If you’ve ever read the Bible, you’ve likely noticed a few references to Hyssop. Scholars aren’t quite sure the exact plant the book refers to. But many other ancient cultures have used Hyssopus officinalis as both a physical and symbolic purgative and purification tool. It remains a strong symbol of restoration and even devotion to this day thanks to its Biblical associations. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about Hyssop flower meaning and symbolism, their history and origins, uses and benefits, and the best gifting occasions today.
- Hyssop Flower Meaning & Symbolism – the Essentials
- About Hyssop
- Uses and Benefits of Hyssop Flowers
- Hyssop Meaning & Symbolism
- The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Hyssop Flowers
- Suitable Gifting Occasions for Hyssop
- How to Care for Fresh Cut Hyssop Flowers at Home
- Hyssop Flower FAQ:
- Petal Republic’s Flower and Plant guides:
Hyssop Flower Meaning & Symbolism – the Essentials
Hyssop is one of the most popular Biblical plants. It was mentioned as a cleansing treatment for lepers, part of David’s redemption before God, and played a role in Passover. Thanks to medicinal uses in other parts of the world, it has a widespread association with cleansing. In the language of flowers, hyssop flower meaning is traditionally symbolic of humility, repentance, health, and sacrifice.
Hyssop – Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
Hyssopus officinalis is the proper name of the Hyssop plant, and this shrub herb is part of the Lamiaceae family that includes most mints. The Hyssopus genus includes a handful of related herbs that share similar botanical characteristics with the main species. Other plants commonly called hyssop, such as Agastache foeniculum or anise hyssop, aren’t in the same genus but do share the mint family.
Botanical Characteristics, Colors, Fragrances
Hyssop is shrubby and semi-woody, meaning it forms stiff stems to support the small blue flowers and fine foliage. Some varieties grow up to 3 to 4 feet tall in the right conditions. The colors of the blossoms range from blue to pink and purple, with rare cultivars offering white flowers. Hyssop has a medicinal, astringent smell to both the flowers and foliage.
Popular Hyssop Flower Types, Species, and Cultivars
Of the true Hyssopus varieties, H. officinalis is the most commonly grown in gardens. Some of its most popular cultivars include:
- Rock Hyssop, or Hyssopnus officianlis s. arisatus, which offers a lower growth habit and more spreading
- White Hyssop, or Hyssopus officinalis f. albus, with rare white blossoms densely set on a tall spike
- Blue Hyssop, or Hyssopus officinalis ssp. aristadus, a cultivar with bright blue blossoms and good drought resistance.
The name Hyssop has been translated through various forms of ancient languages almost unchanged since ancient Hebrew. From ‘ezobh to hyssopos and ysope, the name has changed relatively little through the centuries. It continues to be associated with plants used for ritual purification even as the precise species referenced changed.
What Regions are Hyssop Flowers Native to?
The Hyssopus genus is entirely native to Southern Europe and Western Asia, which is why it featured prominently in Biblical and Egyptian symbolism. It’s been spread around the world for centuries, which has lead to widespread naturalization in North America, most of Europe, and much of Asia.
When are Hyssop Flowers in Season?
True Hyssop plants bloom first in the height of summer and keep blossoming until fall. Some varieties start a little earlier in late spring, but they don’t generally put on strong growth and start budding until the hottest part of the year in any particular location.
Uses and Benefits of Hyssop Flowers
Part of Hyssop’s strong association with purification comes from its use in herbal medicine and as a food ingredient. It has an astringent, slightly bitter taste that can be a good addition to meat and salads. The bright colors of hyssop flowers make them a good edible decoration for ice cubes, cakes, and more.
The hyssop flower has also traditionally been used in Chinese Medicine, European herbalism, and Ayurvedic medicine as a cold and flu treatment. This may be due to the marrubium content, an essential oil that has been shown to act as an expectorant.
The plant is also highly attractive to bees and other pollinators due to its unique fragrance.
Hyssop Meaning & Symbolism
Hyssop can occur in a few different colors, and the specific color of the bloom plays a large role in its meaning:
White Hyssop Flower Meaning:
White hyssop flowers are typically less common. They are symbolic of innocence, purity and cleanliness, and also repentence.
Blue Hyssop Flower Meaning:
Blue hyssop flowers are linked to the meaning of peace, inspiration, familial or platonic love, and support
Pink Hyssop Flower Meaning:
Pink hyssop flowers are connected to joy, youth, celebrations of fun events, and trust in someone else.
