Chrysanthemum Flower Meaning, Symbolism, and Folklore

In the language of flowers, the chrysanthemum carries the symbolic meaning of devoted love, loyalty, happiness, longevity, and joy. These flowers are native to Asia and northeastern Europe and have held significant cultural importance, especially in China and Japan, where they symbolize autumn, longevity, and rejuvenation. The chrysanthemum is also the official flower for November birthdays and has a variety of additional symbolic meanings in cultures around the world.

Colorful Chrysanthemum Flowers in bloom

Etymology

The word “chrysanthemum” comes from the Greek words “chrysos,” meaning gold, and “anthemon,” meaning flower. The term was likely used to describe the original golden-colored flowers of the chrysanthemum species. Over time, chrysanthemums have been bred in various colors, but the name has remained.

History and Origins

Mums have long been a favorite of botanists and were cultivated in China as early as the 15th century B.C. The original flowers that grow wild feature golden-colored blossoms, but by 1630, more than 500 cultivars had been identified and recorded.

Today, it’s estimated that more than 20,000 different chrysanthemum varieties exist, and each is beautiful in its own way.

The Victorian Langauge of Flowers 

Floriography became especially popular in Victorian England, where flowers were used to convey specific messages and emotions discreetly, but the practice of attributing meanings to flowers exists in many cultures.

Generally, chrysanthemums symbolize friendship, trust, joy, optimism, longevity, and fidelity. However, the symbolic meaning ascribed to chrysanthemums can differ depending on the color of the chrysanthemum, the type of bloom, and the local culture.

Color Meaning and Symbolism

The Victorians also relied heavily on the color-coded meanings of floral gifts. So, for example, to a Victorian, a red chrysanthemum might have represented feelings of romantic love for a friend. Yellow and white chrysanthemums respectively represented slighted love and truth.

White Chrysanthemums

White Chrysanthemum flowers in bloom

White chrysanthemums have many meanings. In some cultures, the flower is strictly reserved for sympathy and remembrance, as the color white often conveys condolences.

However, white chrysanthemums symbolize purity, innocence, spirituality, loyalty, and honesty. These additional symbolic meanings make them an appropriate addition to bouquets for various recipients and occasions.

Red Chrysanthemums

Red Chrysanthemum flowers in bloom

Red is the official color of Valentine’s Day for a reason. Generally, it symbolizes romantic love, strong feelings, and deep passion. So naturally, red chrysanthemums carry these same sentiments.

If you want to give a gift of flowers to the love of your life but have grown tired of roses, then choose a bouquet of red chrysanthemums or a mixed arrangement containing all kinds of red flowers.

Pink Chrysanthemums

Pink Chrysanthemum flowers

In Japan, pink chrysanthemums are especially loved because they symbolize the emperor and the Imperial family.

Pink chrysanthemums also represent longevity. Pink flowers generally carry feelings of gentle affection, attraction, and romance, making them a great choice for a first date or a new love.

Yellow Chrysanthemums

Yellow Chrysanthemum flowers

In Victorian floral traditions, yellow chrysanthemums represented sorrow and neglected love, contradicting their bright, cheerful hue.

However, in modern times, this isn’t really the case. In the United States especially, yellow flowers (including chrysanthemums) have gone the way of the yellow smiley face and are usually understood to symbolize happiness, joy, celebration, and high spirits.

They’re a good choice for a birthday celebration, a congratulatory bouquet, or for cheering up a recovering patient.

Violet Chrysanthemums

Violet Chrysanthemum flowers in bloom

Violet chrysanthemums convey get-well wishes to their recipient. They’re a great choice to include in a floral arrangement for a friend who’s ill or recovering from surgery.

Green Chrysanthemums

A green Chrysanthemum flower

Especially popular in their button variety, green chrysanthemums carry many positive meanings. They symbolize rebirth, renewal, good fortune, good health, and youthfulness.

Orange Chrysanthemums

Orange Chrysanthemum flowers in bloom

In the language of flowers, the color orange means what you might expect it to mean: brimming, bubbly feelings of excitement, enthusiasm, and passion.

Chrysanthemum Flowers in Ancient Greece 

Symbolic mum meanings not only vary based on their color, but their meanings can also vary between different cultural traditions. Depending on where you are, chrysanthemums might have either a negative or positive symbolic meaning.

In Greek culture, the meaning of chrysanthemum comes from the translation of the flower’s name, which is gold (chrysos) flower (anthemon).

European Culture 

In France, Belgium, Austria, Italy, and other European countries, chrysanthemums are viewed exclusively as a symbol of mourning, sympathy, and death. They’re only given as a token of sympathy or grief and reserved for memorial flowers, funeral wreaths, and cemetery decorations.

In Britain, however, the meaning of the chrysanthemum aligns more closely with the symbolism recognized in the United States: cheerfulness and joy, optimism, and longevity.

Japanese Culture 

In Japan, chrysanthemums also play a role in mourning. White mums are reserved for funerals and graves. Other chrysanthemums are viewed as symbols of perfection, longevity, and rejuvenation.

Japan even has a National Chrysanthemum Day on September 9th, also known as the Festival of Happiness. They also represent the Sun and comprise the Imperial Seal of Japan.

Chinese Culture 

In China, this beautiful flower symbolizes longevity, nobility, and good luck in the home. They can also symbolize reincarnation, rebirth, and new life.

Australian Culture 

As they’re commonly called mums, chrysanthemums are the official flower for celebrating Mother’s “Mum’s” Day in Australia.

