The Hidden Symbolism Behind Plum Blossoms

Prunus mume (plum blossom) is a species of plum tree that produces stunning and fragrant flowers right at the end of the winter season. For this reason, they have deep roots worldwide, but especially in eastern Asia, as a symbol of hope and resilience. This guide will cover everything you need to know about Plum Blossom’s meaning and its cultural significance today. 

Plum Blossom Meaning in the Language of Flowers

Plum Blossom Symbolism – Key Takeaways

Associated with the end of winter, the Plum Blossom symbolizes hope, resilience, perseverance, courage, and beauty’s ability to survive through adversity. Additionally, plum blossom carries the meaning of prosperity, fruitfulness, beauty, purity, and good luck. In hanakotoba, plum blossom means elegance or loyalty.

About Plum Blossom (Prunus mume)

Family, Genus, and Taxonomy

Along with several other fruit trees, Prunus mume is a species that belongs to the Prunus sect. Armeniaca section of the Prunus subg. Prunus subgenus of the Prunus genus under the Rosaceae (rose) plant family.

Botanical Characteristics

Prunus mume is a deciduous, flowering, fruit-bearing tree that grows to be between 13 and 33 feet tall. From rounded buds, the trees produce copious five-petaled flowers along their branches, with single blossoms appearing on each individual stem. 

The blossoms are about one-third inch to one inch in diameter and feature rounded petals in shades of white, pink, red, and sometimes yellow. The blossoms emit a sweet, spicy, and rich fragrance.

Not long after the flowers are spent, and the petals fall, pointed and ovate leaves appear along the branches. The trees then produce plums during the summer.

What Regions Are Plum Blossoms Native?

Records of the plum blossom date back several thousand years. They’re believed to have originated near the Yangtze River in southern China before later being introduced to Japan, Vietnam, and Korea, where they now grow naturally.

History and Origins of Plum Blossom

Prunus mume has been cultivated for millennia in Asia. It was first introduced to the western world through Asian imports to Britain during the 19th century.

Popular Types of Plum Blossom

Since plum blossom has been cultivated for so long, it seems as if there are countless varieties, hybrids, and cultivars. In fact, there are more than 300 cultivars recorded in China alone. Some of the most popular include:

  • Prunus mume var. typica
  • Prunus mume var. pendula
  • Prunus mume var. tortuosa
  • Prunus mume var. bungo

Each of these cultivars blossoms in a variety of its own colors and flower forms.

Etymological Meaning

The plum blossom’s scientific name combines the Latin word for plum tree (prunus) with the obsolete Japanese word for plum (mume). In other languages, Prunus mume has different names:

  • Chinese – mei
  • Japanese – ume
  • Korean – Maesil
  • Vietnamese – mai

Common names include plum blossom, Chinese plum, Japanese Plum, Japanese apricot, flowering plum, and winter plum.

Common Plum Blossom Flower Colors and Their Symbolism

The Meaning and Symbolism of Plum Blossom

Plum blossoms represent good luck, prosperity, hope, courage, beauty, and purity in China. In Japanese traditions, they also symbolize hope in addition to renewal and vitality. In the West, they have similar symbolic meanings, including hope and perseverance, in addition to the ability of beauty to thrive through adversity.

Plum blossoms are most commonly found in shades of pink, red, and white, but they also bloom in yellow. Regarding floral symbolism, different cultures associate different symbolic meanings with these colors.

For plum blossoms, the pink and red varieties are most important in celebrations of the Chinese New Year since red is associated with good luck.

The Flower of January

In the Traditional Chinese Calendar, plum blossom is the flower of January. Each of its five petals represents wealth, happiness, success, peace, and longevity.

Plum Blossom in Feng Shui

In feng shui, plum blossoms represent prosperity and fruitfulness since plum trees bear fruit. Their five petals also represent balanced energy because they symbolize the five elements of nature. Plum blossoms are also closely associated with winter since they typically bloom during winter in Asia. As a result, they are commonly incorporated into homes as auspicious symbols during the winter to draw in positive energy of hope, resilience, and prosperity.

Plum Blossom (Ume) in Hanakotoba

Plum Blossom (Ume) in Hanakotoba

In hanakotoba, the Japanese language of flowers, plum blossoms are called “ume,” and they represent loyalty and elegance.

Plum Blossom in Floriography

While Prunus mume is not specifically referenced in the Victorian Language of Flowers, another variety of plum tree, Prunus americana (wild plum), is. In western floriography, wild plum represents independence.

The National Flower of the Republic of China

Plum blossom (méihuā) was named the official flower of the Republic of China in 1964.

Plum Blossom Festivals

The blooming of plum blossoms is an event – especially in Asia. When these trees bloom, they overtake landscapes, filling them with seas of white, pink, and red blossoms. As a result, many festivals, such as the Mito Plum Blossom Festival, are held in celebration of the plum blossoms and the coming end of winter that they represent.

Plum Blossoms in Art and Literature

Plum Blossoms in Art and Literature

Along with bamboo and pine, the plum blossoms are categorized as one of the “three friends of winter” in East Asian art. Perhaps the most famous Japanese poet of the Edo Period, Matsuo Bashō, incorporated plum blossoms into many of his famous haiku poems. One element of these poems is to incorporate a seasonal element, and plum blossoms signify winter and its end. Take, for example, the following haiku written by Bashō:

“With fragrant plum blossoms / the sun is peeking out / on this mountain trail.”

In addition to their appearance in poems and other literature, for centuries, they have also been a popular subject of visual art, especially paintings, of which there are countless examples.

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Plum Blossom

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Plum Blossom

Plum blossoms have so many positive symbolic meanings that they make suitable gifts for just about any positive or celebratory occasion. They are a great way to wish a friend, loved one, or colleague success and prosperity in a new endeavor or to deliver a message of hope and courage. Additionally, they can be used to recognize someone’s resilience and ability to persevere through adversity – just as the plum blossom survives to bloom during the cold of winter.

Plum Blossom FAQs:

What Do Plum Blossom Flowers Symbolize?

As some of the first flowers to bloom in late winter or early spring, plum blossoms are symbols of hope, perseverance, resilience, courage, and renewal around the world.

Is Plum Blossom Considered Lucky?

Plum blossoms, especially red and pink varieties, symbolize prosperity and good luck, making them lucky flowers.

Is Plum Blossom a Flower of Love?

No, plum blossoms and their symbolic meanings are not usually associated with love. Instead, they are considered a flower of hope and perseverance.

Does Plum Blossom Come Back Every Year?

The frequency with which plum trees bloom and bear fruit depends on the species. Some are perennial bearing. These species flower and produce fruit once every year. Others are biennial-bearing, which means they flower and produce fruit once every other year.

How Long Does Plum Blossom Last?

The blooming period of plum blossoms lasts for about a month.

Does Plum Blossom Flower More Than Once?

Plum trees bloom once per year between late winter and early spring.

Are Cherry Blossom and Plum Blossom the Same?

Cherry blossoms come from cherry trees, and plum blossoms come from plum trees. The flowers differ in other ways, too. For example, plum blossom petals and buds are rounder in shape, while cherry blossom petals and buds are more ovate. Additionally, only one plum blossom flower grows on each stem, while several cherry blossoms grow on each stem.

Plum Blossom Meaning – The Final Word

Plum blossoms are beautiful to behold and rich with a long history of symbolic meaning, tradition, and appreciation. Plus, once the blooms are spent, the trees bear deliciously sweet fruit that you can enjoy looking forward to every (or every other) year. What more reason do you need to plant a plum tree in your yard?


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