The beauty of flowers has captivated cultures worldwide, resulting in rich horticultural and symbolic traditions. These flower-related practices and celebrations are prominent in Japanese culture through Japan’s own “language of flowers,” flower festivals, and more. In this guide, you’ll find a collection of the most popular types of Japanese flowers, including their meaning and symbolism, flowering seasons, and the best locations to see them.
The Japanese Language of Flowers
Hanakotoba, meaning “the language of flowers,” is a Japanese tradition that assigns special, symbolic meanings to particular flowers. By using the tradition of hanakotoba, certain feelings can be directly communicated to a recipient without the need for words. Flowers with symbolic meanings in hanakotoba can stand alone or be combined with other symbolic blossoms to convey more complex messages.
The art of ikebana, a school of traditional Japanese symbolic floral arrangement, uses hanakotoba as one of its primary guiding elements of design. With hanakotoba, ikebana can not only achieve visual symbolism through shape, texture, size, color, and container but also with the verbal symbolism of certain flowers.
Japan’s Native Range
Japan’s native range offers varied climates and growing conditions to support various plant species. The island nation offers significant weather patterns, latitude, and elevation variations. These variations support four distinct vegetation zones, which include:
- Alpine Region – This climate above 2,500 meters (roughly 8200 feet) receives high winds and significant snowfall.
- Subalpine Region – This region is found between 1,600 (about 5,250 feet) meters and 2,499 meters. The region still experiences cooler weather but significantly milder winters.
- Summer-Green Broad-Leaved Forest Region – These regions are found above 1,000 meters (3300 feet) in central Japan. On the island of Hokkaido, these forests grow between 700 (2,300 feet) and 1,600 meters.
- Evergreen Broad-Leaved Forest Region – This zone is found all along the coasts of Japan’s southern half on both the western and eastern sides. Around Tokyo, these evergreen forests can be found up to an elevation of 750 meters (2,460 feet).
All in all, about 5,600 species of vascular flora call Japan’s varied climates home, and about 40% of those species are native.
33 Popular Types of Japanese Flowers
1. Kiiroichurippu (Yellow Tulip)
There are thousands of tulip variations out there, and many of them are yellow. Yellow tulips are available in butter, lemon, and golden tones in addition to pure-yellow petals and petals that feature yellow variegated with just about any other color you can imagine.
Although they symbolize one-sided love or hopeless love in both hanakotoba and western floral traditions, their sunny appearance has gained them more cheerful modern connotations such as happiness, hope, and optimism.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||One-sided love|
|Flowering Season||March and April|
|Where to See Them||Tonami Tulip Park|
2. Kigiku (Yellow Chrysanthemum)
In hanakotoba, the yellow chrysanthemum means “imperial.” The flower also symbolizes the light and the sun as a representation of immortality. With a large, yellow pom bursting with thick upturned curls of petals, the yellow chrysanthemum has been named the national symbol of Japan. In truth, yellow chrysanthemums come in several different varieties, which vary significantly in their appearance: size, shape, the shade of yellow, flower head, and petal type. In the west, these flowers symbolize celebration, joy, and happiness.
|Flowering Season||September through November|
|Where to See Them||Shinjuku Goen Park|
3. Sakurasou (Japanese Primrose)
Japanese primrose is an attractive plant that produces a rosette of foliage from which pinwheel-like whorls of delicate flowers rise atop narrow stems. The plants grow to be about two feet tall and bloom in pretty shades of pink, purple, magenta, red, and white.
Although it means “desperate” in hanakotoba, the Japanese primrose is also a symbol of beauty and long-lasting love in Japan. It’s also a symbol of charm, love, and passion.
|Flowering Season||Late April to late June|
|Where to See Them||Sakurasou Festival|
4. Ayame (Iris)
Iris is a genus of flowering plants with over 300 species that grow from either bulbs or rhizomes. They produce a tight rosette of lance-shaped foliage. From the center, sturdy stems rise and have highly ornate flowers.
