Peony Flower Meaning, Symbolism and Cultural Significance

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The fragile peony is a fixture in contemporary and classic bouquets. It’s easy to see why – this plant has a fragile, unassuming beauty that lets it steal the show without being overbearing.

However, did you know that the peony plant is actually entrenched in deeper symbolic meaning? This flower is shrouded in mythological allure and valued for its symbolic peony flower meaning along with its medicinal and ornamental uses. 

What Does The Word ‘Peony’ Mean?

peony flower

It is unclear exactly what the true etymology of the name “peony” is, but many people believe that the word is derived from the late Latin peonia, which is a form of the Greek paonia.

It is named after the physician of the gods and is a testament to the plant’s healing qualities, as the peony’s roots, seeds, and flowers were frequently used in medicine.

pink peonies

What is the Peony Flower Meaning and Symbolism?

peony flower

Now that you know the etymological meaning of peony plants, let’s take a closer look at the peony flower meaning and symbolism.

The peony flowers have a great deal of meanings. There are many different peony colors. Not only can it symbolize prosperity, good fortune, and happiness, but peony flower meaning can also be used to encourage a happy marriage or to symbolize honor and compassion. It can even represent bashfulness!

There are even some superstitions surrounding peonies. The state flower of Indiana, the peony plant is often given for a twelfth wedding anniversary to symbolize honor, happiness, and fortune.

Some people believe a peony bush that is loaded with flowers is good luck – but once those flowers fade or dry up, you need to brace yourself for disaster. An odd number of flowers is also considered bad luck. The yellow peony plant is often given to wish someone luck with a new beginning.

meaning of peony flower

What Does a Pink Peony Mean?

peony flower

There are many peony flower types. Pink peonies are some of the most commonly given. You can choose between light pink and hot pink. They symbolize the beauty of marriage and are often used in bridal bouquets and wedding decorations.

The pink peony flower meanings also represent love at first sight. Couples often use peony petals to decorate a room for a special night. You can also opt to use red peonies for this occasion.

pink and white peonies

What Does a White Peony Flower Symbolize?

peony flower

While the peony symbolism attached to most colors is overwhelmingly positive, that is sadly not the case with the white peony. If you give someone white peonies, it will symbolize shame, shyness, regret, or apology. 

If someone replies with a yellow peony, meaning new beginnings, a clean slate, and a fresh start, they’ve accepted your apology. That makes them ideal gifts for some who just started a new job. They’re often used in wedding bouquets despite the symbolism, simply because they’re beautiful and the peony season tends to align with the busy wedding season.

What is the Symbolism of a Peony Flower Tattoo?

peony flower

Peonies are some of the most commonly chosen flowers when it comes to tattoos. The bright colors of peony have many layers. The peony flower meaning can be very complex as there are many types of peony flowers.

People also commonly choose to ink their skin with colorless peony tattoos. A black and grey peony tattoo can easily symbolize a happy life or a satisfying marriage. It can also represent overall prosperity as well as compassion towards a person or a cause. 

peony field

What is the Cultural Significance of Peonies?

peony flower

There are several common myths about peony. One myth claims that the flower is named after the Greek physician of the gods, Paeon. Paeon, a student of Aesculapius (who is the god of medicine), used a peony root to heal Pluto. 

His mentor Aesculapius became jealous of his skills and attempted to kill him. To thank Paeon for his work, Pluto turned him into a peony so that all people would praise and admire him. Therefore, to some people, the peony represents compassion.

In another tale, the peony is named after a nymph named Paeonia. Paeonia, a beautiful nymph, attracted the attention of Apollo (who began to flirt with her). Her delight turns quickly to embarrassment as she realizes that Aphrodite is watching, and soon after, Aphrodite turns the nymph into a bright-red peony.

Holding true with this story, the red peony can also symbolize bashfulness.

What do peonies represent in Chinese culture?

peony flower

Peonies are native to China and their national flower until 1929 when it was replaced by the plum tree. They are valued greatly there and referred to as the “king of flowers”. That’s because the peony symbolizes honor, riches and prosperity.

As a Chinese national flower until 1929, peonies have been popular since the Sui dynasty. During the Sui and Tang dynasties, peonies were planted in droves at the Imperial Palace in late spring to early summer. China, specifically Luoyang, also houses the national peony garden.

Chinese people believe peonies bring good luck and also consider it a symbol of friendship and feminine beauty. With their pale pink petals when peonies bloom, it’s easy to see why this might be the pink peony flower’s meaning in particular.

In Japan, peonies symbolize wealth, honor, good fortune, masculinity, and bravery. In Europe, these flowers are widely cultivated for fragrances.

When Should You Give Someone a Peony Flower? 

peony flower

The best time to give someone a peony is when you want to congratulate someone who has been successful in some aspect of their lives. But keep in mind the peony flower season is very short, only from late spring to early summer.

For example, you could give a peony to a couple that is getting married or someone who is graduating from high school. The flower, when given in colors like red, can also serve as a symbol of love. It is frequently given on wedding anniversaries as a result.

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*Photo by olhaafanasieva/depositphotos

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