Delicate and with a paper flower type of appearance, Clarkia flowers are a joy to behold. They’re also relatively easy to grow in the garden if you’re in the right climate zone. Many Clarkia varieties have doubled petals for a more eye-catching appearance, but even the single-petaled types are attractive and colorful. The beauty of the Clarkia flower also goes beyond the surface. They’re a meaningful addition to a planted container, or bouquet meant to send a message to the gift recipient. In this guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know about Clarkia flower meaning, their uses, growing tips, and suitable gifting occasions.
- Clarkia Flowers – The Essentials:
- About Clarkia Flowers
- The Meaning & Symbolism of Clarkia
- Suitable Gifting Occasions for Clarkia Flowers:
- Uses and Benefits of Clarkia Flowers
- How to Grow Clarkia Flowers
- Caring for Clarkia Flowers
- Best Companion Plants for Clarkia Flowers
- Creative Uses for Clarkia Flowers
- Clarkia Flower FAQs:
- Wrapping Up
Clarkia Flowers – The Essentials:
|Native Range:||Western North America|
|Colors:||Various shades, including pink, purple, and white|
|Characteristics:||Delicate, cup-shaped flowers in clusters|
|Mature Height:||Varies depending on the species|
|Flowering Season:||Late spring to summer|
|Growing Zones:||Varies depending on the species|
|Sunlight:||Full sun to partial shade|
|Watering:||Moderate watering with well-draining soil|
|Soil:||Well-draining soil with average fertility|
|Fertilizing:||Fertilize in spring with a balanced slow-release fertilizer|
|Pruning:||Remove spent flowers and trim leggy stems|
|Symbolism:||Represents beauty, femininity, and grace|
About Clarkia Flowers
Clarkia is the name of an entire genus of closely related flowering plants. All of the flowers have four petals except for double-petaled varieties.
They’re all native to the Western United States and some parts of South America. Preferring warm climates, they’re still grown as annual plants in cooler climates.
Some varieties used to belong to the Godetia genus and are still referred to by that name. The majority of Clarkia are wildflowers, but some are hybridized and cultivated for both garden and florist use.
Some of the most popular types of Clarkia flowers include:
- Redspot Clarkia, a prominent California wildflower
- Doubled Mountain Garland, which forms multiple pom-pom-like flowers up tall stems
- Elegant Clarkia, a variety with thicker stems for a distinctive appearance in bouquets
- Winecup Fairyfans, a magenta type with a fanciful name.
Most Clarkia are relatively low-growing, staying around 12 to 16 inches tall at the most. Small leaves cluster closer to the ground so the flowering stems can show off.
Most varieties have a sweet smell, with the Clarkia breweri having the most pungent scent of all the members of the genus.
Pink and lavender colors are the most common for these blooms, ranging from salmon to magenta.
The Meaning & Symbolism of Clarkia
Other common names for popular Clarkia flowers include Mountain Garland and Farewell to Spring. The name Clarkia is a reference to William Clark of the Lewis & Clark expedition.
The common names indicate its tendency to grow on mountainsides and how it blooms between the end of spring and early summer.
Many people associate Clarkia flowers with beauty, grace, and fragility thanks to its bright colors and delicate appearance. It’s an excellent addition to a bouquet that you’re sending to someone you care about.
Darker and more intense shades of pink give the Clarkia flower a symbol of enthusiasm and charm. It’s often recommended as a way to signal you have emerging feelings or a mild crush on someone without coming on too strong with roses.
In the language of flowers, Clarkia also carries the following symbolic meanings:
Beauty and Elegance:
Clarkia flowers are admired for their delicate beauty and graceful appearance. They symbolize beauty, elegance, and refinement, making them a popular choice for garden landscapes and floral arrangements.
Femininity and Grace:
Clarkia flowers are often associated with femininity and grace. Their delicate petals and soft colors evoke a sense of femininity, and they are seen as a representation of the gentle and nurturing qualities often attributed to women.
Charm and Simplicity:
Clarkia flowers symbolize natural charm and simplicity. They possess an understated beauty that is appreciated for its unpretentious and effortless appeal.
Change and Transformation:
Clarkia flowers are sometimes associated with the concept of change and transformation. Their blossoming and fading process during their flowering season can be seen as a metaphor for the cycles of life and the need to embrace change.
Admiration and Appreciation:
Clarkia flowers are often given as a symbol of admiration and appreciation. They represent the admiration and gratitude one feels towards another person, expressing a sense of recognition and respect.
Suitable Gifting Occasions for Clarkia Flowers:
Clarkia flowers are suitable for various gifting occasions due to their beauty and symbolism. Here are some events where gifting Clarkia flowers would be particularly appropriate:
Clarkia flowers can be a wonderful birthday gift, particularly for someone who appreciates the beauty of nature. The flowers’ delicate appearance and vibrant colors can bring joy and celebration to the occasion.
Clarkia flowers can be a thoughtful gift to celebrate wedding anniversaries. They symbolize beauty, elegance, and grace, conveying love and appreciation for a lasting and meaningful relationship.
Clarkia flowers are suitable for honoring mothers and expressing gratitude for their love and nurturing. Their feminine symbolism and gentle beauty can be meaningful gesture to show appreciation on this special day.
