Everything You Need to Know About the History, Origins, and Cultural Significance of Pink Flowers

Pink is a sweet and soulful color. We associate it with blushes, weddings, summer wine. And, of course, with flowers. From the wild rose to the full-bodied peony, pink lends an affectionate hue. This is a broad-sweeping affection, mind you. In the language of flowers, pink denotes everything from congratulations and gratitude for friendship to long-held romantic attachment. Many don’t know the history is far deeper than that, however. Pink flowers, and the color pink in general, go back a long way. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about the history and evolution of pink flower meaning and symbolism and the cultural significance around the world today. 


The Meaning & Symbolism of Pink Flowers

Pink flowers have long carried the symbolic meaning of affection and love. Unlike red, which means purely romantic ardor, pink ranges from friendship to marital attachment to gratitude. The color pink was originally a nongendered hue. Today, it works equally well for sending flowers to men, women, and anyone else.


The Color Pink

The Color Pink

In the color spectrum, pink wasn’t officially classified as a color name until the 1700s. It was originally assigned to a species of flowering plants known scientifically as Dianthus plumarius. Through art, culture, science, and literature, the significance and cultural identification of the color pink has continued to evolve over the past 300 years. 

Pink Takes Center Stage for the First Time

Unlike red and purple, colors with extremely long symbolic histories, pink wasn’t really “a thing” until the Rococo Period. In the late 17th century, artists started using brighter colors, and pink came into fashion.

This is especially true thanks to the efforts of Madame de Pompadour. Her renowned love of pink in clothing and dishes made it popular across France and Europe. However, it was predominantly a color of luxury at this time, not femininity.

Pink’s Masculine Origins in the 1800s

As Art & Object describes, pink didn’t earn its feminine associations until the mid-19th century. Before that, it was a genderless color (like yellow today), or even masculine.

Masculine, you say? In fact, yes. Red has historically played a masculine role in color language. This is probably owing to associations with warfare and celestial objects such as Mars. Pink, as a lighter shade of red, got lumped into the same category.

Believe it or not, pink was often recommended to boys in department store catalogs up to mid-century. As blue was a symbol of virginity and femininity at the time, they certainly couldn’t recommend that to boys. 

Pink and LGBTQIA+

The color pink is a prominent cultural symbol in LGBTQIA+ communities around the world today. This stems from the atrocities of Nazi concentration camps, where a pink triangle was used to designate the sexual preferences of prisoners being held. 

When this fact came to light decades after World War II, gay activists seized on it. They transformed the color from one of shame to one of pride. Today, it is sported in homage to LGBTQIA+ people of today as well as those Europeans who were so cruelly treated back then.

Pink in Eastern Culture

Eastern culture is a different story, however. In India, pink is a popular men’s color. It is sometimes used for wedding outfits and the ritual wedding turban, called a safa.

In Japan, pink is a masculine color. It is associated with slain samurai. Interestingly, and quite the opposite, other sources quote pink flowers as meaning good health in Japan.

In China, pink flowers mean good fortune, and in Thailand, they mean trust.


About Pink Flowers

About Pink Flowers

So, what about pink flowers in particular? This wide-sweeping subset of the floral kingdom has much to say on the subject of love.

It also has many ways to say it. There are hundreds of thousands of flowering plants. In fact, angiosperms (the technical name for flowering plants) make up almost 95 percent of the plant kingdom!

In total, that’s about 390,900 plants. Of these, roughly 369,400 create flowers. And of those, it’s very hard to say what percentage of plants have pink flowers.

For one thing, color is often a matter of opinion. We just don’t all see or perceive colors in the same way. For another, it is very difficult to catalog all flowering plants in one place, especially as thousands new ones are discovered every year.

What we can say with authority is that there exist tens of thousands of pink flower species. Bloom color is dictated by DNA, which is in turn dictated by natural selection. When the flowers performed well over evolutionary time, those traits get saved.

Most likely, pink is an evolutionarily successful color because it attracts pollinators. Plus, humans like to look at pink, so we cultivate it.

Interestingly, pink rarely appears in nature. There are relatively small numbers of pink animals, plants, and minerals. The exception is flowers, of which there are many examples.


The Cultural Significance of Pink Flowers to the Ancients

The Cultural Significance of Pink Flowers to the Ancients

The ancients certainly knew of the color pink. The Greek Homer uses the phrase “rosy-fingered dawn” almost two dozen times in The Odyssey, for instance. Roman authors such as Lucretius also relied on it, such as in the latter’s poem On the Nature of Things. There is a word for pink in most ancient languages.

It is said that Mary shed a single tear as she watched Jesus carry his cross up the hill to his death. Where the tear landed, a single pink rose bloomed.

The myth of Rhodanthe tells of a goddess transformed into a pink rose. There are different versions of the myth, in which:

  • She rejects Apollo’s advances, and so he turns her into a flower
  • She takes refuge from unwanted suitors in Diana’s temple, who turns her into a flower out of jealousy over her beauty
  • Apollo turns her into a flower to protect Diana’s feelings about her lesser attractiveness

In any case, from this we can gather that even goddesses are subject to the whim of the famously vengeful Greek and Roman pantheon!

Pink Flowers in Victorian Times

The Victorians invented floriography or the language of flowers. This enabled flower colors and types to express feelings better left unsaid or unwritten.

In this language, each flower takes on a meaning of its own. Color is the same way. Pink was used to express virtue, innocence, playfulness, devotion, and love. Depending on the flower chosen, the sentiment became even more nuanced. For example:

  • Pink roses and sweet peas meant gratitude
  • Pink peonies mean prosperity
  • Pink carnations mean loyalty and devotion

What Do Pink Flowers Mean Spiritually?

