Baby’s breath, or gypsophila, is a delicate flower with various references and uses across history and culture. It can represent innocent love, new beginnings, and happiness, among other meanings. This guide will explore the meaning and symbolism attributed to the baby’s breath flower. Continue reading to discover this plant’s significance, appropriate gifting occasions, and more.
The Symbolism and Meaning of Baby’s Breath Flowers – The Essentials
Baby’s breath flowers are often associated with young love and new beginnings. The plant can also be a symbol of purity and innocence. So, baby’s breath flowers make a fitting addition to wedding bouquets. Florists commonly pair it with roses in gift arrangements for romantic and celebratory occasions.
About Baby’s Breath Flowers
Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
The baby’s breath plant is part of the Caryophyllaceae family and the Gypsophila genus. This genus has around 150 species. The most common species is Gypsophila paniculata, also known as common gypsophila or bride’s bouquet.
Baby’s Breath Botanical Characteristics
Common baby’s breath plants are herbaceous perennials, so they can come back year after year. The plant has a thin, branching stem and small, oval-shaped leaves, and it can grow up to four feet tall and wide.
History and Origins of Baby’s Breath Flowers
Interestingly, the name baby’s breath first emerged in the dictionary around 1885. However, the history of the plant and its name is fairly mysterious. It is unclear exactly how the amusing nickname baby’s breath first originated.
Over the years, this plant quickly became a popular addition to bouquets and floral arrangements. It’s one example of a timeless flower that has maintained its popularity in floristry throughout its history.
Popular Types, Species, and Cultivars
There are many different varieties of baby’s breath to choose from. Two of the most popular options are:
- Gypsophila paniculata: This is the most common type of baby’s breath. It has white or pink flowers and can grow to be four feet tall. One cultivar, ‘Rosenschleier,’ has earned the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
- Gypsophila elegans: This variety, known as showy baby’s breath, has tiny, white flowers and is native to Europe and Asia.
The scientific name for the baby’s breath genus, gypsophila, comes from the Greek words gypsos, meaning gypsum. This refers to the plant’s preference for chalky soils rich in gypsum. The ending stems from phileo, which means to love.
While it’s unclear how the nickname baby’s breath originated, some think it came about to highlight the plant’s small, delicate flowers.
Where Is the Baby’s Breath Plant Native?
Baby’s breath is native to many regions, including Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. However, its most well-known native area is on the steppe in central Asia and eastern and central Europe. Turkey has one of the highest populations of gypsophila, with around 35 known species growing wild there.
Now, since this plant is so popular, growers have cultivated it in many parts of the world. In fact, baby’s breath is now considered invasive in some parts of North America. It grows invasively in California, Washington, the Great Lakes, and Manitoba, Canada.
Additionally, the Gypsophila paniculata species plays a major role in the floristry industry of Peru. The plant makes up a significant percentage of Peruvian flower exports.
When Are Baby’s Breath in Season?
Gypsophila plants typically bloom at the end of spring or early summer. In the Northern Hemisphere, baby’s breath plants typically bloom from June to August.
Usually, these plants will bloom for around one month to six weeks. Sometimes, baby’s breath will bloom more than once during its growing season.
Uses and Benefits of Baby’s Breath Flowers
Researchers have studied baby’s breath and similar species for their many uses across cultures. Unfortunately, you can’t use baby’s breath in food, drinks, or home remedies, as the plant contains elements considered mildly toxic.
In humans, this plant’s sap can cause skin irritation. Dogs, cats, and horses that eat baby’s breath may experience minor stomach issues.
On the plus side, baby’s breath flowers are popular with butterflies, bees, and other beneficial critters. This plant’s generous blooming season makes it a great choice for attracting more pollinators into your garden.
The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Baby’s Breath
Common Baby’s Breath Flower Colors and Their Meanings
Pink baby’s breath flowers often express love, appreciation, and admiration. They can also represent femininity and elegance. Like commonly held white flower meanings, white baby’s breath flowers are associated with purity, innocence, and young love.
