Tulip Meaning: Discover What Tulip Colors Symbolize
Ready to celebrate spring with this classic flower? Learn about the long history of tulips, what they've represented, and what the different colors of tulips mean.
With their unique shape and bright colors, tulips are some of the most recognizable flowers in any garden or bouquet. They’ve appeared in famous fairytales, like in Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina. Tulips have also been the obsession of the Netherlands in the mid-1600s, when tulip bulbs went for ridiculously high prices. But have you ever wondered if, like roses and other blooms, different colors of tulips mean different things? Learn more about tulip meaning and symbolism.
What Tulips Symbolize
If someone hands you a bouquet of tulips, it could be to celebrate your birthday — tulips are one of the birth flowers for the month of April — or maybe the bundle of spring blooms is to recognize a wedding anniversary. (Tulips sit alongside morning glories as the flower for 11th wedding anniversaries.) But if you were a woman living in France, England or the U.S. in the mid-1800s, there could be a secret message to decode amongst the petals.
During the Victorian era, several popular books were published about the language of flowers and what different colors and combinations meant. Tulips in general were said to represent fame and ideal love. Today, most people simply associate tulips with spring and the Netherlands but that’s not the tulip’s true origin.
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Tulips in History
Although neat, long rows of tulips with a windmill in the background may be what first comes to mind when you think of the flower, tulips aren’t native to Europe at all but originated in Central Asia where it grew in the valleys of a mountain range system called Tien Shan north of the Himalayas.
These wild tulips didn’t quite look like today’s tulips but they were hardy and could handle treacherously cold winters. Turkish invaders of the 9th century were heartened by the bright red color thriving in the harsh environment and tulips would go on to become an important symbol of the Ottoman Empire.
Tulips came to symbolize perfection and eternity, and were considered to be the flower of God. (The Turkish word for “tulip” is “lale,” which uses the same letters in Arabic as Allah.) After religious practices changed to allow realistic illustrations of living things in the 15th century, tulips began featuring in Ottoman illustrations of the Garden of Eden. Tulip embroidery was worn beneath armor for good luck, and tulips appeared in poetry, ceramics and more.
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In the late 16th century, tulips were introduced to the Netherlands. More colors than ever began to be cultivated.
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Red Tulip Meaning
Forget red roses—spring for red tulips instead if you want you to tell someone you love them. In the traditional language of flowers, red tulips mean “believe me” and are considered a declaration of love. There are many wonderful types of red tulips. A popular choice is ‘World’s Favorite,’ which has perfectly shaped blossoms of tomato red and subtly yellow-edged petals.
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Yellow Tulip Meaning
Want to compliment someone on their amazing smile? Give them a bouquet of yellow tulips, which means: “There is sunshine in your smile.” Try the appropriately named ‘Big Smile‘ for a tulip with a classic look that blooms in late spring. It’s hard not to grin when you see these lemon-yellow flowers.
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Cream Tulip Meaning
If you’re less interested in proclaiming your love for someone but instead want to make a promise, cream-colored tulips communicate: “I’ll love you forever.” Try the ‘Cream Jewel,’ which opens in a soft yellow but eventually changes over to a creamy white.
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White Tulip Meaning
The color white is often used to represent purity and innocence, which make white tulips the perfect addition to a bouquet that honors a rite of passage, like a bar mitzvah or baptism. The tulip ‘White Triumphator’ brings sophisticated elegance to your garden with pointed petals that subtly flare and arch.
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Pink Tulip Meaning
When you want to let someone know you’re thinking of them just because, consider pink tulips, which can symbolize friendliness, care and good wishes. Bring some good cheer to your own garden with ‘New Design,’ which blooms in mid-spring with bold pink petals.
Whether you want to send a message via a bouquet of tulips or simply want to incorporate some of these tulip meanings into your own backyard by planting bulbs, there’s a color and variety that’s the perfect match.
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