Iris has captured the attention around the world and the flower has been adopted as a symbol for many countries and occasions. 

The Iris is the official symbol of France, Florence, and Italy. The Bearded Iris was also adopted by Tennessee as their state flower. The Iris flower is associated with two specific occasions–it is the birth flower of those with birthdays in February and it is the official flower of the 25th wedding anniversary.

In the 19th century the roots of the germanica and pallida species of Iris was used in perfume. The roots emit a delicate, violet-like fragrance. Unfortunately, it was noticed that many were allergic to the root and the practice was discontinued. Today the roots are used in potpourris and sachets.

Iris Flower Meaning

There are multiple Iris meanings making the flower very versatile in the language of flowers. These meanings include cherished friendship, promises of love, wisdom, hope, trust, and valor. In various countries there are additional sentiments attached to the flower. 

In Japan the Iris is believed to have purification properties and is able to keep away evil energies. Those who wear the Iris, or the symbol of one, are protected. As such, the flower is often incorporated into the design of kimonos. The Iris also shows up often in paintings and haiku poetry. 

The Iris symbolizes “the dancing spirit of early summer” in China. The way the flower’s delicate petals move in the breeze resembles the wings of the butterfly, earning the flower the name “purple butterfly”.

Iris Meaning By Flower Color

Iris Meaning By Flower Color

In the language of flowers, the color of a flower type will have an additional or more specific meaning. With the Iris, the following additional meanings are attached to each bloom color:

Purple Iris: This common color is associated with wisdom and compliments. This would make a great flower for career-related congratulation bouquets.

Blue Iris: Hope and faith are the sentiments associated with the blue Iris. Use these flowers for weddings, baby showers, and new adventures.

Yellow Iris: The yellow Iris flower meaning is passion. Give these flowers to your significant other instead of roses.

White Iris: As with most white flowers, the white Iris symbolizes purity making it a perfect choice for bridal bouquets.

The Iris is a flower loved throughout the world. The flower’s intricate blooms have earned it a place in many works of art–both visual and written. One of the most endearing benefits of the Iris is it can easily be grown in your garden, year after year, and used as cut flowers in your home. 

Iris Meaning FAQ

Are Irises Considered Toxic to Pets?

While they’re not toxic to humans, Irises are considered toxic to pets and should be kept away from them.

What Are the Main Types of Irises?

The two main types of Irises are bearded and non-bearded. 

How Long Do Cut Irises Last in an Arrangement?

On average, a cut Iris will last between five and seven days.

What is the Rarest Color of Iris?

Black is considered the most rare Iris color available.

Do Irises Only Bloom Once Per Season?

Most Irises only bloom in the cooler, early spring but the rebloomer type of Iris will bloom up to three or four times in a season.