Not to be confused with the Crepe Myrtle, the true Myrtle flower (Myrtus) is a charming genus of flowering plants rich in history and symbolism. Much of Myrtle’s symbolism is drawn from its years of medicinal and food use. However, it’s also an excellent landscaping plant and provides blooms, foliage, and berries for cut flower arrangements. In this guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know about myrtle flower meaning and symbolism, their history and origins, and their cultural significance around the world.
Myrtle Flower Meaning & Symbolism – Key Takeaways
With an enduring symbolic meaning of love and devotion, the Myrtle flower has religious connotations that have lasted for centuries. It’s also an essential part of Ancient Greek mythology and symbolism. Myrtle flowers are also widely used in marriage bouquets and floral arrangements today.
The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Myrtle Flowers
The name Myrtle remains relatively unchanged and is associated only with the plant for many centuries, all the way back to ancient Greece. The Greeks picked up the root for the word from ancient Semitic sources that shared the same root as myrrh, the tree resin used for ritual purification.
There is no connection to other plants sharing the name, such as Crepe Myrtle.
Common Myrtle Flower Colors and Their Meaning & Symbolism
Myrtle flowers are almost all white or cream-colored. In the language of flowers, Myrtle’s color profile symbolizes purity, hope, and rebirth.
It’s also fitting for their devotional and romantic meanings, which have persisted since Ancient Greece.
The Myrtle Flower and Queen Victoria
In the Victorian era, the “language of flowers” (also known as “floriography“) was a popular way to convey secret messages and sentiments without the use of words. Flowers, plants, and specific floral arrangements expressed feelings that society might have considered inappropriate or too forward to state openly.
The myrtle flower, in the Victorian language of flowers, symbolized love and affection. It was so closely associated with love and marital fidelity that brides would often include myrtle in their bouquets, and Queen Victoria herself had a sprig of myrtle in her wedding bouquet. This tradition has been carried on by other royal brides over the years.
Beyond its associations with weddings, myrtle was also thought to bring good luck and happiness to the home, making it a cherished plant in many Victorian gardens.
Myrtle Flower Meaning in Greek Mythology
The oldest meanings ascribed to the Myrtle plant come from Ancient Greece. The flower was considered sacred to Aphrodite, which gives it a potent layer of love symbolism.
Garlands of the foliage and blooms were also sacred to the goddess Demeter. This shared symbolism connected farming with romantic love through their common theme of devotion.
Even today, Myrtle is commonly used at weddings and anniversary parties alike to symbolize loyalty and commitment. This is true in multiple cultures, including Greek and Jewish traditions.
Myrtle Flower Meaning in Judaism
In Judaism, Myrtle is one of the four species of plants used to celebrate the festival of Sukkot. It’s a holiday commemorating the agricultural cycle that ancient Jewish field workers followed.
That means it’s not surprising that fragrant and attractive Myrtle branches are part of the symbolism of the event. Myrtle, in particular, plays such an important role because it is mentioned in Zechariah 1:8 in the Torah. It’s part of the story of a prophet of God who is described as standing in a grove of Myrtle trees.
The religious symbolism of this plant has expanded to include watchfulness, devotion to faith, and the endurance to withstand challenges. Other religious sources link Myrtle’s fragrance to the spreading of good works in the world, making the plant a symbol of purity and goodwill.
Ceremonial and Spiritual Uses of the Myrtle Flower
Myrtle is used in wedding bouquets throughout Europe. Various folklore explanations hint at a common symbolism of romance, devotion, and love.
Some modern spiritual movements use the Myrtle flower to symbolize purification and rebirth. Its fragrance is commonly used in women’s perfumes and even some unisex fragrances.
As a name for fictional characters, it’s found in works of literature from The Great Gatsby to Meet Mr. Mulliner by P. G. Wodehouse.
Suitable Gifting Occasions for Myrtle Flowers
Myrtle is most commonly used for wedding decorations and bouquets because of its strong association with romance and love. However, it’s also suitable for anniversary gifts and other flower arrangements for romantic and devotional occasions.
Thanks to the white color of the flowers offering a subtle meaning of purity and rebirth, it can also be an excellent floral gift for someone starting something new.