Chrysanthemum Flowers and Astrology

Chrysanthemums are the Zodiac flower for Virgo, given their symbolism of well-being and friendship. Despite the Virgo zodiac sign’s tough reputation, they are fiercely loyal to those they hold dear.

Additionally, the chrysanthemum signifies the transition from summer to autumn. This flower’s blooming season coincides with the Virgo season, making it the ideal representative of this sign.

Chrysanthemum Tattoos

In addition to all these traditions, different chrysanthemums and their meanings have become popular in floral tattoo art. They’re often chosen as remembrance tattoos intended to honor someone who has passed away.

Chrysanthemum tattoos can also represent rebirth, chosen to commemorate an important time of transformation or a new beginning in one’s life.

Chrysanthemum tattoo meanings vary depending on the type of mum, the colors used, and, of course, each individual’s story.

Art and Literature

Chrysanthemums have been popular in art and literature, symbolizing various themes from beauty and life to death and rebirth. Here are some specific references in both domains:

One of the most famous references to chrysanthemums in art is by Claude Monet, the French Impressionist painter. Monet painted a series of chrysanthemum canvases in the 1890s, capturing the lush beauty and vibrant colors of the flowers in his garden in Giverny.

In Japanese art, chrysanthemums are a common motif in woodblock prints, often symbolizing autumn and the noble character. Artists like Katsushika Hokusai and Ando Hiroshige featured chrysanthemums in their works, which were part of the larger Ukiyo-e genre, celebrating the beauty of nature and the fleeting moments of life.

In Chinese art, chrysanthemums are one of the “Four Gentlemen” (alongside the plum blossom, orchid, and bamboo), representing nobility and integrity. They are a popular subject in traditional Chinese brush painting, symbolizing resilience and longevity because they bloom in autumn, a time when most other flowers have faded.

In Japanese literature, the novel “Kusamakura” (The Grass Pillow) by Natsume Soseki features chrysanthemums as a symbol of the beauty of nature.

In Western literature, chrysanthemums are notably featured in John Steinbeck’s short story “The Chrysanthemums.”

Chrysanthemums are frequently mentioned in ancient Chinese poetry. The Tang Dynasty poet Du Fu, for example, wrote several poems admiring chrysanthemums.

9 Occasions When Chrysanthemum Flowers Make the Perfect Gift

With so many varieties, you can find a chrysanthemum plant or a chrysanthemum floral arrangement appropriate for just about any occasion – whether somber or celebratory.

1. Birthdays (Especially in November)

In the same way that gemstones represent birth months, each month also has a representative flower. Chrysanthemums are the November birth flower. This makes them the perfect choice for congratulating new parents in November or for a birthday bouquet.

Even if your birthday celebrant wasn’t born in November, a gift of chrysanthemums symbolizing longevity and youthfulness is a wonderful choice for someone anyone who feels young at heart.

2. Anniversaries (Especially Number 13)

Chrysanthemums are the official flowers for the 13th Wedding Anniversary, and they make a thoughtful gift to mark this special milestone with your significant other.

In red, chrysanthemums symbolize deep love, which makes them an appropriate selection whether you’re celebrating one week or 50 years of love.

3. Memorials and Funerals

In certain places, chrysanthemums are the quintessential funeral flowers. For instance, in the United States, white chrysanthemums and other white flowers are considered the most appropriate for sending condolences.

To convey your deepest sympathy to those who have lost a loved one, give an elegant wreath or arrangement of white chrysanthemums.

4. Falling in Love

In spite of their maudlin reputation in some parts of the world, chrysanthemums generally represent happiness in the U.S.

What’s happier than experiencing new love? Show your beau or belle your feelings of attraction, romance, and excitement with a bouquet of pink and orange mums.

5. Autumn and Winter Weddings

Although you can find them year-round, chrysanthemums bloom naturally in the autumn and winter. This makes them a convenient, accessible, and affordable choice for weddings scheduled during the colder months of the year.

Your wedding flowers will not only be less expensive, but they will also be more beautiful since your mums will have freshly blossomed in all their splendor.

6. Host or Hostess Gift

When invited to a party, you should never arrive empty-handed. Chrysanthemums, whether in the form of a potted plant or a bouquet of cut flowers, are a great choice to bring to a party. They have a wide range of symbolic meanings and are generally cheerful.

7. Holiday Celebrations

Since chrysanthemums bloom in just about every color, you can combine them to create festive bouquets and floral accents for celebrating any holiday.

Imagine bouquets of spooky purples, oranges, greens, and yellows for Halloween; white and green for St. Patrick’s Day; red, white, and blue for Independence Day; creamy whites, reds, and maroons for Christmas; snowy white and bright red for New Year’s; autumn hues for Thanksgiving Day; and all sorts of pastels for springtime celebrations!

8. Get Well Gift

Mix up a bouquet of violet and yellow chrysanthemums for equal parts get well wishes and cheer.

9. Just Because

You can’t go wrong with chrysanthemums in various charming shapes, sizes, and textures. So, even when there’s nothing particularly special about the day, let your loved ones know that they’re unique to you by giving the gift of a mum bouquet to turn an ordinary day into an occasion.

Wrap Up

Whether celebrating a special occasion or the beauty of everyday life, you truly can’t go wrong with chrysanthemums. They’re the perfect flowers for decorating a home or office for the holiday season, and with all their special symbolic meanings, there’s an appropriate chrysanthemum for marking almost any occasion.

Whether you grow, arrange, press, or admire them, chrysanthemums will surely capture your heart, just as they’ve managed to capture the admiration of cultures around the world.

Editorial Director | andrew@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.

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