What Do Pink Flowers Mean Spiritually

Pink carries strong associations in some religious belief systems. For instance, it represents:

  • The heart chakra in several Buddhist traditions
  • The color of joy in Catholicism, which it’s used to mark the halfway points of both Advent and Lent
  • A powerful ingredient in pagan and Wiccan love spells

Pink Flowers in Art and Literature

In the famous book Little Women, beloved throughout the world, Amy March uses pink and blue ribbons to differentiate her older sister Meg’s twins from one another. More generally in literature, pink is used to symbolize purity. The Nathaniel Hawthorne short story, Young Goodman Brown, uses a pink headband to invoke the innocence of one of its characters.

In some languages, romance novels are called “pink novels.”


The Meaning & Symbolism of Pink Flowers Today

The Meaning & Symbolism of Pink Flowers Today

While pink flowers traditionally speak of love, they do not signify the burning romantic love of red blooms. Instead, they represent a much wider spectrum of tender feelings. According to some sources, they run the whole gamut of love types. That means:

  • Friendship
  • More mature romantic love
  • Relationships between family members

Pink can also mean playfulness, spontaneity, and thoughtfulness. Though these are not love itself, they often stem from relationships in which love is present.

Other traditional meanings of pink include innocence and sensitivity. Perhaps this is due to the association with youth and blushes, perhaps just because pink is easy on the eyes.


The Most Suitable Gifting Occasions & Uses of Pink Flowers

The Most Suitable Gifting Occasions & Uses of Pink Flowers

Pink flowers are suitable for any number of occasions. These include:

  • Mother’s Day
  • Baby showers
  • Bridal showers
  • Weddings
  • Birthdays
  • Engagement parties
  • Anniversaries
  • Dances
  • Housewarming gifts
  • Thank you and appreciation gifts
  • Apologies
  • Condolences
  • Congratulations

You can convey any of these through a floral bouquet or a potted flowering plant. However, it’s important to note that potted plants and typically less formal and less romantic. If you’re trying to send a big message, always go for the arrangement.


10 of the Most Popular Types of Pink Flowers

Although there exist so many thousands of pink flowers, a few rise to the top. These include:

Roses

Of all flowers, the rose is one of the most symbolic in existence. Many flowers have meanings, and many colors have meanings, but it is a rare flower that has meaning on both levels. Roses are associated with romance and pink with a raft of meanings. But pink roses specifically mean gratitude, grace, joy, and admiration.

Peonies

Full, bursting peony blossoms are the traditional flower for the 12th wedding anniversary. They symbolize luck, prosperity, honor, and happy marriage. Pink, the color of affection, only deepens their meaning of long-held romantic attachment.

Ranunculus

In the Victorian language of flowers, ranunculus was the perfect way to announce a crush. Their gift conveyed to the recipient that the giver was wholly taken in. Much like peonies in appearance, ranunculus has a flatter, more elliptical bloom.

Cosmos

Cosmos spread freely wherever they are sown, with cheerful delicate flowers that nod in the breeze. Pink cosmos are especially popular. Due to its balanced shape, the cosmo represents harmony, wholeness, peace, and order.

Hibiscus

Hibiscus is famous for its role in tea and Hawaiian imagery. The large, bell-shaped, lobe-petaled flower is most popular in red or dark pink. Perhaps owing to its striking bloom, hibiscus can mean glory, wealth, fame, and power, as well as simple admiration.

Alliums

The large, ball-shaped allium flower is a universally cheerful symbol. Waving atop its two-foot stalk and stemming from green clumps of foliage, it could hail straight from a Dr. Seuss book. The flower symbolizes patience, humility, prosperity, and good fortune.

Camellias

Camellias are another flower with so many meanings that pink has its own. The camellia flower in general symbolizes love and affection. Pink, however, specifically indicates feelings for someone who is missed by the giver. They make an equally good flower for going-away presents and for apologies.

Carnation

Famous flower of prom corsages, the carnation has much more to offer. Its ruffled petals and many layers invoke frothy dresses and special occasions of all types. Its colors invoke a range of meanings, but pink is mainly gratitude.

Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums have a clumping flower formation and fluffy blooms covering the top of the bush. Their cheerful blooms are popular with pollinators. Pink chrysanthemums symbolize longevity on top of the standard pink meanings of affection and love.

Dahlias

With their hemisphere shape and wild bloom variety, dahlias are the queen of fall. In pink, they mean kindness, grace, service, and femininity. They work well for numerous gifting occasions throughout the year. 


Pink Flower Meaning and You

If you’re looking to cheer up your home or someone else’s, you can’t go wrong with pink blooms. They’re ideal for romantic love and platonic. They brighten up every space, in all seasons. Remember, the great thing about pink is it works for everyone! If you need to send a gift, no matter the reason, think pink.


Pink Flower Meaning & Symbolism FAQ: 

Pink flowers carry a variety of symbolic meanings in spirituality around the world including the heart chakra in several Buddhist traditions. In Catholicism, the color pink represents the halfway points of both Advent and Lent. Pink was also a powerful ingredient in pagan and Wiccan love spells.

Pink flowers traditionally carry the symbolic meaning of innocence and young love in relationships and are often shared during the early courtship.

Pink is typically associated today with kindness, love, and femininity.

Pink flowers are produced by 1000s of species of flowering plants across the world.

Flower color symbolism has origins in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome and was formalized during Victorian times who invented floriography or the language of flowers. In this language, each flower takes on a meaning of its own. Color is the same way. Pink for instance was used to express virtue, innocence, playfulness, devotion, and love. Depending on the flower chosen, the sentiment became even more nuanced.


Editorial Director | Full Bio | + posts

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.

Author

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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