Water Lily Wonders: Delving into Their Symbolic Significance

In this guide, we’re going to take you through everything you need to know about Water Lily flower meaning and symbolism. From classical artwork to tattoos, Water Lilies are used symbolically nearly as often as for landscaping. Requiring a relatively shallow pond to thrive, these flowers are often confused for the sacred lotus that thrives in wet environments. Let the beauty of the Water Lily rise up along with its symbolic meaning to inspire you with its colorful and delicate petals.

Water Lily Flower Meaning & Symbolism (Essential Guide)

Water Lily Flower Symbolism – Key Takeaways

Named after the Greek nymph, the Water Lily is a symbol of beauty that can also have a dangerous side. It’s also a symbol of unity and finding peace and balance. For Buddhists, it symbolizes rising up from the mundane world and into the spiritual one. Water lilies are also the official birth flower for July.

Etymological Meaning

As the Latin name suggests, it’s derived from the Greek myth of nymphs. These beautiful yet dangerous water spirits often drowned innocent people who visited the creeks or ponds they protected. 

Due to the beauty of the Water Lily but its habit of growing in thick mud, it’s an apt metaphor.

Common Water Lily Flower Colors and Their Meaning

The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Water Lily Flowers

With Water Lilies available in almost every color, it’s easy to tailor the secondary meaning of a flower bouquet with careful selection.

The Greek Myth of the Nymph

In Ancient Greece, the nymph was a young woman who lived in a body of water. She was a spirit rather than a physical or mortal person. 

The nymph of a particular body of water might help out one person and hurt another, leading to drama in many of the myths involving them. 

The beauty of the Water Lily helped link it to the myth of the nymph of Ancient Greek, as demonstrated by the Latin name Nymphaeaceae.

Ancient Egyptian Symbol of Unity

Ancient Egypt was not a single empire for most of its history but rather two separate and interconnected kingdoms. 

The Egyptians cultivated many types of Water Lilies and used the complex blooms to represent the Upper and Lower parts of the empire connected. 

In particular, the Water Lily symbolized Upper Egypt and would be paired with a papyrus flower from Lower Egypt.

Water Lily Flowers in Buddhism

Water Lily Flowers in Buddhism

For Buddhists, Water Lilies are often grown to symbolize the spiritual process of striving towards enlightenment. 

The root of the Water Lily lies hidden in the mud, appearing to be trapped under the water. Yet as it extends a stem and lily pads that eventually host a beautiful flower, it transforms from a humble, hidden root into a breathtaking beauty. 

Buddhist meditation practices often feature the lily as a symbol for focusing on this purpose.

The National Flower of Bangladesh

The Water Lily is also the national flower of Bangladesh due to its widespread growth throughout the country. It’s considered a symbol of the country’s resilience and beauty.

July Birth Flowers

In the language of flowers, the water lily is also the official birth flower for July alongside larkspurs.

In the astrological world, the zodiac star sign Pisces is associated with water lilies because it is a water sign. The symbol of Pisces is two fish, while the water lily is known for its ability to grow on the water’s surface.

Water Lily Flower Meaning and Symbolism FAQs:

What do Water Lily flowers symbolize? 

These flowers symbolize beauty, rising up from humble beginnings, achieving great things, and bringing separate things together.

Do Water Lily flowers come back every year? 

Water Lilies are perennial and return year after year as long as freezing temperatures or animals do not damage them in the winter.

What do Water Lily flowers smell like? 

Many species have no scent, but others have a rich fruity to spicy smell that can be quite pleasant when enjoyed in a bouquet or perfume.

What are Water Lily flowers used for? 

Water Lilies were once considered medicinal and edible, but that’s no longer recommended due to toxicity. They’re best limited to ornamental use in the pond or the bouquet.

What pollinators do Water Lily flowers attract? 

Many species attract beetles or flies that become trapped in the bottom of the flower. Others are appealing to a wider range of bees and butterflies as well.

Are Water Lily flowers poisonous to humans and animals? 

The flowers, roots, seeds, and pads are all mildly toxic if eaten. The consumption of a small amount once is only likely to cause a stomach ache, but repeated ingestion could lead to more severe problems.


Miniature Water Lily varieties can grow in just a few inches of water, making it easy to enjoy them in almost any garden or on a balcony. Try water gardening with meaning behind the blooms by trying your hand at Water Lily cultivation. Or just stick to enjoying them as cut flowers in bouquets, where their colorful petals and sweet scents are easy to appreciate.

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