The most popular color of the iris features bluish-purple flowers. Still, they bloom in various hues and color combinations, including pink, purple, blue, golden yellow, pale yellow, maroon, black, mauve, and white. In the west, irises symbolize trust, bravery, wisdom, and hope.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Loyalty, good news, glad tidings|
|Flowering Season||Mid-June to early July|
|Where to See Them||Nagai Ayame Park Iris Festival|
5. Kosumosu (Cosmos)
Cosmos flowers are daisy-like but very orderly in appearance. They produce neat arrays of petals that circle bright yellow or orange centers, creating delicate cup-shaped flower blossoms in pretty shades of pink, red, maroon, purple, orange, yellow, and white. The flowers are large, typically three to five inches in diameter.
In hanakotoba and in the west, they symbolize cleanliness or orderliness, and this is typically attributed to their neatly arranged petals. However, they symbolize love, harmony, innocence, tranquility, and peace.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Cleanliness, love|
|Flowering Season||Late August through October|
|Where to See Them||Lake Yamanakako Hana no Miyako Park|
6. Fuji (Wisteria)
Wisteria is a species of 10 woody, flowering vines that typically grow in trees and blossom with light-purple or white, hanging flower clusters.
In hanakotoba, wisteria flowers represent immortality, a long life, and nobility. In Japan, they also symbolize success, longevity, and good luck. Additionally, these pendulous flowers create a romantic environment everywhere they grow, so they also are a common symbol of romance – especially in cultures where the plants grow naturally. For example, in Korea, wisterias represent devotion that continues beyond death. In the west, they’re a symbol of love, fertility, creativity, and the release of burdens.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Immortality, long life, nobility|
|Flowering Season||Late April to early May|
|Where to See Them||Ashikaga Flower Park|
7. Akaibara (Red Rose)
The common name rose refers to more than 300 species and tens of thousands of hybrids and cultivars of the Rosa genus. Many of these are shrubs with climbing or trailing growth habits, and several are red in color. Their other features – blossom shape and type, number of petals, petal texture, blossom size, and foliage – vary significantly. All around the world, the most common symbolic meaning associated with all kinds of red roses is romantic love. They can also represent beauty and courage. When a red rose bud has yet to open up and bloom, it symbolizes purity.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Love, in love|
|Flowering Season||May through October|
|Where to See Them||Keisei Rose Garden|
8. Daria (Dahlia)
Dahlia flowers are bushy and relatively compact. They produce intricate and showy flowers that range in size from about 2 inches in diameter to one foot in diameter. The blossoms of these larger-sized dahlias are known as dinner plate flowers. Dahlias bloom in almost every color and shade (including bicolor varieties) except blue. Unlike most flowers, dahlias do not attract insects with a fragrance; instead, they rely on their bright, attractive, and ornate looks.
In Japan’s hanakotoba, Dahlias symbolize good taste. In the western world, they’re associated with love, beauty, dignity, and devotion – thanks to the tradition of the Victorian language of flowers.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Good Taste|
|Flowering Season||July through mid-September|
|Where to See Them||Dahlia Garden at Mount Ryokami|
9. Hasu (Lotus)
Lotus flowers are large and beautiful aquatic plants, and they grow with their stems rooted in mud. The blossoms, however, still rise up from the muck, pure, clean, and beautiful. As a result, they’re most commonly associated with purity, strength, and rebirth. In Japan, it is a common symbol of enlightenment and purity. In hanakotoba, the flower also represents purity, chastity, and being far from the one he loves.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Chastity, purity, far from the one he loves|
|Flowering Season||Mid-July to mid-August|
|Where to See Them||Gyoda Kodaihasu-no-sato Lotus Festival|
10. Himawari (Sunflowers)
Sunflowers produce large disc-shaped flowers in golden shades of yellow, orange, red, and maroon. Their petals form in circular arrays around large, seeded centers. They’re famous for following the sunshine, always moving their flower heads to look at the Sun.
