Greek Myths in Petals: Unraveling the Adonis Flower’s Significance

If you’re seeking a flower with lovely blooms, attractive foliage, and rich symbolism, the Adonis flower stands out. Members of the Adonis genus (often known as Pheasant’s eye flowers) offer beautiful color in the spring and summer landscape. In the language of flowers, these blooms symbolize beauty and are a way to offer condolences and share memories. Here’s everything you need to know about Adonis flower meaning and symbolism.

Adonis Flower Meaning: Unveiling Cultural Stories, Myths, and Symbolism

Adonis Flower Meaning & Symbolism


The genus Adonis is named for a tragic hero of Greek myth. The term stems from the Greek Adōnis, which translates into “beautiful young man.”

Many species names within the genus refer to bloom time, such as:

  • A. annua, which comes from the Latin annus or “year”
  • A. aestivalus, which comes from Latin for “of the summer”
  • A. vernalis, from the Latin vernus or “of spring”

Adonis Flower Meaning in Floriography 

During the Victorian era, upper-class society discouraged explicit displays of emotion. Instead of speaking openly about their feelings, Victorians adopted a tradition from the Ottoman Empire and used flowers to send coded messages.

Known as floriography, the language of flowers assigns meaning and symbolism to flowers, depending on the type, color, and even position of the blooms. 

For the Victorians, the Adonis flower was associated with beauty. A gift of Adonis flower was also used to send messages related to sorrowful remembrance, painful memories, and sad recollections.

Common Adonis Flower Colors and Their Symbolism

In floriography, flower color is imbued with meaning, too. Depending on the species, Adonis flowers bloom in several colors. These include:

  • Yellow adonis flower meaning is associated with several attributes, including sacredness, honoring the dead, beauty, abundance, and good luck.
  • Red adonis flower meaning is often associated with passion, love, affection, vigor, and power.
  • White adonis flower meaning is associated with innocence, purity, or mourning.

The Meaning of Adonis Flowers in Ancient Myths

Adonis flowers’ meaning stems back to ancient times. The flowers are named for the tragic story of Adonis. Aphrodite — the Greek goddess of love — was in love with the handsome mortal Adonis.

Adonis had an ego and believed he was invincible. But one night, Aphrodite dreamed that he was horribly injured by a wild boar while hunting. Though she tried to prevent him from going on the hunt the next day, Adonis brushed off her concerns.

Of course, Aphrodite’s dream came true, and a wild pig fatally gored Adonis. Where his blood fell to the ground, she caused flowers to grow.

Some say these flowers are anemones, but other legends name these blooms as Adonis flowers. A. annua, with its red flowers, is primarily associated with this mythology.

However, yellow Adonis flower meanings are also tied to the Greek myth of the beautiful hunter. Many of the annual species, such as A. vernalis, bloom very early in the spring, heralding the end of winter.

Adonis was the son of Myrrha, who was so beautiful that a jealous Aphrodite turned her into a tree. Myrrha hid away baby Adonis, but the goddess of the netherworld, Persephone and Aphrodite, both wanted the baby.

As a compromise, Adonis spent half the year in the underworld. When he was below, the world above was in winter. When he emerged, winter was over and spring’s renewal began. These myths tie Adonis, and his namesake flower, to the cycles of nature.

Suitable Occasions to Gift Adonis Flowers

Suitable Occasions to Gift Adonis Flowers

In the language of flowers, Adonis blossoms are tied to sorrow and remembrance. This makes them an appropriate gift for someone who is in mourning, for funeral flowers, to offer condolences, and to share memories of someone you care about.

However, in modern times, the yellow flowers are tied to feelings of cheer and happiness, making them an appropriate choice for birthdays, congratulations, and other happy occasions.

The connection to beauty and spring also makes the Adonis flower meaning a good choice for uplifting floral gifts, such as housewarmings or showers.

Uses and Benefits of Adonis Flowers

Plants in the Adonis genus are toxic to mammals and should not be ingested (for more, see our in-depth guide to popular flowers that are toxic to cats, dogs, and other pets). The plants have long been valued across Europe and Asia for their medicinal properties.

In traditional Chinese medicine, A. amurensis is used as a diuretic, tranquilizer, and sedative. The roots are used to treat some heart ailments.

In European folk medicines, A. vernalis is used to treat several conditions, such as water retention, edema, heart disease, low blood pressure, kidney disease, and arrhythmia. The compounds in the plant are similar to those found in digitalis and have diuretic and sedative effects. A. aestivalis is used for the same purposes, and also as a laxative and to treat kidney stones.

Scientific research supports the therapeutic potential of Adonis flowers. Studies show that these plants have antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and anti-angiogenic effects and impact the central nervous system.

About Adonis Flowers

About Adonis Flowers

Flowers in the Adonis genus are native to Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. The genus belongs to the Ranunculaceae or buttercup family. The genus contains about 30 species of annuals and perennials.

Annuals tend to bloom early in spring, before foliage appears, while perennials bloom later in summer. Most have yellow, red, or white flowers, five to 30 petals, and attractive, feathery foliage. Plants grow up to 2 feet tall.

Most Adonis flowers grow best in temperate zones. They prefer sites with full sun to partial shade, well-draining soil, and a slightly alkaline pH.