Purple Hyssop Flower Meaning:
Purple hyssop flowers convey a sense of regalness, elegance, royalty, and devoted love.
The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Hyssop Flowers
Hyssop’s greatest cultural and symbolic use comes from the Bible and dates back to Hebrew references before it.
The two main mentions of the plant occur in Leviticus and Psalms. In Leviticus, the Bible outlines rules on physical and spiritual requirements for people who come in contact with lepers. Those that are found not to shown signs of the illness must still be cleansed in a special ceremony that involves hyssop.
This indicates how ancient people saw the plant as a potent symbol of cleansing and renewal. In Psalms, King David asks God to cleanse him by calling out “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean.” Since he’s speaking metaphorically to ask for spiritual cleansing from God, it’s clear that the plant already had a long history of use for that purpose.
It’s also the plant used to apply the blood of the Passover lamb to the doors of the faithful in Egypt during the time of the plagues. Its symbolism as a hope for a fresh beginning continues to remain its primary meaning today.
Hyssop Flowers in Art and Literature:
Shakespeare also included it a few times as a symbol of purity and virtue. In Othello, the character Iago discusses the struggle to remain virtuous and uses metaphors about sowing certain plants and removing others. Hyssop is listed as one of the plants commonly cultivated rather than removed. This meaning is symbolic rather than literal because it symbolizes purity, chasteness, and self-control.
Hyssop Flowers in Ancient Egypt:
In Ancient Egypt, it was commonly consumed with other foods by priests to purify everything they consumed. This indicates how widespread ancient belief was in its purifying and protective powers.
The high content of antiseptic essential oils in its flowers and leaves may be the reason why it gained such a stable reputation across so many different kingdoms and empires.
Suitable Gifting Occasions for Hyssop
Hyssop is most commonly gifted in planted or dried form, but some florists manage to work it into cut flower bouquets as well. Potted hyssop is a great gift for someone who is religious and is starting a new chapter in their life.
Dried hyssop can be used for tea or in a bath, making it ideal for someone who needs to relax. Try a hyssop bouquet for sending a message of care and support for someone experiencing a loss.
How to Care for Fresh Cut Hyssop Flowers at Home
Hyssop is a generally long-lasting cut flower as long as the water is changed daily. Keep the blooms out of the sun and add a few drops of lemon juice to the vase water for the longest color from them.
Whether you prefer to use it as a seasoning for a meal or for its many layers of symbolism, Hyssop is a great plant to add to your life. Consider planting a container of it near your door or using it as part of a floral arrangement for peace and purification.
Hyssop Flower FAQ:
Are hyssop flowers edible?
Whilst hyssop flowers have a slightly bitter taste that can be eaten are a good addition to salads and garnishes. The bright colors of hyssop flowers also make them a good edible decoration for ice cubes, cakes, and more.
What is the herb hyssop good for?
The hyssop flower has also traditionally been used in Chinese Medicine, European herbalism, and also Ayurvedic medicine as a cold and flu treatment. This may be due to the marrubium content, an essential oil that has been shown to act as an expectorant.
What does hyssop symbolize?
In the language of flowers, hyssop flower meaning is traditionally symbolic of humility, repentance, health, and sacrifice. The different colors of the flowering plant also hold their own intrinsic meaning and symbolism.
What is hyssop used for in the Bible?
The two main mentions of the hyssop plant in the Bible occur in Leviticus and Psalms. In Leviticus, the Bible outlines rules on physical and spiritual requirements for people who come in contact with lepers. Those that are found not to shown signs of the illness must still be cleansed in a special ceremony that involves hyssop.
Where do hyssop plants grow?
Hyssop plants typically grow best in USDA hardiness zones three through 10. They’re perfect for dry climates as the plants resist drought well and thrive in full sun exposures.
Petal Republic’s Flower and Plant guides:
Looking for a particular stem or in need of some inspiration on the best blooms for a certain occasion? Check out Petal Republic’s expert flower guides to Roses, Larkspur, Lemon Balm, Hyssop, Jasmine, Bouvardia, Southernwood, Acanthus, Ranunculus, Lilies, Marjoram, Irises, Borage, Clovers, Freesia, Anemone, Begonia, Orchids, Allium, Carnations, Coreopsis, Gerbera Daisies, Gladiolus, and Peonies.
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.