hawaiian flowers

Top 14 Hawaiian Flowers and Their Meanings

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Wondering about some common Hawaiian flowers and their meanings? If so, you’ve come to the right place. 

Hawaiian tropical flowers can be used to symbolize many meanings – and there are definitely multiple flowers that bring out the best of this tropical culture. Here are some of the most common flowers of Hawaii, along with their deep symbolism. 

Ready to learn some interesting facts about Hawaiian flower species? Let’s dive in!

#1. Hawaiian Hibiscus

yellow hibiscus

Hibiscus flowers are generally used to symbolize beauty.

In fact, these Hawaiian tropical flowers are practically ubiquitous in Hawaii, where they are often worn by women to convey their marital status. When women wear hibiscus blossoms behind their left ears, it signifies that they are married. If worn behind the right ear, it indicates that a woman is available. 

Hibiscus flowers are usually found in yellow, though other colors are sometimes found. The shrubs bloom daily, with each blossom lasting only one day. Yellow hibiscus, also known as Ma’o hau hele, (hibiscus brackenridgei) is not only native to Hawaii. It’s also the official flower – the state flower of Hawaii.

Red hibiscus flowers are also popular.

This gorgeous flower can be found on all the Hawaiian islands, with several varieties available. It is found above sea level in most places.

See more: Hibiscus flower meaning and symbolism

#2. Orchids

kauai hawaii orchid

Grown throughout the Hawaiian Islands, the orchid is particularly popular on the Big Island. Here, the island is often referred to as “the Orchid Isle” because of how many orchid types are grown here!

These Hawaiian tropical flowers symbolize rare, delicate beauty, but are often viewed as a symbol of luxury, too. In some cultures, like Greece, the flowers can also symbolize virility. Either way, orchids are often used as flowers for 14th wedding anniversaries.

#3. Naupaka Flowers

scaevola taccada

These uniquely-shaped Hawaiian tropical flowers with a scientific name scaevola taccada are entrenched in local legend.

Supposedly, Naupaka, a princess, fell deeply in love with a commoner. She was directed to a temple far away, where she should pray for advice on what to do. Naupaka and her lover traveled for days, but on their arrival, were told that nothing could be done.

Heartbroken, Naupaka removed the white flower she had in her hair and ripped it in half, giving one side to her lover. She remained in the mountains and sent him to the beach. That’s why you will find two types of naupaka plants – one grows on the beach, and one grows in the mountains. 

#4. Plumerias

potted plumeria

Plumeria flowers meaning includes a representation of love, birth, and new beginnings. They bloom in the spring so they are often used to symbolize springtime, too. They are typically used in leis, and while they were once only worn by royalty, the fragrant blooms are now worn by just about everyone. 

These Hawaiian tropical flowers are either yellow or pink and have sweet, plying aromas. Like hibiscus flowers, they can also be worn to symbolize a woman’s romantic status. 

Interestingly, in Buddhist cultures, plumeria flowers can represent immortality, likely because plumeria trees continue to bloom even when uprooted. They are considered sacred and are planted outside every Buddhist temple in the country of Laos. 

Plumerias are found all over Hawaii but are not native to this country. They were introduced by a German botanist in 1860 and grow well in the unique climate and volcanic soil of Hawaii.

During World War II, it was common for a plumeria lei to be tossed to soldiers as they passed through Diamond Head. According to Hawaiian legend, if it floated to shore, the soldier would return home.

#5. Ohia Lehua Flowers

ohia lehua flowers
‘Ohi’a lehua blossom – Photo by Todd Smith from Pexels

Ohia lehua flowers (Metrosideros polymorpha) are often viewed as symbolic of Pele, the goddess of volcanoes. This is because these Hawaiian tropical flowers were some of the first to begin growing wild on fresh lava flows after an eruption.

There is a legend related to Pele. She was said to be in love with a man named Ohia, a handsome man who was madly infatuated with another woman, Lehua. Pele was outraged and heartbroken, so she turned Ohia into a twisted tree and Lehua into a blossom on the tree. 

Today, Hawaiians believe that if you remove a lehua flower from a tree, it will rain – the tears of the couple as they are separated. 

