orchid symbolism

Orchid Flower Meaning and Symbolism

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With more than 25,000 different species of orchids around the world, these flowers are often grown as houseplants or added to stunning floral displays. Sadly, orchids have a reputation as being difficult flowers to grow, likely because they need a lot of filtered light and humidity. 

Nevertheless, orchids, or any flowers in the Orchidaceae family, are beautiful additions to any display. They have some deep meaning and symbolism, too – so if you really want to send a message, you may want to consider giving someone an orchid. They are available in many different orchid colors, such as white, blue, pink, red, yellow, and orange orchids.

What Does Orchid Mean?

All orchids are members of the Orchidaceae family. The word is derived from the Greek orchis, which means “mistaken identity.” The story behind the orchid’s interesting nomenclature is a bit humorous!

When orchids were first discovered, a Greek botanist named Theophrastos thought that the underground portion of the flower strongly resembled a pair of testicles! 

Later, however, the flowers were again identified by a Swedish naturalist named Peter Osbeck.

When Osbeck first saw a cluster of orchids growing in a field in Java, he thought they were a group of moths. He gave the flowers the common name moth orchids as a way to commemorate this confusion.

What Do Orchids Symbolize?

Entrenched in deep symbolism since ancient times, orchids can symbolize a variety of things. They can be given to symbolize fertility, love, or beauty, or even more complex notions like refinement, charm, and thoughtfulness.

Orchid Color Symbolism

Every single colored orchid possesses its own unique importance and meaning, making it a rich source of symbolism.

What Does a Blue Orchid Mean?

Blue orchids are the rarest shades of orchid, since blue is not a natural color for the flowers. As a result, blue orchids symbolize rarity. 

What Does a Purple Orchid Mean?

Purple orchids, on the other hand, represent royalty (a common symbol for purple flowers) as well as respect, dignity, and admiration. 

What Does a Red Orchid Symbolize?

Red orchids symbolize desire and passion, as do many other red flowers. However, this sweet bloom can also symbolize courage and strength in challenging situations, while pink orchids can represent femininity, innocence, joy, happiness, and grace. 

What Does a White Orchid Mean? 

White orchids most commonly are used to symbolize innocence, purity, and humility. However, they can also be used as a general representation of beauty and elegance.

What Does a Green Orchid Mean?

Green orchids are usually used to symbolize good health, good fortune, and many blessings. 

What Does a Yellow Orchid Mean?

Friendship, joy, optimism, and appreciation. Yellow orchids radiate cheerfulness and positivity, making them wonderful gifts to brighten someone’s day, celebrate achievements, or simply express your friendship.

What Does a Pink Orchid Mean?

Grace, femininity, joy, playfulness, and appreciation. Pink orchids radiate warmth and happiness, making them perfect for expressing gratitude, congratulating achievements, or sending a sweet gesture to a loved one.

What Does an Orange Orchid Mean?

Energy, enthusiasm, fascination, creativity, and encouragement. Orange orchids are vibrant and stimulating, making them perfect for inspiring someone, celebrating their achievements, or expressing your admiration for their unique spirit.

The Meaning Behind Various Orchid Varieties

While color plays a major role in orchid symbolism, specific varieties also carry their own unique meanings due to their distinct appearance, cultural associations, and even historical mentions. Here are some examples:

Phalaenopsis Orchids

Commonly known as the Moth Orchid, the Phalaenopsis Orchid symbolizes refinement, innocence, and elegance, thanks to its delicate features and butterfly-like blooms.

Vanda Orchids

Known as Vanda Orchids or Vandas, they embody charm, grace, and perfection. Their air-grown nature and cascading blooms evoke a sense of ethereal beauty and sophistication.

Paphiopedilum Orchids

Also called Slipper Orchids, they symbolize mystery, fascination, and uniqueness. Their unusual pouch-shaped lip sets them apart, making them a conversation starter and a representation of the extraordinary.

Oncidium Orchids

Often called Dancing Lady Orchids, they represent joy, merriment, and liberation. Their vibrantly colored, multi-flowered sprays resemble dancing figures, conveying a sense of carefree celebration.

Cymbidium Orchids

Known as Boat Orchids, they symbolize wealth, nobility, and success. Their large, symmetrical blooms were associated with prosperity and high social status in ancient China.

What is the Cultural Significance of an Orchid?

The Greeks highly revered the orchid, believing that the flower was a powerful symbol of virility. They thought so highly of the flower that they believed that orchids with large roots represented a male child, while those with smaller roots represented a daughter. 

However, the Greeks weren’t the only ones to hold the orchid in high regard. The Aztecs once mixed vanilla orchids with chocolate to concoct a delicious elixir that they believed could promote personal strength. Later, the Victorians collected orchids and put them on display as a sign of luxury. 

Other cultures have cultivated orchids, too. The Chinese have grown them for more than 3,000 years, and by the mid-1800s, these flowers could be seen growing all over the world. The lower was traditionally used as an herbal remedy to treat lung disease, coughs, and various problems with the lungs, stomach, and kidneys. 

What is the Symbolism of an Orchid Tattoo?

While orchid tattoos are very popular among women, it’s not out of the question for a man to choose an orchid tattoo as well. When chosen by women, this tattoo usually symbolizes beauty and femininity. Men prefer the tattoo to represent charm and strength, on the other hand. 

When Should You Give Someone an Orchid?

Orchid flowers not only add a flair of the exotic to floral bouquets, but they can also be used as potted plants or centerpieces.

No matter who you decide to give an orchid flower to, you are sure to bring an air of beauty and elegance to the occasion. Moth orchid, vanilla orchid and dendrobium orchid plants are some good start.

*Photo by iceberg_dp/depositphotos

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