Iris Meaning and Symbolism in the Language of Flowers

The iris flower is a popular gifting bloom highly valued for its unique structure and stunning colors. Perfect for brightening indoor and outdoor areas, iris flowers also have an exciting story to tell, with unique meanings and symbolism attached to these sought-after blooms. Join me as I explore the rich history, cultural origins, and symbolic sentiments associated with the lovely iris flower.

A purple iris flower in bloom

Iris Flowers in Greek Mythology:

In Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of the rainbow and a messenger for the gods, serving as a link between heaven and humanity.

The flower was named after her because of its many colors. Irises were planted on graves to summon the goddess to guide the souls of the deceased to their afterlife journey, symbolizing a connection between the earth and the heavens.

Ancient Egypt:

The iris symbolized power and majesty in ancient Egypt, often associated with the divine. It was believed to represent the essence of life and was used in the burial rites of pharaohs. The three petals of the iris were also thought to symbolize faith, wisdom, and valor.

Medieval Europe:

During the medieval period, the iris maintained its symbolic potency, particularly in France, where it became known as the fleur-de-lis. This emblem, resembling the iris, was adopted by French royalty to symbolize sovereignty, purity, and light. The fleur-de-lis has since been associated with the French monarchy and is a symbol of the nation’s heritage and identity.

The iris flower was included on royal banners as the fleur-de-lis, a well-known symbol of French royalty. King Clovis I, the first Frank King, adopted the iris flower as an emblem in the early 500s when he converted to Christianity.

In 1147, King Louis VII also used the purple iris for his image. During the French Revolution, the revolutionaries destroyed Fleurs-de-lis as a symbol of the monarchy.

In England, Edward III used three fleurs-de-lis in his coat of arms in 1376. A famous painting of Elizabeth I of England also presents the queen in a gown embroidered with iris flowers.

Orris roots, the iris root of some species, were also used in medicine, perfumery, and alcohol production in regions across Europe.


In Christian symbolism, the iris sometimes represents the Virgin Mary due to its three petals that could symbolize the Holy Trinity. The flower was also seen as a symbol of divine messages, echoing the role of Iris as a messenger in Greek mythology.

February Birth Month Flowers

The iris is one of the birth month flowers associated with February, making it a birth month flower for those born in this month, alongside the violet. The iris, with its striking appearance and rich symbolism, is a fitting flower for February, often considered a bridge between winter and spring in many parts of the world.

In the language of flowers, the iris symbolizes wisdom, hope, trust, and valor. Its association with February can be seen as reflective of the anticipation of spring and the renewal it brings. The iris’s vibrant blooms offer a splash of color in late winter, heralding the coming of warmer days and the awakening of nature.

Iris Flowers in Victorian Flower Language

In floriography, the language of flowers that became especially popular during the Victorian era, the iris carries many meanings, primarily influenced by its appearance and historical symbolism.

This form of communication used flowers to convey messages that could not be spoken aloud in Victorian society, and the iris, with its striking beauty and range of colors, was a favorite for its varied meanings.

The iris generally symbolizes eloquence, wisdom, and compliments.

The iris’s three petals can also bear symbolic meaning, sometimes interpreted to represent faith, valor, and wisdom, echoing its historical symbolism in ancient cultures. The flower’s unique shape and striking colors allow it to stand out in floral arrangements, making it a profound messenger in the silent yet expressive language of floriography.

Given its historical associations with the Greek goddess Iris, the messenger of the gods, the flower also carries connotations of communication, messages, and the link between heaven and earth. This makes the iris a deeply meaningful choice in floriography, capable of conveying a broad spectrum of sentiments and messages.

Iris Flower Colors and Their Meanings

The flower name “iris” originates from a Greek word that translates to “rainbow,” which is only fitting considering the many iris flower colors available. It also refers to the Ancient Greek goddess of the rainbow and the messenger of the Olympian gods, Iris.

Blue Iris Meaning and Symbolism

A blue iris flower in bloom

Not many flowers are accessible in their true blue colors, but irises are one of the few that naturally and profusely produce blue hues. Because of this trait, blue iris flowers are the most used color in iris bouquets.

Blue irises are a known symbol of faith and hope. In some countries, particularly in Europe, they signify royalty. Thinking about surprising your wife with an iris flower arrangement? Then, make sure to include blue irises to make her feel like a queen.

In ancient Egypt, blue iris flowers signify power. In Japan, they denote heroism, as the blue color refers to blue blood.

Purple Iris Meaning and Symbolism

Purple iris flowers in bloom

Another famed iris flower color is purple. A purple or violet iris often signifies wisdom and compliment, but because of the close resemblance of purple to blue, it also symbolizes royalty.

A bouquet of purple irises suits almost any celebration, but it is commonly gifted for birthday celebrations. As they are the February birth flower, this month is especially fitting. Send purple flowers to someone celebrating a birthday and make their birthday even more special.

Purple iris flowers are considered the 25th wedding anniversary flower. So if you (or you know someone) are celebrating 25 years of a beautiful marriage, these alluring blooms are the perfect flower for that special event.

Yellow Iris Meaning and Symbolism

A single yellow flowering iris

While other yellow flowers, like carnations, have a negative meaning, yellow irises positively symbolize passion. These flowers are your safest bet if you want to send flowers as a gift to your colleagues, co-workers, or employer as an appreciation of your work and workplace.

Yellow iris flowers also symbolize pride and hope, which make them the go-to flower for someone celebrating achievements or for graduations.

The bright yellow hues will surely lift up anyone’s mood, which makes yellow irises the perfect flower to send your friends and families your wishes for a fast recovery.

White Iris Meaning and Symbolism

A white iris flower in bloom

White iris flowers are ideal for bridal bouquets not only because they are elegant-looking but also because these blooms signify purity or a pure heart, just like most white flower meanings.

A bouquet of elegant white irises also suits a sympathy message or well wishes. Send white irises to someone who just lost a loved one or wish friends and families a speedy recovery.

State Flower of Tennessee

The state flower of Tennessee is the iris (Iris germanica), specifically the purple iris. Tennessee designated the iris as its state flower in 1933, though the legislation did not specify a particular color.

However, the purple iris is often associated with the state due to its commonality and the general popularity of the color. The iris was chosen for its abundance throughout the state and its symbolic meanings, which include wisdom, hope, and valor.

The choice reflects Tennessee’s natural beauty and the values held dear by its residents. The iris blooms in the spring, adding vibrant colors to the Tennessee landscape and symbolizing the state’s natural beauty and heritage.

Fleur-de-lis is also New Orleans’ Emblem.

The fleur-de-lis is a widely recognized emblem of New Orleans, Louisiana. This iconic symbol resembles a stylized iris flower and holds deep historical and cultural significance for the city.

Its origins can be traced back to French heraldry, where it was used to signify French royalty and nobility. The fleur-de-lis became associated with New Orleans due to the city’s strong French heritage, dating back to its founding in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville for the French Mississippi Company.

The emblem is deeply ingrained in the identity of New Orleans, symbolizing its rich history, cultural diversity, and resilience. It is prominently featured in the city’s architecture, decor, and official insignia.

Wrapping Up

With its captivating beauty, the iris flower holds a special place in the language of flowers. Renowned for its association with the Greek goddess Iris, the flower’s name, derived from the Greek word for ‘rainbow,’ reflects its vast range of colors, each carrying its own specific symbolism—from wisdom and valor represented by the purple iris to hope and faith signified by the blue hues. In the Victorian language of flowers, the iris conveyed messages of eloquence and deep sentiment, allowing for nuanced expressions of personal emotions.

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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