In Japan, sunflowers generally symbolize radiance and respect. In hanakotoba, they represent these meanings with the addition of passionate love. In the west, sunflowers are symbols of admiration and loyalty, and they symbolize unwavering faith and unconditional love in the language of flowers.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Passionate love, radiance, respect|
|Flowering Season||July and August|
|Where to See Them||Akeno Sunflower Festival|
11. Suisen (Japanese Daffodil)
In Japan and in hanakotoba, these flowers represent respect. They’re also a symbol of joyfulness. In the western language of flowers, they’re symbols of chivalry and unrequited love. Beyond these meanings, daffodils are also often associated with rebirth, hope, and the coming of spring since they are among the first flowers to bloom. They usually open up their buds to reveal their cheerful yellow-and-white, trumpet-shaped blooms in the late winter before spring has even officially sprung.
|Flowering Season||December to January|
|Where to See Them||Jogashima Park Narcissus Festival|
12. Shibazakura (Creeping Phlox)
As its name suggests, creeping phlox has a creeping growth habit that, when in bloom, creates carpets of color with its vibrant flowers in shades of pink, blue, purple, and white. In the language of flowers and in the west, they symbolize agreement, representing partnership, unity, compatibility, and harmony. In Japan’s hanakotoba, they symbolize a timid heart. This symbolic meaning is likely due to these ground-covering plants’ low-growing, humble appearance.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Timid heart|
|Flowering Season||May to early June|
|Where to See Them||Fuji Shibazakura Festival|
13. Tsubaki (Japanese Camellia)
There are more than 220 species and thousands of hybrids of camellia plants that can grow as either shrubs or small trees that produce fluffy, fluttery, elegant flowers in shades of white, pink, and red.
Camellia flowers are culturally significant in Japan. For samurai and Japanese warriors, red camellias symbolize a noble death. They’re also symbols of love and, in hanakotoba, represent perishing with grace. In hanakotoba, yellow camellias represent longing, and white are symbols of waiting. In western floriography, red camellias are also symbols of love, while pink camellias represent longing and white camellias symbolize adoration.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Red – In love, perishing with graceWhite – WaitingYellow – Longing|
|Flowering Season||January to late April|
|Where to See Them||Izu Oshima Tsubaki Matsuri (Camellia Festival)|
14. Kaneshon (Carnation)
Carnations are popular flowers worldwide thanks to their beautifully ruffled blossoms, sweetly spicy scent, and wide availability in flower shops.
In Japan, carnations are a popular flower for giving as gifts. This is especially true of red carnations on Mother’s Day. In hanakotoba and generally, they are symbols of love.
In the language of flowers, different colors of carnations had historically different meanings. For example, yellow carnations symbolized disappointment or a rejected heart, pink carnations meant “I’ll never forget you,” a striped carnation conveyed refusal, and red symbolized an aching heart.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Love, fascination, distinction|
|Flowering Season||May through June|
|Where to See Them||Hiroshima Flower Festival|
15. Hanashobu (Japanese Iris)
The common name “Japanese iris” refers to a few species of irises that grow naturally in Japan. These include the Iris ensata, Iris sanguinea, and Iris laevigata.
In Japan, the Japanese iris symbolizes heroism, health, and strength. It was traditionally believed to protect one from evil spirits. For this reason, representations of Japanese irises were commonly used to decorate the equipment, weapons, armor, and clothing of the samurai. In hanakotoba, it conveys the message of happy news or a gentle heart.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Happy news, gentle heart|
|Flowering Season||May to July|
|Where to See Them||Katsushika Shobu Matsuri (Iris Festival)|
16. Shiragiku (White Chrysanthemum)
Although they mean “truth” in hanakotoba, in Japan, China, and the Koreas, white chrysanthemums symbolize death, grief, and lamentation. They are commonly used in funerals to adorn the graves or markers of departed loved ones.