About Myrtle Plants
Myrtle – Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
Myrtle is the common name for the entire genus of Myrtus. Only three species are included in the genus today:
- Myrtus communis, the common Myrtle, most people are familiar with
- The Myrtus nivellei, or the Saharan myrtle
- Myrtus phyllireaefolia, is the least common species.
The Myrtus genus is part of the larger Myrtaceae family. This family includes other valuable food and spice plants like cloves, allspice, guava, and eucalyptus. It’s no wonder Myrtle has a long history of use and symbolism when it’s part of this plant family.
Botanical Characteristics, Colors, Fragrances
Myrtle shrubs can stay just a few feet tall or stretch to 15 feet and more. They’re all evergreen plants that produce at least minor flowers and white or blue-colored berries.
The foliage is also fragrant and filled with valuable essential oils. Myrtle flowers are almost always white, with some cultivars offering cream-colored blooms instead.
Popular Myrtle Types, Species, and Cultivars
Common Myrtle is the only type regularly grown in gardens or used for cut flowers. It’s generally grown unimproved because it’s a hardy and attractive plant.
However, some interesting varieties are sold for hedging in particular or their unique flower types. Popular cultivars of Myrtle include:
- ‘Boetica’, which carries a benign infection that leads to twisted stem growth
- ‘Compacta Variegata’, a compact type with variegated foliage covered in yellow and white splashes
- ‘Buxifolia’, a small growing hedge variety with extra small leaves for a fine look.
What Regions are Myrtle Native to?
Myrtle is primarily native to the Mediterranean region, so it has a long history of use in Greece. Common Myrtle also grows in western Asia and across India.
It’s commonly grown across Southern Europe since it is well-adapted to dry soils and temperate conditions. Other varieties, such as the Saharan Myrtle, are found only in certain parts of Africa.
When is Myrtle in Season?
The exact blooming window for Myrtle depends on the cultivar and where it is planted. However, most varieties begin blooming by June or July. They rely on heat to trigger vigorous flowering. Most types continue producing new flowers until September or October.
Uses and Benefits of Myrtle
Myrtle is one of the rare flowering shrubs that also has edible uses. The fragrant leaves are easily used to season meat and soups like bay leaves. Essential oils for flavoring are also distilled from the leaves and berries.
The ripe berries are edible but not sweet and are generally dried and ground instead. Myrtle bark is high in salicylic acid-like willow bark, making it a potential pain-killer.
Finally, the small white flowers have a strong fragrance that attracts bees and other pollinators.
How to Care for Myrtle Flowers at Home
Since Myrtles are softwood cuttings taken from shrubs rather than soft stem clippings, they tend to hold up well for a few days. They must still be put in water immediately upon cutting to stay colorful and firm.
Picking Myrtle flowers when at least half of the blooms are still budding will also help extend its life in the vase.
Myrtle Flowers FAQs:
What does a myrtle flower symbolize?
In the language of flowers, Myrtle’s white and cream-colored petals hold the symbolic meaning of purity, hope, and rebirth. It’s also fitting for their devotional and romantic meanings, which have persisted since Ancient Greece.
What is Myrtle good for?
The fragrant leaves of Myrtle are frequently used to season meat and soups. Essential oils for flavoring are also distilled from the leaves and berries.
Where do myrtle flowers grow?
The Myrtle flower is primarily native to the Mediterranean region, which is why it has a long history of use in Greece. Common Myrtle also grows in western Asia and across India.
What does Myrtle smell like?
The Myrtle flower has a slightly peppery fragrance, similar to bay leaves in many ways.
Is Myrtle easy to grow?
Myrtle flowers are generally considered easy to grow. These flowering plants do best in rich, well-draining soil, planted in beds or containers with some protection from the wind in a location that receives full to partial sunlight throughout the majority of the day.
Myrtle Flower Meaning – Wrapping Up
Myrtle only grows in certain climates and soil types, but it’s a great addition to any yard or garden. Homeowners enjoying the blooms can also sample the berries or season with the leaves to make the most of the plant. Of course, a sprig of blooming Myrtle flower is rich in meaning and symbolism and a great way to show your love to someone as well.
Petal Republic’s Flower Guides:
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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.