The Symbolic Vine: A Comprehensive Guide to Clematis Flower Meanings

Clematis is among the most popular flowering vines, second only in spread to the Morning Glory. As a potent symbol of joy and beauty, Clematis has a powerful set of meanings that can make it a great way to communicate through the classic language of flowers.

Clematis Flower Meaning and Symbolism

Clematis Symbolism – Key Takeaways

In the language of flowers, Clematis carries the symbolic meaning of joy for travelers, wisdom, and mental prowess. Yet the Victorians also considered the Clematis flower a symbol of poverty, while the Japanese felt it represented moral beauty. The Clematis is also affectionately known as the ‘Queen of the Vines’. 

Etymological Meaning

Clematis is the Latin name for these flowers and the common one. The name is derived from the Latin for climbing vine, which is the most distinctive feature for most plants sharing this name.

Clematis Flower Meaning & Symbolism

Deep purple blooms of the clematis plant

Known as the Queen of the Vines, Clematis is one of the most widely grown flowering vines. But aside from being beautiful, what does it means as a symbol?

Common Clematis Flower Colors and Their Meanings

After centuries of careful crossbreeding, Clematis are available in various colors. The most common colors for this flower and their specific meanings include:

  • Pink Clematis: Happiness, gentleness, joy, platonic love, and hope.
  • White Clematis: Purity, healing, recovery from grief, humility, and innocence.
  • Purple Clematis: Success, admiration, wealth, loyalty, elegance, and power.
  • Red Clematis: Love, romance, passion, devotion, courage, and good health.
  • Blue Clematis: Developing love, patience, reliability, tradition, and celebration.

The Cultural Significance of Clematis Flowers

Pink flowering clematis plants

Although the clematis doesn’t play a prominent role in any particular religious or mythological stories, it is still full of symbolic meaning. Most of these meanings are taken from the folklore developed in countries where these vining flowers are native.

The Traveler’s Joy

From Europe to Asia, Clematis widely means “a traveler’s joy”. This mostly comes from the fact that someone walking in the height of summer down rural roads and paths will pass plenty of large blooms of this vigorous growing vine. 

Throughout Europe and Japan in particular, Clematis is used in bouquets to wish travelers well on their journey and used to symbolize people who enjoy traveling and roaming about.

Association with the Devil

Like many other vigorously growing vines, Clematis is also associated with the devil in some parts of Europe and North America. One variety of Clematis that is native to the East Coast of the US is even called the Devil’s Darning Needle for its pointed buds and seed pods. 

Most of these other associations come from the vine’s habit of choking out other plants if its growth is not kept contained. However, most varieties popular for garden growth are easily controlled or not that vigorous.

Old Man’s Beard

White clematis flowers in bloom with deep green foliage in the background

Some cultures refer to many varieties of Clematis as Old Man’s Beard due to the fluffy, wispy seed pods that can form on some species of vines. When a vine completely covering a fence or structure is full of seed pods, it can look like a giant beard waving in the wind. This gives the flower another meaning of wisdom, age, and maturity.

Clematis in the Victorian Flower Language

During the Victorian era, the cultivation of the Clematis spread rapidly across Europe, and it became a popular flower. However, it developed a complex meaning in the Flower Language of the time.

The Victorians appreciated how it could climb and sprawl even in difficult circumstances, so they assigned Clematis with the meaning of cleverness and mental acuity. It was a common gift to symbolize that you appreciated someone’s wit.

Yet it also took on the meaning of poverty, perhaps because so many fine thinkers of that era were far from rich.

Clematis in Japanese Culture

Japanese gardeners have been breeding and cultivating Clematis for centuries, so it’s no wonder they are part of the Hanakotoba or Japanese Language of Flowers. In the practice of ikebana and similar arranging practices, Clematis offers the meaning of “moral and correct beauty.” As with Victorian society, it’s also associated with quick-witted individuals.

Suitable Gifting Occasions

A vase filled with clematis flowers sits on windowsill overlooking greenery and a garden

With Clematis symbolizing luck during travel, mental acuity, and joy, they’re great for people leaving home or starting new careers. A graduate or newly hired employee can be cheered on with a bouquet featuring these bold and colorful blooms.

Wrap Up

These beautiful vining flowers belong in the garden of anyone who wants to appreciate their symbolism of joy, travel, and quick wit.

Editorial Director | | 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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