In the west, however, chrysanthemums (including white chrysanthemums) are generally more cheerful symbols, representing love, happiness, longevity, and joy. In the language of flowers, white chrysanthemums represent devoted love and loyalty.
|Flowering Season||September through November|
|Where to See Them||Shinjuku Goen Park|
17. Sumire (Violet)
Violets are cheerful little flowers from the Viola plant genus. Many of the violets popularly grown are hybrids. In Japan, the color violet is a symbol of nobility and strength. However, the flowers of the same name are often used as gratitude symbols, as thank-you gifts, to convey sincerity, or to express love. In hanakotoba, they represent honesty. In the language of flowers, white-colored violets were given to represent innocence, while purple-colored violets told the recipient that the giver’s thoughts were occupied with love.
|Flowering Season||April and May|
|Where to See Them||Open fields of Hokkidou, Honsyu, Shikoku, and Kyuusyuu|
18. Kan-Botan (Winter Peonies)
Peonies are typically spring flowers, blooming in April and May. In Japan, however, there is a variety known as winter peonies or cold peonies, which bloom during the winter. Although they bloom during the winter, they do not do so naturally. They are actually provided special conditions and cultivated for intentional winter blooming.
In Japan, the winter peonies symbolize nature’s ability to survive the winter. So, the hanakotoba meaning of bravery is quite fitting. In the language of flowers, peonies symbolize bashfulness. In the west, they’re generally symbols of a happy marriage, good fortune, love, and prosperity, making them popular flowers for weddings.
|Flowering Season||November through February|
|Where to See Them||Hama Rikyu Gardens, Ueno Toshogu Peony Garden|
19. Kinmokusei (Orange Osmanthus)
Orange osmanthus, also called orange tea olive, is a shrub that can grow into a small tree. It produces clusters of small, fragrant, tangerine-orange flowers. With a fragrance similar to peaches, jasmine, or orange blossoms, the orange osmanthus is sure to sweeten any garden.
In hanakotoba, the flower represents the truth or a noble person. The vibrant flowers, however, have many meanings, including fertility, peace, true love, faithfulness, elegance, protection, good luck, prosperity, happiness, joy, optimism, and serenity.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Noble person, truth|
|Flowering Season||Mid-September through October|
|Where to See Them||Kitanagoya, Beppu, Aichi Prefecture, Yoshitomi, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture, and Oita Prefecture|
20. Momo (Peach Blossoms)
If you’ve ever seen a cherry blossom in real life, in pictures, or represented in art, then you already have a good idea of what a peach blossom looks like. These flowers are very similar and are produced in similar clusters along the slender stems and branches of peach trees.
In Japan, peach blossoms are some of the first flowers to bloom in the spring. They are symbols of good luck and being invincible, and they are thought to ward off evil spirits. In hanakotoba, they convey the message, “I am your captive,” and represent a fascinating personality. In the west, peach blossoms symbolize womanhood and purity. They were often worn or used to decorate the homes of women who were engaged or newly married for happiness and good luck.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Fascinating personality, I am your captive|
|Flowering Season||March and April|
|Where to See Them||Achi Village Peach Blossom Festival|
21. Majushage (Red Spider Lily)
Red spider lily flowers have a highly unusual appearance. They’re blood-red and have needle-like upturned petals and stamens. Although alluring with their strange beauty, their unusual appearance is slightly off-putting.
They have an equally off-putting symbolic meaning, too, as the red spider lily is known as the “flower of farewell.” It is a symbol of death, final goodbyes, mourning, the cycle of life, abandonment, and bad luck. It is often given to individuals before they leave on a long journey, used in funerals, and planted near gravesites.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Never to meet again, abandonment, lost memory|
|Flowering Season||Late September through October|
|Where to See Them||Hidaka Majushage Matsuri (Festival)|
22. Ume (Japanese Plum Blossom)
Like cherry blossoms and peach blossoms, plum blossoms are five-petaled, star-shaped flowers. They range in color from white to light pink to deep magenta, and they’re produced in proliferation along the branches of plum trees in late winter and early spring.
