Photo courtesy of the Vallarta Botanical Garden
Choosing a flower to suit one’s personality is a fun way to add meaning and beauty to an event or home decor. In this article, we’ll discuss two popular blooms — tulips and orchids — and how to determine which one suits you better.
Flowers have been revered for their beauty and symbolism for millennia. Ancient cultures used flowers as adornments to appeal to their deities during rituals or to showcase their feelings and desires in interpersonal relationships.
While flowers have become more commonplace and less sacred over the centuries, their symbolism is still ingrained in our broader culture.
The History of Tulips
If you want farm-fresh flowers delivered tomorrow, tulips would be a wise choice. However, these popular flowers weren’t always so accessible.
Tulips were once a highly prized symbol of romance and devotion — even more so than roses. Only the incredibly wealthy and well-connected members of Victorian London society could secure these blooms, making them a notable gift.
This exclusivity was due to tulips’ origins in the Ottoman empire (modern-day Turkey). Their bulbs had to be imported, and the Netherlands dominated the market.
Tulips became so popular that a brief period of the 17th century is known as Tulip Mania. Tulips became so highly valued that they were used as a form of currency and could be traded for land, houses, and even a person’s life savings.
As a result, tulips were the go-to flower for romance and the subject of art and poetry, conveying deep emotions. Though, “your love is like a red red rose” sounds arguably better than “my heart is like an awakened tulip.”
Tulips are still a symbol of love, but despite their historical significance, their meaning has evolved. Like many flowers, the color impacts the meaning behind the bloom.
Here are some of the modern meanings of tulips based on their color:
- Red Tulips – A symbol of true love and passion, representing strong, deep emotions. These are often given as a gift to express love and devotion.
- Yellow Tulips – A symbol of friendship and happiness. These are often given as a gift to express gratitude or to show someone you care about them.
- Pink Tulips – A symbol of affection and caring, also representing femininity, grace, and elegance. These are often given as a gift to show appreciation or admiration.
- White Tulips – A symbol of purity and innocence. These represent new beginnings, renewal, and fresh starts and are often given as a gift to someone who is starting a new chapter in their life.
- Purple Tulips – A symbol of royalty and luxury. These represent wealth, abundance, and prosperity and are often given as a gift to someone who has achieved great success.
- Orange Tulips – A symbol of energy and enthusiasm, also representing warmth, vitality, and excitement. These are often given as a gift to someone who is embarking on a new adventure or starting a new project.
- Black Tulips – A symbol of mystery and elegance, also representing sophistication, strength, and power, and are often used in formal events, a statement piece in a bouquet, or a part of a goth-chic garden.
Tulips have a rich history with heavy symbolism. Keep these meanings in mind when choosing a color that represents your personality or where you are in life.
The History of Orchids
Orchids have always been perceived as rare or elusive, even though you can easily access them today. Their complex and sometimes mysterious history spans over cultures and centuries. It’s worth noting that orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants, with over 28,000 species and more than 100,000 hybrids and cultivars.
The first records of orchids date back to ancient Greece. The Greeks believed orchids were a symbol of virility. Conversely, in ancient China, orchids were a symbol of purity and were used for their (believed) medicinal properties.
Like tulips, orchids became a sought-after bloom in Victorian Europe. As these flowers grew in exotic locales, it was considered a symbol of wealth and status to afford the luxuries to acquire such beautiful blooms.
One of the most famous collectors of orchids during this period was the Englishman Frederick Sander, who traveled extensively throughout the tropics in search of new and rare species. Sander became known as “The Orchid King,” as his collection was considered one of the largest and most valuable in the world. Sander was responsible for introducing many new varieties of orchids to Europe, leading to the evolution of the species as we know it today.
Despite becoming more accessible, orchids still have an air of mystery. This perception is largely due to their presence in literature. The Ghost Orchid, in particular, is exceedingly rare and beautiful. Named for its ethereal appearance, this species alone is the centerpiece of dozens of books.
Like tulips, the meaning of an orchid changes with its color. Some popular choices and their symbolism include:
- White orchids – a symbol of purity, innocence, and elegance. These are often associated with weddings and are a popular choice for bridal bouquets.
- Pink orchids – a symbol of love, grace, femininity, and joy. These are often given as gifts to express admiration, appreciation, or gratitude.
- Red orchids – a symbol of passion, desire, and strength. These are often associated with love, romance, and Valentine’s Day.
- Yellow orchids – a symbol of friendship, joy, and new beginnings. These are often given as gifts to celebrate a new job, home, or relationship.
- Green orchids – a symbol of health, nature, and longevity. They are often given as gifts to express wishes for good health and a long life.
Keep these meanings in mind when determining if an orchid is the right flower for you.
Tulip vs. Orchid Care
While symbolism and personal fit are a great way to choose your decor, you’ll also need to consider the care.
Both tulips and orchids look amazing in bouquets. However, orchids are easier to take care of and sustain indoors in a pot for continuous growth.
When in doubt — get both!