Hydrangea Meaning and Symbolism

pink blue and green hydrangea

Hydrangea Story & Origins

Throughout history the hydrangea has been especially significant in Japan, where many believe the flower originated. According to a Japanese legend, the hydrangea became associated with heartfelt emotion, gratitude for understanding, and apology after a Japanese emperor gave them to the family of the girl he loved to make up for neglecting her in favor of business and show how much he cared about her. Pink hydrangeas are especially associated with genuine emotion because their shape resembles a beating heart.

Hydrangea Meanings

  • The hydrangea has a wide range of meanings, from heartfelt emotion to gratitude to boastfulness. Each meaning stems from different cultural beliefs and stories.
  • Because of the Japanese legend above, hydrangeas are associated with an apology.
  • Victorians considered hydrangeas a negative plant and used it to represent boastfulness, bragging, or vanity.
  • Hydrangeas became associated with boastfulness and vanity because they produce magnificent flowers, but very few seeds. They were also given to people who turned down love interests as signs that they were cold or frigid.


Hydrangea Symbolism & Colors

Hydrangeas commonly come in shades of pink, blue, purple, and green. The hydrangea symbolism for each color is as follows:

  • Pink hydrangeas symbolize heartfelt emotion.
  • Blue hydrangeas symbolize frigidity and apology.
  • White hydrangeas symbolize boasting or bragging.
  • Purple hydrangeas symbolize a desire to deeply understand someone.

Hydrangea Cultural Significance

Hydrangeas have inspired many artists and writers alike. In her book Tar Baby, Toni Morrison praises the flower’s beauty saying, “A dead hydrangea is as intricate and lovely as one in bloom.”

Hydrangea Facts

  • The greatest diversity of hydrangea species exists in eastern Asia, which includes Japan, China, and Korea.
  • The color of hydrangeas, except for white hydrangeas, depends on the acidity of the soil. You can make pink hydrangeas turn blue by increasing the acidity of your soil. You can increase the acidity by adding coffee grounds, citrus peels, and crushed eggshells.
  • Hydrangea flowers bloom in a variety of different formations. The most popular are the mophead hydrangeas, whose flowers grow in big ball-shaped clusters. Lacecap hydrangeas, which grow well in shade, have clusters of tiny blooms accented by larger blooms. Panicle hydrangeas, which grow well in cold, have flowers that grow in cone-shaped clusters.
  • The name hydrangea comes from the Greek words hydros, meaning water, and angos, meaning jar, which is fitting because these plants require a lot of water. However, too much water can kill them. Signs of overwatering include wilting, yellowing leaves, leaves falling off, and stunted growth.
  • Hydrangeas are often given on 4th wedding anniversaries to symbolize appreciation and heartfelt emotion.


Hydrangea Uses

Though the leaves of hydrangeas are poisonous if ingested because they contain cyanogenic glycosides, which release hydrogen cyanide when chewed, the roots are used for medicinal purposes. Hydrangea root can be used as an antioxidant and is also used to treat kidney problems.

Because of their many meanings, hydrangeas are great for many different occasions including heartfelt moments, apologies, and thanks.









Image Sources

Middle image: top left CC Image courtesy of mrhayata on Flickr; top right CC Image courtesy of Noah on Flickr

Bottom image: top CC Image courtesy of Yoko Nekonomania on Flickr