Plum blossoms are usually the first flowers to appear in the late winter in Japan. As a result, they symbolize resilience, perseverance, and purity. In hanakotoba, they represent both elegance and faithfulness.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Faithfulness, elegance|
|Flowering Season||Late February to early March|
|Where to See Them||Bunkyo Plum Festival|
23. Sakura (Japanese Cherry Blossom)
Japanese cherry blossoms are probably the most popular and well-recognized fruit-tree flowers that Japan celebrates. Cherry blossoms are white to pink in color and completely fill the branches of cherry trees when in bloom during spring. They are one of the national flowers of Japan and hold a rich symbolic history and tradition.
Due to their brief blooming period, they symbolize life’s transience. They’re also known as the samurai’s flower because these warriors also often bloomed briefly but brightly. Additionally, for similar reasons, cherry blossoms were also the emblems that adorned the airplanes of Japan’s kamikaze pilots in WWII.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||The transience of life, gentle, kind|
|Flowering Season||Mid-March to early April|
|Where to See Them||Bunkyo Cherry Blossom Festival|
24. Poppi (Poppy)
In Japan, the poppy symbolizes love and success but is most commonly associated with good times. It often serves as a reminder to have fun and also to remember the good times. In the west, red poppies are most commonly associated with death, consolation, and remembrance. In the United Kingdom, they’re traditionally worn on Remembrance Day in November and, in the United States, on Memorial Day in May.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Red – Fun-lovingWhite – RejoiceYellow – Success|
|Flowering Season||Mid-May to early June|
|Where to See Them||Poppies in the Sky at the Sainokuni Fureai Farm|
25. Ajisai (Hydrangea)
Hydrangeas have a place in a Japanese legend that tells the story of an emperor who had neglected the girl he loved in favor of focusing on business. He gifted hydrangea shrubs and flowers to her family to apologize and show how much he cared for her. Today, they symbolize apology, heartfelt emotions, and gratitude for understanding.
In the language of flowers, these large flower clusters have different meanings based on their colors. Pink hydrangeas symbolize genuine emotion, purple conveys the desire to understand a person truly, blue hydrangeas can represent both apology and rigidity, and white hydrangeas are emblems of pridefulness, boasting, and bragging.
|Flowering Season||Mid-June to mid-July|
|Where to See Them||Asukayama Park|
26. Akaichurippu (Red Tulip)
Among the thousands upon thousands of tulips, countless varieties are red-colored. They’re available in dark reds that are almost black, deep ruby, striking crimson, and vibrant shades of cherry. Plus, red tulips come in several variegated varieties and also feature different types of tulip blossoms.
In Japan, red tulips symbolize fame. Hanakotoba lends them the same meaning in addition to trust and charity. In the west, they represent love, passion, and lust. They also convey messages of true feelings in addition to willing a recipient to believe the giver
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Fame, charity, trust|
|Flowering Season||March and April|
|Where to See Them||Tonami Tulip Park|
27. Asagao (Morning Glory)
Morning glory flowers blossom first thing in the morning. Their short-lived blooms are trumpet-shaped and unfold in shades of blue, deep purple, violet, and white to greet the day.
In Japan, they are symbols of innocence and love. In hanakotoba, they represent willful promises. In the western language of flowers, morning glories mean unrequited love and obsession.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Willful promises|
|Flowering Season||July to September|
|Where to See Them||Daisen Park Japanese Garden|
28. Nanohana (Rapeseed)
Rapeseed produces thick spindly foliage from which spikes of tiny, bright-yellow flowers bloom. The Japanese word for rapeseed, “nanohana” literally means edible flower, and the plants (especially the oil from their seeds) are used in various culinary applications.
The flower gets its Japanese symbolism and meaning in hanakotoba (brightness and vivacity) from its vibrant appearance. In the west, rapeseed is a symbol of vitality and limitless energy.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Brightness, vivacious|
|Flowering Season||Early December|
|Where to See Them||Yokohama Nanohana Festival|
29. Bara (White Rose)
Among the thousands of varieties of roses, several blossoms in various shades of white range from snowy to creamy.
