Hydrangea Flower Meaning, Spiritual Symbolism, Color Meaning & More

Hydrangea is the top of the list for many when asked to choose a favorite flower. With big blooms that can create an impressive display, it adds vibrancy and elegance to any garden. They’re a flower of contradictions, both showy and delicate.

As the hydrangea is able to elicit such deep emotions, it’s no wonder it has such a symbolic history. It symbolizes gratitude, love, and understanding.

But they can also be a symbol of vanity. When choosing hydrangea as a gift, be sure to pick a color with care. The wrong one can completely obscure your true meaning.

To learn more about the fascinating hydrangea, take a look at this guide. We’ve covered the complex symbolism of the flower, when to give this flower as a gift, and how to keep cut hydrangea looking good. With this guide, you can ensure your hydrangea gift is as heartfelt as you intend it to be. 

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What Does The Flower Mean?

When a garden comes alive with hydrangea, it’s truly an incredible sight. These large flowers create epic displays, dominating the scenery with pastel colors and wild leaves. Both beautiful and difficult to grow, it has become a flower with some complex meanings.

Overall, the hydrangea is a symbol of heartfelt emotion. This might be love, gratitude, or apology. Different colors of the flower convey unique meanings. But not all deep emotions are good. It is sometimes a symbol of vanity, and pride. 

Etymological Meaning Of The Flower

The term hydrangea comes from the Greek terms for water and vessel: hudro and angeion. This is because of the cup shape that forms the hydrangea seed capsule.

Another older name for hydrangea, still sometimes in France and Belgium, is Hortensia. They gave it in honor of the French astronomer and mathematician Nicole-Reine Hortense Lepaute. Hortensia is a Latinized version of the name Hortense.

Symbolism Of The Flower

The symbolism of the hydrangea is heartfelt, with these elaborate flowers often used to express a deep emotion.

The flower frequently symbolized sincerity and gratitude. A bouquet of cut hydrangea, or even a single flower head can convey these pure emotions.

This flower is also a symbol of grace and beauty. It may seem showy at first, but the delicate petals that make it up have a grace and elegance to them. 

With their long stems and large heads, even a single hydrangea can make a beautiful gift.

Hydrangeas can convey heartfelt emotions, and sincere expressions of love. This meaning is particularly common in Japan, where the pink hydrangea is one of the most romantic flowers. 

But the meaning for the flower isn’t all good. Victorian England, especially, seen it as a symbol of pride and vanity.

Because the hydrangea produces large flowers but few seeds, it associated with boastfulness. A man may have gifted a hydrangea to a woman he no longer had any interest in, or one who had rejected him.

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Flower Color Meanings

How we interpret the meaning of flowers is often closely linked to their colors. This is particularly true of the hydrangea! With meanings ranging from heartfelt love to vanity, you want to make sure you get the color right.

Pink hydrangeas are very beautiful, so it’s no wonder that they symbolize romance and deeply felt emotion. In Japan, pink hydrangeas are incredibly romantic gift.

Florist Tan Jun Yong described them as symbolizing “you are the beat of my heart”. The blushing pink petals reminded him of a beating heart, while the large size reflected the amount of love given.

Blue hydrangeas have a very different meaning. They symbolize remorse, gratitude, and apology. You can give blue hydrangea to someone when you’re offering an apology.

They can be a symbol of regret, and a sign that you’re trying to make things right. The heartfelt meaning of the flower echoed in this symbolism. 

Purple hydrangeas are offered as a symbol of gratitude and thanks. They’re symbolically close to the blue hydrangeas, but without the element of remorse. You can give it as a gift for someone you admire. They indicate an understanding.

Pretty and fresh, the green hydrangea is used to represent renewal and rebirth. They’re cheerful flowers, and symbolize well wishes. These are a great gift for someone who is making a change in their life.

Typically, white flowers are used to symbolize purity and innocence. This can be true of the hydrangeas, but white hydrangeas take on a slightly darker meaning. These flowers are associated with pride, and arrogance. The white hydrangea creates an opulent display, giving them this meaning of vanity.

As you can see, the color of the hydrangeas is of great importance. Be careful when putting together your arrangement.

Meaningful Botanical Characteristics Of The Flower

Some species of hydrangea come with mophead flowers, while others have lacecaps. Mopheads are large and showy, and look a little like cheerleaders pom-poms. Lacecaps are flatter, with subdued inner flowers surrounded by a showy outer ring.

It can take some work to keep your hydrangeas looking good. Regular pruning is necessary, or the plant has a tendency to grow upwards. The flower can become too heavy for the stem, causing the stem to bend and break.

Loving your blue or pink hydrangea? Try not to get too attached! Blue and pink hydrangeas can switch colors depending on the acidity level of the soil. To increase the acidity level, try adding coffee grounds or eggshells. With a higher acid level, pink flowers can turn blue.

Hydrangeas suck up a lot of water, so cut hydrangeas can wilt quickly. Place the stems in boiling water to help revive them, and keep the stems in water when you want your hydrangeas on show.

The Victorians associated the hydrangea with vanity because the flower had large and opulent flowers, but very few seeds. That can make collecting seeds to grow your own hydrangeas quite difficult. 

