The Hibiscus Flower: It’s Meanings and Symbolism

The hibiscus flower is traditionally worn by Hawaiian women.

No movie or painting in a tropical land is complete without showing a girl with a flower in her hair. The flowers used are often hibiscus flowers. There are hundreds of species of hibiscus flowers but they all need to live in hot, humid lands like India, Hawaii, Haiti or Malaysia. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, but most sport five lobed petals around a stalked center.

What Does the Hibiscus Flower Mean?

Although specific meanings for the hibiscus differ depending on the culture of the beholder, there are some generalities about what the hibiscus symbolizes.

  • This is considered a very feminine flower and so is usually given or worn by women. In North America especially, a hibiscus means a perfect wife or woman.
  • In Victorian times, giving a hibiscus meant that the giver was acknowledging the receiver’s delicate beauty.
  • In China, hibiscuses symbolize the fleeting and beauty of fame or personal glory. It is given to both men and women.

Etymological Meaning of the Hibiscus Flower

The English word “hibiscus” comes almost directly from the Greek word “hibiskos.” The flowers received their name from Pedanius Dioscorides, author of one of the few complete manuscripts from Roman times, the five-volume De Materia Medica. Disocorides was not only a botanist, but also a doctor in the Roman army.

Symbolism of the Hibiscus Flower

  • The hibiscus is the unofficial national flower of Haiti.
  • A yellow species called the Hawaiian hibiscus (Hibiscus brackenridgei) became the Hawaiian official state flower in 1988, despite it not being native to Hawaii. This is Hawaii’s second official state flower. The first was the red hibiscus (Hibiscus kokio) which was native to Hawaii. Fame is fleeting.
  • Hibiscus flowers are delicate and very beautiful just as young women appear to be, so hibiscuses often symbolize young women.

Hibiscus Flower Facts

Hibiscuses are far more than just pretty hothouse flowers.

  • Hibiscus flowers grow on shrubs or trees that can reach 15 feet tall.
  • Hibiscus flowers are sometimes called rose mallows because they are members of the mallow plant family.
  • Trying to attract hummingbirds to your garden? Plant red hibiscus flowers.
  • Any color of hibiscus attracts butterflies and moths because the caterpillars of many species eat them.

Pink Hibiscus flower

Hibiscus Flower Color Meanings

Hibiscuses come in a floral rainbow of colors. Color meanings differ from culture to culture, but they do have some common associations. Some hibiscuses are a mixture of colors, but one color will predominate.

  • White stands for purity, beauty and the female.
  • Yellow is associated with happiness, sunshine and good luck.
  • Pink is not only the favorite color of many little girls. It also stands for friendship and all kinds of love, not just romantic love.
  • Purple is associated with mystery, knowledge and the higher classes.
  • Red is a symbol of love and passion.

Meaningful Botanical Characteristics of the Hibiscus Flower

Hibiscuses have been cherished not only for their beauty, but for their medicinal effects and their taste.

  • Hibiscus flowers often add flavor and color to many herbal teas.
  • Some species are not only edible, but contain vitamin C. However, never eat any plant that cannot be easily identified.
  • Hibiscus tea, tinctures, dried petals or flowers are traditionally thought to help everything from heart disease to the common cold. Unfortunately, there is little evidence for these claims.
  • WebMD reports that there hibiscus tea has been known to help reduce blood pressure.
  • Do not ingest any products with hibiscus tea when taking acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol.) These two drugs interact badly.
  • Pregnant and lactating women should avoid hibiscus teas, foods or other herbal preparations.

The Hibiscus Flower’s Message

Youth, fame and beauty are very much like hibiscus flowers, which have short lives. Although the flowers may die, they do grow back as long as their bush or tree is cared for. Enjoy beautiful moments while they last.

a macro photo of the stamen and carpel of a hibiscus plant
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 ** Note: Shallow depth of field

Beautiful vintage Hibiscus flower with morning light
Hibiscus rosa sinensis close up of red flower head
flowers, hibiscus, red, white, stamen, anthers, nature, garned
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