In Japan, they can symbolize innocence, devotion, and silence – their three meanings in hanakotoba. In the west, white roses are symbols of purity, innocence, and loyalty. For this reason, they’re popular flowers for use in weddings. Given the color white’s additional association with mourning, white roses are also commonly used in funerals.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Innocence, devotion, silence|
|Flowering Season||May through October|
|Where to See Them||Higashizawa Rose Park|
30. Yuri (Lily)
Lilies are lovely star-shaped flowers with a sweet and spicy fragrance that can fill a room or a garden. They vary quite a bit in appearance (shape, size, and color) from species to species.
As with other flowers, color affects the symbolic meanings of lilies. In Japan’s hanakotoba, white lilies symbolize innocence and purity, while orange lilies represent hatred and revenge. In the language of flowers, lilies symbolize purity, fertility, and devotion. Additional symbolic meanings include good luck, love, and motherhood.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||White – Purity, chastityOrange – Revenge, hatred|
|Flowering Season||Late April to May|
|Where to See Them||Yuri Matsuri (Lily Festival)|
31. Oniyuri (Tiger Lily)
Tiger lilies are special enough to be distinguished from other lilies thanks to their striking appearance, resembling a tiger’s coat. Their petals are vibrant, reddish-orange, and they feature brownish-black stripes and spots, markings that make the petals look like tigers.
In Japan, tiger lilies symbolize fortune and wealth. These striking blossoms symbolize wealth, pride, and positivity in the language of flowers.
|Flowering Season||July to August|
|Where to See Them||The mountains of the Kinki region|
32. Rabenda (Lavender)
Lavender plants produce spikes of tiny, light-purple flowers that, while strikingly beautiful, are best known for their even more fantastic scent. The gentle fragrance is popular in perfumes and aromatherapy practices thanks to its calming profile.
In hanakotoba and Japan in general, lavender symbolizes faithfulness and fidelity. In the west, the famous flower has several symbolic meanings, including calmness, silence, serenity, purity, grace, and devotion.
|Flowering Season||Mid-July through August|
|Where to See Them||Furano Lavender Fields|
33. Rurikarakusa (Nemophila)
Nemophila (commonly called baby blue eyes in the western part of the world) are five-petaled, bell-shaped flowers. The flowers brighten from milky white centers to sky-blue tips to create a cool blue hue. When in bloom, they produce abundant flowers and blanket fields, turning them into “lakes” of bluish flowers.
In Japanese hanakotoba and the western language of flowers, nemophila symbolize success everywhere.
|Hanakotoba Meaning||Success everywhere|
|Flowering Season||Mid-April to early May|
|Where to See Them||Hitachi Seaside Park|
Types of Japanese Flowers FAQs:
Japan has two de facto national flowers, the cherry blossom (Prunus serrulata) and the florist’s chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium).
What flower symbolizes love in Japan?
In Japan, as in much of the world, the red rose symbolizes love and being in love. The camelia is also a symbol of being in love, and the carnation is another symbol of love. Hanakotoba also assigns different flowers to different types of love. For example, forget-me-not symbolizes true love, sunflowers symbolize passionate love, and gardenias represent secret love.
What is considered the luckiest flower in Japan?
Peonies symbolize good fortune in Japan. In hanakotoba, the four-leafed clover means “lucky.”
What is the samurai flower?
The sakura (cherry blossom) is often thought of as the samurai flower because of its short blooming period, which has been compared to the often too-short life of a samurai warrior.
What is the rarest flower in Japan?
Just under 1,700 plants are officially on the endangered species list in Japan, making them all quite rare. Among these, some of the most-threatened (i.e., rarest) species include the Polygara longifolia and Lycoris sanguinea var. Koreana.
How to Enjoy the Richness of Japan’s Diverse Flora
While Japan holds many festivals to celebrate the blossoming of some of its most culturally significant native plants, it’s not always possible to travel to the island nation to experience these major blossoming events first-hand. Whether you can attend or not, you can always enjoy the beauty of Japan’s flowers by growing them yourself in a controlled environment or similar climate or simply by looking at pictures of them in articles like these. However you choose to enjoy them, don’t forget the richness that flowers have lent to Japanese culture through the practices of hanakotoba and ikebana.
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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