The Meaning and Symbolism of Iris

October 24, 2021 | Interesting facts

Irises are one of the most spectacular flowers in gardens throughout the world. Their beauty is elevated even more by the meanings people have attached to these beautiful blooms. The symbolism of Irises is different in different cultures, which makes them especially interesting and appealing. Although they are not often the focus of a flower arrangement, they hold a great and complex meaning.

What Does Iris Mean?

Botanically, Iris is a genus of about 300 species in the family of Iridaceae, native to the Northern Hemisphere.

Irises are well-known flowers and one of the most rewarding and easy-to-grow plants. They are popular because of their beautifully shaped and multi-colored blooms. They come in different shapes, colors and sizes, and can be found in a variety of temperate zones around the world, growing both naturally and in personal gardens.

Irises are divided into three main types due to their flower shapes:

Bearded Irises

Bearded Irises have “beard” of fine hairs along the centre of the falls, a specialised part of the flower that serves as a landing place for pollinating insects. Home gardeners value them because they are easy to grow, and there is an abundance of varieties that fall into this group.

Beardless Irises

In contrast to bearded Irises, beardless Irises are much more variable and have smooth, hairless falls and narrower petals.

Crested Irises

Crested Irises have a small raised area called a crest instead of beards. They tolerate shade and provide interesting foliage and beautiful flowers.

Interesting History and Symbolism Behind the Iris Flower

Its history is rich, dating back to Ancient Greek times when the Greek Goddess Iris, who personified the rainbow, acted as the messenger between the gods and the earth. She delivered news to the mortals from the gods using the rainbow as her stairway. The flower was named after her because of its different color varieties. Irises come in a rainbow of colors, from blue, purple, white and yellow, to pink, orange, brown, red and black.
Since the role of the Goddess Iris extended to heaven and she was also a communicator, there was a tradition in Greece that purple Irises were planted on women’s graves, so that she could lead them to the heaven.

The Egyptians, influenced by Greek mythology, used these flowers to enhance their connection to heaven. They were used decoratively in Egyptian palaces and temples. For the Egyptians, the Iris flower was primarily a symbol of rebirth, the renewal of life and the promise of everlasting life.

During the middle ages, France began to use Iris flower to symbolize royalty and power. The most famous royal use was that of the Bourbon Kings of France, who adapted the Iris bloom on royal banners as the “fleur-de-lis”.
Today, the Iris is the national flower of France and represents freedom, pureness, brightness and solemnity.

This flower is also the national flower of Croatia. Its Croatian name, “perunika”, was inspired by Slavic mythology and the mystique of the Balkan region. It was believed that the Slavic God Perun, the god of thunder and lightning, and the most powerful god in Slavic pantheon, protected and shielded these flowers. People believed that Irises would sprout wherever a lighting struck the ground.

The history of Irises in North America is thought to begin with early European settlers, who brought Irises to Virginia as early as the 1600s.
The most popular variety of Iris in the United States is the German Bearded Iris (Iris germanica). The Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is the largest public Iris garden in the United States, with more than 10.000 Irises of around 3.000 varieties.

Irises have inspired many artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Renoir, Durer, Cézanne, Gauguin, Claude Monet, van Gogh etc.
One of the earliest known artworks of an Iris is a fresco painting located in King Minos palace on the Greek Island of Crete. Van Gogh’s “Irises”, painted in 1889, is one of the most notable works on Irises.

Different Colors of Irises and Their Meaning

Iris is a mystical flower associated with the power of attraction and positive energy. Irises commonly symbolize wisdom, power, passion, faith, hope and purity, but some colors have special meanings.

  • Purple Irises are linked to royalty and wisdom.
  • Yellow Irises are believed to symbolize passion.
  • Blue Irises symbolize faith and hope, but they also symbolize blue blood or noble blood.
  • White Irises symbolize purity.

Beautiful yellow iris flowers in the rays of the dawn sun.