Adonis flowers have many common names, with overlap between species. For instance, A. aestivalis is called summer Adonis or pheasant’s eye, while A. amuernsis is known as pheasant’s eye, and A. annua is called autumn pheasant’s eye.

Growing and Caring for Adonis Flowers in Your Garden:

Growing and Caring for Adonis Flowers in Your Garden:

Adonis flowers (Adonis vernalis) are lovely early spring bloomers with bright yellow flowers. Here are my essential growing tips if you’re looking to plant in your garden at home: 

  • Planting: Adonis flowers prefer well-draining soil and thrive in full sun to partial shade. 
  • Ideal Soil: Prepare the soil by removing weeds and loosening the earth to improve drainage. Adonis flowers prefer alkaline to neutral soil pH.
  • Watering: While relatively drought-tolerant, young Adonis plants may need regular watering to establish their roots. Once established, I’ve found they can tolerate dry conditions just fine.
  • Mulching: I like applying a layer of organic mulch around the plants to help retain moisture, control weeds, and protect the shallow roots during extreme temperatures.
  • Fertilizing: I apply a light balanced fertilizer in early spring only.
  • Support: Some taller varieties of Adonis might need staking to support the stems and prevent bending or breaking.
  • Pruning: Adonis flowers are relatively low-maintenance and don’t require regular pruning. However, I typically deadhead spent blooms to encourage continuous blooming.
  • Overwinter Care: Adonis flowers are generally hardy and can withstand cold temperatures. However, in regions with severe winters, I’d recommend applying a layer of mulch over the plants to protect them during the coldest months.
  • Propagation: Adonis flowers can be propagated through division in early spring or by collecting and sowing seeds in the fall or early spring.

10 Fun Facts About Adonis Flowers:

Here are ten fun facts you might now know about Adonis flowers: 

  1. Adonis flowers are named after Adonis, a figure from ancient Greek mythology. According to the myth, Adonis was a handsome young man loved by the goddess Aphrodite. When he died prematurely, it is said that Aphrodite’s tears transformed into red anemones, which are sometimes associated with Adonis flowers.
  1. Adonis flowers are among the first to bloom in early spring, often appearing as soon as the snow melts in their native regions.
  1. Adonis vernalis is native to parts of Europe and Asia. It can be found in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey.
  1. Despite their wide geographical range, Adonis flowers are considered globally endangered due to habitat loss and overcollection from the wild.
  1. Adonis flowers produce striking yellow flowers with numerous petal-like sepals, giving them a vibrant appearance. The flowers are approximately 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) in diameter.
  1. Adonis vernalis is a toxic plant. It contains toxic compounds, such as adonidin and protoanemonin, which can cause skin irritation and digestive issues if ingested.
  1. Despite its toxicity, Adonis vernalis has been used in traditional medicine in some regions. It was believed to have properties that could help with heart and circulatory problems in controlled and diluted forms.
  1. Despite their toxicity, Adonis flowers attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, contributing to local ecosystems.
  1. Adonis vernalis prefers open meadows, grasslands, and woodland edges, often found in regions with calcareous (alkaline) soils.
  1. The striking beauty of Adonis flowers has inspired artists, writers, and poets throughout history. They are frequently mentioned in literature and have appeared in various artworks, symbolizing love, beauty, and fleeting youth.

Adonis Flower FAQs:

Is the Adonis Flower Poisonous? 

Adonis flowers are toxic to mammals. No part of the plant should be ingested.

Is the Adonis Flower an Annuals or Perennials? 

Plants in the Adonis genus are both annuals and perennials. Common types include A. aestivalis, an annual, and A. vernalis, a perennial.

How many different types of Adonis flowers are there? 

There are 20 to 30 species in the Adonis genus.

Where do Adonis flowers typically grow? 

Adonis flowers grow in sites with full sun to partial shade, and moist but well-drained soil. They prefer a slightly alkaline pH.

Do Adonis flowers attract certain types of wildlife? 

The flowers attract a number of beneficial pollinators, including beetles, bees and flies.

Are Adonis flowers suitable for cut flower arrangements? 

Adonis flowers make a lovely addition to cut flower arrangements. They can convey condolences and remembrance, congratulate, or offer uplifting sentiments.

What symbolic meanings are associated with Adonis flowers? 

In the language of flowers, Adonis flowers are associated with sad memories and painful recollections. But they’re also associated with beauty, and the yellow flowers are associated with cheer and happiness.

What are some companion plants that grow well with Adonis flowers? 

Choose plants that prefer moist, well-draining, alkaline soil and sun to partial shade. Consider clematis (Clematis armandii), Lenten rose (Hellebore) and coral bells (Huechera).

Adonis Flower Meaning – Wrapping Up

Adonis flowers bring a rich symbolism and meaning, associated with both the beauty and tragedy of the hero of their namesake myth. In the language of flowers, the Adonis flower symbolizes painful memories, but the cheerful colors send a more uplifting message. Today, the flowers are a good choice for condolences or to conjure fond memories.

See our in-depth guide to Burdock, Arbutus, and Agrimony flower meaning for more beautiful flowers with a rich history and symbolism.

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