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Special Occasions For The Flowers

If you’re ever in need of a bouquet to make a heartfelt apology, consider using hydrangea. These flowers convey a depth of emotion, and blue and purple petals show your gratitude to the person. 

Hydrangeas are often given to people we respect and admire. Purple hydrangeas can symbolize understanding. If you know someone who is going through a rough time, purple hydrangeas are a lovely gesture. And green hydrangeas can celebrate renewal, and good cheer for the future.

Pink hydrangeas are romantic, and can be used as an anniversary gift. Or just a way to show someone you care! As an expression of deep emotion, pink hydrangea can be a way of declaring your feelings for someone.

It may have once been a gift from a scorned lover, but that meaning is pretty much abandoned now. If you want to give a romantic partner a hydrangea, they probably won’t see it as an insult. But to be on the safe side, make sure to look for pink arrangements!

When the hydrangeas come into season, it’s a time to celebrate. In several parts of Japan, celebrations are held to mark the blossoming of the hydrangea. Bright, bold, and beautiful, a gift of this flower is always something to enjoy.

Flower Cultural Significance

The hydrangeas are native to Asia, and is well-loved by the people of Japan. In Japan, the blue hydrangea has long been a symbol of apology. Other things distracted the emperor then he began to neglect the one he loved. In apology, he gave a gift of blue hydrangea.

Pink hydrangeas also have great significance in Japan. They’ve gained popularity as a symbol of heartfelt love.

Hydrangea macrophylla leaves are steamed and dried to create a tea known as ama-cha. Ama-cha is enjoyed as a sweet tea, but it’s most significant usage is during the celebration of Buddha’s birthday. In Japanese Buddhism, ama-cha is poured over a small statue of the Buddha, to symbolize washing the spirit clean.

But the cultural significance of the hydrangea wasn’t always good. Those in Victorian Britain saw it as a negative. If a woman rejected the advances of a man, he might give her a hydrangea. Rather than a lovely parting gift, this was meant to symbolize the woman was cold.

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Flower Facts

Although you can see hydrangeas across gardens of the world nowadays, it wasn’t always like this. The hydrangea didn’t make it into much of Europe until the 1700s. Peter Collison bought the American Hydrangea arborescens to England in 1736.

In 1775, Carl Peter Thunberg bought five hydrangeas from Japan. And in 1788, Sir Joseph Banks bought back the first Japanese hydrangea for London’s Kew Gardens.

Hydrangeas can grow in an impressive range of circumstances. Native to America and Asia, they prefer moist spots with partial shade.

There are over 75 species of hydrangeas, with most of the diversity found in eastern parts of Asia, such as China and Japan. Some species of hydrangeas are small shrubs, others are large trees, and some are even massive woody vines.

Fossil records of the extinct Hydrangea alaskana species have been found in Jaw Mountain, Alaska. Fossilized seeds of Hydrangea polonica have been found in Poland. 

Native Americans used hydrangeas at times for its diuretic effect.

The Hydrangea quercifolia is the state wildflower for Alabama.

Flower Uses

With their incredible flower patterning and large shape, the hydrangea is best used for ornamental purposes. In large yards, it can fill spaces with its glorious flower heads that bring color and joy. It can be difficult to grow, but it’s worth the effort for the wonderful blooms.

You can use it to make arrangements and bouquets, but be careful to keep the stem in water. Hydrangeas need a lot of moisture (because of all those flowers).

If cutting your own hydrangea, make sure to put the stems in water straight away. Due to their size, sometimes only a few hydrangea are needed to build an impressive bouquet. 

Dried hydrangeas are also very attractive. To dry it, place your cut stem in a vase with several inches of water. In time, they’ll slowly dry out, leaving a delicate and elegant display. Drying hydrangeas doesn’t always work, but they’ll still look pretty as they fade.

The leaves of the Hydrangea macrophylla var thunbergii are used to make a Japanese herbal tea known as ama-cha. Ama-cha is a sweet tea with no caffeine, most famously used in the Buddha’s Birthday celebration.

Hydrangea root and rhizome can be used as a diuretic, causing some to use it as the treatment for various urinary tract issues. However, it’s necessary to exercise caution when using. Hydrangeas can be toxic.

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What Is The Symbolism Of A Hydrangea Flower Tattoo?

If you plan on getting a hydrangea tattoo, then be sure to search for a skilled tattoo artist. The hydrangea is not a simple tattoo, with all the flowers needing an immense amount of detail to be rendered correctly. But done well, the hydrangea tattoo can be deeply meaningful.

Because of the connection to deep emotion, a hydrangea tattoo can indicate your connection to your feelings. A symbol of gratitude, a hydrangea tattoo can be done in honor of a person who is special in your life.  A pink hydrangea might be done to represent a person you love, while a purple hydrangea can act as a memorial.

Final Thoughts

The hydrangea may not always have the best of meanings, but it’s definitely a flower with plenty of impact. It’s easy to see why it has such a special place in Japanese culture, and why the Victorians gave it so much symbolism.

Today, the hydrangea can be used to convey a deep emotion. Those emotions may not always be good, but they are direct from the heart. A gift of hydrangea is a gift of sincerity.

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