Additionally, the white variety of this plant is easy to dye almost any color. Many flower shops offer shades including red, purple, orange, and yellow. So, you can choose any color of baby’s breath to reflect your mood, a friend’s favorite color, or a specific occasion.
Do Baby’s Breath Flowers Appear in Myths and Folklore?
Baby’s breath flowers don’t appear in many known myths or folktales. However, many cultures enjoy the flower for ceremonies and rituals.
Of course, it’s a popular choice for weddings all over the world. It’s also a common filler flower in traditional bouquets for special occasions and a fitting decoration for baby showers.
Baby’s Breath Cultural Significance
Many cultures around the world have found interesting ways to use the different baby’s breath species. For example, Gypsophila oldhamiana is used in parts of China to treat various conditions. These include lung disease, fever, typhoid, and jaundice. Additionally, some people in Iran use Gypsophila paniculata as an ingredient for washing their clothes and hair.
Historical References to Baby’s Breath
Throughout their history, baby’s breath flowers have made their mark in the world of floristry. In the Victorian era, baby’s breath symbolized innocence and purity. Some say it was a part of the Victorian language of flowers and represented true love.
Additionally, this plant was a well-known favorite at the time as people enjoyed its delicate, lacy appearance. Growers also liked gypsophila because white flowers were in style in gardens and cut flower arrangements.
Baby’s Breath Religious and Spiritual Meanings
Baby’s breath is not traditionally associated with any specific religion or spirituality. However, it often appears in Christian marriage ceremonies to symbolize purity and innocence. Additionally, florists sometimes add gypsophila plants to funeral arrangements as an accent flower.
Baby’s Breath References in Art
Since baby’s breath is such a common filler flower for bouquets, the plant has made its way into many still-life paintings. For example, Claude Monet created a painting called Flowers in a Pot, or Roses and Baby’s Breath. The work features a golden vessel holding pink roses and an abundance of gypsophila flowers.
A similar example is a painting called Carnations and Baby’s Breath in a Green Pitcher by French artist Odilon Redon. This piece depicts a pitcher filled with bright red carnations and delicate sprigs of gypsophila. If you browse through enough paintings of flower arrangements, you’re sure to spot other instances of this accent flower.
Suitable Gifting Occasions for Baby’s Breath Flowers
Baby’s breath is a popular choice for wedding bouquets. It is also common in other traditional floral pieces, like boutonnieres, corsages, and wedding decor.
This flower can work well in a bouquet on its own or as an accent to more vibrant flowers like roses and tulips. It’s very versatile, so you can include it in any arrangement to add some texture and depth.
Baby’s Breath Flower FAQs:
What does a baby’s breath flower symbolize?
The baby’s breath flower symbolizes innocence, love, and purity. However, the meaning of the flower can vary depending on the context.
Are baby’s breath flowers lucky?
Baby’s breath isn’t known as a lucky flower. However, you may consider the plant a symbol of good luck given its associations with weddings, romance, and love.
Does baby’s breath come back every year?
Yes, the most common baby’s breath species, Gypsophila paniculata, is perennial. So, it will grow back every year. However, some gypsophila species are annuals, meaning they’ll only bloom for one growing season.
How long do baby’s breath flowers last?
Fresh-cut baby’s breath flowers will usually last for about a week in a vase. They also work well as dried flowers for longer-lasting decoration.
Does baby’s breath flower more than once?
Yes, baby’s breath plants can flower more than once with proper care. After their first blooming period, cut the stems back to encourage your gypsophila plants to flower again.
Baby’s breath flowers are dainty yet versatile, perfect for various gifting occasions. And now that you know the plant’s many meanings, you can decide if it’s the right choice for your needs. Whether on its own or in a mixed arrangement, baby’s breath adds a delicate touch to any decorative bouquet.
Brandy Wells is an American copywriter and content writer living in Spain. From hiking in her hometown near the Smoky Mountains to digging in the dirt in rural Oregon, she has always put a love of nature at the heart of her endeavors. These days, you’ll catch her writing content, and of course, taking breaks to tend to her growing houseplant collection.