Get Well Soon:
Sending Clarkia flowers to someone unwell or recovering from an illness can bring beauty and positivity to their surroundings. The flowers’ vibrant colors and symbolic meanings can help uplift their spirits and provide encouragement.
Clarkia flowers can be given as a gesture of gratitude and appreciation. Whether it’s expressing thanks to a friend, colleague, or loved one, the flowers’ beauty and symbolism can convey heartfelt gratitude and recognition.
Clarkia flowers can be given as a spontaneous gift to brighten someone’s day and bring a smile to their face. They can be a simple yet meaningful way to show someone you’re thinking of them and appreciate their presence in your life.
Uses and Benefits of Clarkia Flowers
The Clarkia plants themselves are not considered edible or medicinal, even though they’re also non-toxic and safe around kids and pets.
However, the seeds of many varieties were once gathered and used as a food source by the Miwok and other Native American groups from the California area. The seeds were ground and eaten in a way similar to oatmeal or in a sort of smoothie. It’s essential to identify the type of Clarkia you have and check that it’s edible before trying to make anything out of the seeds on your own.
Aside from historical use as a food source, Clarkia flowers attract many pollinators, especially single flowering types.
For more, see our in-depth guide to popular flowers that are toxic to cats, dogs, and other pets.
How to Grow Clarkia Flowers
These flowering plants are widely grown in USDA Zones 3 through 10, although they only tend to return year after year in Zones 6 and above. They’re most adapted to mild climates that don’t get too cold in the winter and stay under the 80s in the summer.
The plants prefer full sun in cooler areas and partial shade in warmer ones. Look for a spot with rich but well-draining soil since these plants don’t prefer wet roots.
Many varieties thrive in rocky and dry areas above coastlines or on the sides of foothills, so these flowers can work well for drier areas around your landscape.
Rocky and poor soil can work well if you mix in some organic material and supply enough water over the hottest part of the year. It does fine in flower beds but only some varieties do well in containers or planters.
Water only once a week and only when there’s a drought. You’ll need to keep the soil evenly damp if growing from seed, but transplants only need weekly watering for the first month or so and then will become more tolerant of dry soil.
Caring for Clarkia Flowers
Clarkia flowers bloom for a month or so at the end of spring and the beginning of summer. In most climates, pruning and deadheading won’t induce more flowering. However, climates with long mild summers may allow for a second early fall flowering if you do deadheading the flowers that appear in the spring. Use sharp scissors or pruning shears for the job.
Powdery mildew and root rot can be an issue for these plants if grown in a damp area, so trim them if necessary to increase air circulation inside the plant.
Aphids and spider mites are the primary pests that affect the plant, but both can be rinsed off daily with a spray attachment on a hose to limit their damage.
Save seeds from mature plants to help them return the following year, or rely on its self-seeding habit.
Best Companion Plants for Clarkia Flowers
One of its close relatives, this Primrose grows much taller and sports golden flowers with a similar shape. This makes them a great combination since the colorful blooms at the base will complement the spike of the Primrose.
Aquilegia flowers are native to many of the same regions as Clarkia, making them natural companions. The bold colors contrast against the paler shades of this flower, creating an eye-catching display in the garden.
Big orange cups of the California poppy rise above the Clarkia, creating a native wildflower grouping that is drought resistant regardless of where you plant it.
Creative Uses for Clarkia Flowers
Clarkia flowers are easily dried, but they do need careful arrangement during pressing to keep the delicate petals from being crushed. They’re durable enough to use for crafts like paper making, scrapbooking, and other forms of art.
When using these flowers in bouquets, consider the striking Elegant Clarkia variety. The tightly narrowing petals have a dramatic look that’s quite different from the other types.
Clarkia Flower FAQs:
How long do Clarkia Flowers bloom for?
Clarkia flowers tend to bloom over a 4 to 6-week period between spring and summer. Each flower can remain on the plant for a month or more before fading.
What is the ideal climate for growing Clarkia Flowers?
Native to the Western US, Clarkia, in general, prefer warmer winters and mild summers. Some varieties that grow as far north as British Columbia can handle cold winters.
Can Clarkia Flowers grow in containers or indoors?
These flowers prefer open ground or raised beds to containers; only a few species respond well to growing indoors.
How often should I water my Clarkia Flowers?
Water once weekly if there has been little to no water for the following two weeks. If there’s at least an inch of rain every two weeks, water’s unnecessary.
When is the best time of year to plant Clarkia Flowers?
Clarkia flowers need to be established early in the spring but after the risk of frost. They can be planted in the fall but will only survive to the next spring if the winters are mild.
How can I protect my Clarkia Flowers from pests and diseases?
Don’t apply too much fertilizer or water. These plants become weakened if they’re given too much of either.
How can I extend the lifespan of my Clarkia Flowers after they’ve been cut?
Make a sharp, angled cut and change the water daily.
Give Clarkia flowers a place of honor in your garden for a fleeting burst of beauty that bridges the spring and summer blooming periods. You’ll be pleased by their lovely pink colors and how long they last as a garden flower or after being cut.
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.