gladiolus symbolism

Gladiolus Flower Meaning: What Each Color Symbolizes

Sharing is caring!

Grown in hundreds of gardens around the world, the gladiolus flower is a beautiful plant that produces blossoms in all colors of the rainbow.

While it’s easy to assume that the gladiolus flower is simply just that – a beautiful flower – there’s actually more to the story than what might meet the eye. This flower has tons of hidden meanings, many of which you were probably never aware of. 

Also known as the sword lily, this flower has many meanings and is easy to grow, according to the American Gladiolus Society.

Here is the meaning of the gladiolus flower so that you can give a bouquet that’s not only beautiful, but also filled with symbolism.

What is the Gladiolus Flower Meaning?

The gladiolus flower meaning is varied, depending on the setting, but etymologically it means “sword.”

Unlike most flowers that have both a common and a scientific name, gladiolus flowers are unique in that the common and scientific names are one and the same. The word “gladiolus” comes from the Latin, gladius, which means sword. 

So this common and scientific name gladiolus makes a lot of sense!

The Greeks used to refer to Gladiolus flowers as “xiphium,” a derivative of the Greek word “xiphos,” which also means sword. You can figure out how this flower got its name just by looking at it! 

Gladiolus flowers were commonly traded along the India trade route and thrive in cold climates. They have a long history of being used as gifts, with their sword like appearance making them great for bouquets or arrangements among other perennials.

What Does a Gladiolus Symbolize?

The gladiolus flower has many meanings, with the most common ones being faithfulness, integrity, and infatuation. Usually, gladiolus flowers symbolize being honest and faithful at all times. The ultimate gladiolus flower meaning depends on which vibrant colors you’re looking at, too.

Because gladiolus flowers can also symbolize strong moral values, they are often seen as a symbol of integrity. 

Interestingly, gladiolus flowers can be used to represent infatuation or even deep admiration. This can be in both a romantic and platonic way. They can also represent internal strength and the ability to overcome challenges in life. 

The meaning of the tough gladiolus bulb changes depending on the color, so let’s take a closer look at the gladiolus color meanings.

What Does a Red Gladiolus Mean?

Red gladiolus flowers usually symbolize passion, romance, love, and even aggression! The red gladiolus flower is perhaps the only one that has a meaning and symbolism that’s anything but positive.

What Does a Yellow Gladiolus Symbolize? 

One of the most beautiful gladiolus colors, the yellow gladiolus flower usually symbolizes positive energy, happiness, and friendship. This is common for many yellow flowers. Therefore, you can give a yellow gladiolus flower to just about anybody in your life. 

What Does a White Gladiolus Mean? 

Usually, white gladiolus flowers symbolize things like purity and spirituality, something that is common for white flowers. This perennial flower is often used in religious ceremonies and wedding decorations as a result. 

What Does a Purple Gladiolus Flower Symbolize?

The purple gladiolus flower is usually used to symbolize nobility, beauty, and grace. They also have symbolic meanings related to moral integrity and are frequently used in religious ceremonies.

Purple gladiolus flowers have beautiful blooms that can also symbolize a mother’s love.

What is the Pink Gladiolus Flower Meaning?

The pink gladiolus flower is used to symbolize peace and beauty. This color of the gladiolus plant can be given as a romantic gift, but pink flowers (sometimes called corn lilies) are typically reserved for as cut flowers for gifts between friends or family members.

What is the Cultural Significance of a Gladiolus Plant?

Even before today, gladiolus flowers had some pretty powerful cultural significance. These flowers were viewed as a symbol of strength by the ancient Romans, particularly Roman gladiators, primarily because they have a strong resemblance to swords.

In addition to that symbolism in ancient Rome, gladiolus flowers are known to grow in the wild where other plants struggle to take root. So the name “little sword” was also used to recognize the plant’s strength. They also had symbolic meaning for the Greeks, used to commemorate the Greek god Apollo.

Many people view gladiolus flowers as being somewhat old-fashioned. This is because the first Americans planted the flowers in their backyards and gardens.

In the Bible, there are several references to lilies, too – although many people believe that these references are actually to gladiolus flowers, which were more common in the region at the time. 

In the past, gladiolus flowers were used for their medicinal properties. The plant’s corms were harvested and used as part of traditional medicine, along with other flowers.

What is the Symbolism of a Gladiolus Tattoo?

Usually chosen as a tattoo by women, the gladiolus tattoo symbolizes grace and style. However, since the Latin word “gladius” means sword, you may find that people choose gladiolus tattoos because they symbolize calmness along with self-confidence.

It can also symbolize strength and integrity, particularly when chosen by a man as a tattoo. 

Are Gladiolus Flowers Poisonous?

Beyond understanding the symbolic gladiolus meaning, it’s important to know that gladiolus plants can be toxic.

Sword lilies can cause an allergic reaction or skin irritation in some people. You may want to wear gloves when handling them.

Though they are often used for medicinal purposes, they should be kept away from your furry friends.

When Should You Give Someone a Gladiolus?

Because gladiolus flowers can symbolize faithfulness, they are great to give in bouquets around Valentine’s Day. Give your beloved a bouquet of gladiolus flowers, and you’ll be showing him or her that you truly are ready to commit to them alone. 

You might also give a bouquet of gladiolus flowers to a coworker or another person to express your heartfelt gratitude or appreciation. A gladioli bloom alsos make a great gift for job promotions!

The only downside of gladiolus flowers is that they tend to wilt easily.

To prevent wilting, you may want to consider how you cut the plant for optimal water uptake. Though these plants deteriorate quickly, by cutting the stems diagonally, on the stem base, with a sharp knife, you can help make it easier for your cut flowers to thrive. Adding flower food can help as well.

No matter which symbolic meaning of the gladiolus plant you choose to tap into, there’s no denying that the striking appearance of this hardy plant can’t be overlooked. Consider giving a gift of sword lilies today! These beautiful blooms are sure to impress just about anyone.

*Photo by Kruchenkova/depositphotos

Scroll to Top