#6. Red Tower Ginger

red tower ginger

Red tower gingers, or red ginger flowers, can grow to large, impressive sizes. They look much like green spears with red tips. They are often used to symbolize weather, tolerance, and diversity. 

However, since these Hawaiian tropical flowers have deep scarlet red blooms, they can also be used to symbolize romantic love and passion, as is common among red flowers of any species.

#7. Pikake Flowers

sambac jasmine

PIkake flowers, also known as sambac jasmine flowers, are bright and sweet-smelling Hawaiian tropical flowers.

Often worn by hula dancers and brides, they are frequently given to honored guests, too – hence the phrase Pikake lei.

The name of these Hawaiian tropical flowers translates to “peacock” and was named by Princess Kaiulani. 

#8. Bird of Paradise Flowers

hawaiian bird of paradise

Bird of paradise flowers, as the name implies, look much like birds in flight.

Bird of paradise flowers symbolize joy along with liberty and freedom. Although they are commonly grown in Hawaii, they are actually native to South Africa.

Here, these tropical flowers are associated with liberty and with the end of apartheid in South Africa. These Hawaiian tropical flowers are commonly given as gifts for ninth wedding anniversaries. 

There are many colors, including white Bird of Paradise blooms.

The tropical Bird of Paradise prefers well drained soil.

#9. Pua Kala Flower

The Pua Kala Flower, also known as the Four O’Clock Plant, is a vibrant and colorful bloom that thrives in Hawaii’s tropical climate. It’s a native species to all the islands and is beloved by native Hawaiians.

This beautiful flower blooms range across the color spectrum, including pink, purple, yellow, and white, and it is a popular choice for lei-making and other traditional Hawaiian floral arrangements. These tropical plants can be found in botanical gardens and flower farms across the island.

#10. Hawaiian Poppy (Argemone Glauca)

Another Hawaiian flower species that adds to Hawaii’s floral diversity is the Hawaiian Poppy, a member of the poppy family.

This unique flower is native to Hawaii and is characterized by its bright yellow petals and spiny seedpods. It is a hardy plant that thrives in arid conditions and is often used in traditional Hawaiian medicine to treat various ailments.

#11. Hawaiian Lily (Solandra maxima)

This is a breathtaking flower species that grows up to ten feet high. Its distinct trumpet-shaped, creamy-white flowers bloom throughout the year, and its large leaves provide a lush tropical backdrop to its stunning blooms.

Additionally, this flower has been known to have refreshing and calming properties that make it a perfect gift during special occasions.

#12. Hawaiian Gardenia (Gardenia brighamii)

This rare and delicate flower species is found only on the islands of Maui and Molokai. Its magnificent white blooms and enchanting fragrance make it a sought-after flower among florists and gardeners globally.

The Indian Jasmine is another of the most stunning and fragrant flowers grown in Hawaii. This small shrub with its star-shaped flowers and intense, wonderful scent is a versatile species that is used in various traditions, including hula and perfume-making.

Of course, it also looks lovely in tropical flower arrangements!

#14. Geranium Arboreum

Endemic to Hawaii, this is somewhat of an endangered species. This geranium species thrives in a tropical climate and sunny spaces and it’s one of the most beautiful flowers you’ll find.

It’s also known as the red cranesbill or the Hawaiian red-flowered geranium. It can only be found on the island of Maui.

Explore Everything These Hawaiian Tropical Flowers Have to Offer

With so many tropical flowers growing on the islands of Hawaii, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a beautiful bloom to decorate your hair or home.

The best part is you don’t have to pay the price of visiting Hawaii to enjoy these gorgeous Hawaii flowers, either! Most of these beuatiful flowers can be grown right at home, either in indoor floral arrangements or as part of your tropical gardens outside.

These tropical flowers offer so much more than their visceral beauty, however. They offer a piece of Hawaiian history and a slice of the main Hawaiian islands right in your own backyard.

The blooms represent the magnificent and storied culture of Hawaii – and of its people. Explore this cultural significance and enjoy all the vibrant colors of the Aloha state with these blooms!

Up Next: Common Tropical Flower Names

Image by OKGraphic/depositphotos

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