The Symbolism and Meaning of Amaryllis Flowers

What is the meaning behind an amaryllis flower? Compared to other plants, the amaryllis flower isn’t as popular as poinsettias and sprigs of mistletoe during the Christmas season. The amaryllis is not seen as often in homes and gardens. However, that’s beginning to change. Many people are now gifting amaryllis at Christmastime due to their deep red hue.

Luckily, amaryllis flowers are much more than a yuletide treat. They also bloom in pink, orange, white, yellow, and purple making them ideal for any time of year. With a background as interesting as the flower itself, you might want to know more about them. 

The good news is, you’ve come to the right place. Below you can learn everything you need to know, such as where they come from, the plant’s symbolism and the meaning of an amaryllis flower.

The Origins of the Amaryllis

This can get a little confusing, so bear with us! The common name for the flowers in the Hippeastrum genus is Amaryllis. In the 1800s, Amaryllis was separated from Hippeastrum into its own genus. In fact, you can still get both Amaryllis and Amaryllis flowers today!

Thankfully, there is one good way to distinguish between the two. While the Amaryllis and Hippeastrum have similar shapes, the latter has a much more hollow stem. All species are most likely to have originated in South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico as they are indigenous to these regions. The meaning of the amaryllis flower varies in each of these areas and worldwide.

Greek Origin Story

The Greek myth is a much more romantic story of how these beautiful blooms came to exist. According to Greek mythology, the Amaryllis came from the love between a maiden (Amaryllis) and a shepherd (Alteo).

The legend is as follows:

Alteo was a strong, handsome shepherd with a deep love for flowers and beautiful plants, but no interest in the maidens around town. In order to win his love, Amaryllis consulted the Oracle of Delphi and followed the advice she received. She walked to Alteo’s house each day for thirty days, piercing her heart with a golden arrow and spilling blood along the path each day.

When she pierced her heart for the last time, she noticed several beautiful, vibrant red flowers spring up where her blood spilled. Amaryllis scooped up the flowers up and delivered them to Alteo. He was was enamored by the beauty of the flowers and by Amaryllis herself. They fell for one another and Alteo lovingly named the blooms after his love.

What does the word Amaryllis mean?

The etymology of the Hippeastrum genus (and the common name Amaryllis) is Greek for “Knight’s Star.”

Another meaning of the word is “Horseman’s Star” due to the star shaped petals. It is common to interpret amaryllis as ‘shiny’ or ‘shining.’

Symbolism of Amaryllis Flowers

Amaryllis can have different meanings depending on the area the flower is growing. For example, the Greeks associate the flower with success. An Amaryllis flower is often awarded as a prize to winners of tournaments and competitions. In Greek name, it means “to sparkle,” which links back to the astronomical references above.

Victorian England, on the other hand, saw separate features of this stunning plant. Because Amaryllis are tall and sturdy (and maybe because the Brits are sometimes known for their stiff upper lips), they often associate the flower with strength, pride and determination. This symbology still holds strong to this day in the UK and makes sense. The amaryllis typically stands tall and strong over the other standard winter blooms.

The Amaryllis can also stand for hope. In fact, the Huntington’s Disease Society of America has adopted this particular flower as a symbol of strength, determination, and hope. There are many varieties of Amaryllis flowers and each can have a different meaning. 

Below are a few examples:

Red amaryllis often mean love and attraction because the color red is synonymous with these emotions. In China, red is viewed as lucky, so an amaryllis flower is a symbol of hope and prosperity.

Pink amaryllis typically has nothing to do with romance. Instead, it’s a symbol of friendship and platonic love. A pink flower can be given to men and women.

Purple amaryllis has links with royalty. Therefore, gifting a purple amaryllis is a sign that you believe the recipient is worth all the money in the world.

White amaryllis is a pure color that you might usually see at funerals, along with lilies.

The Perfect Holiday Bloom

Culturally, amaryllises are most-often seen at Christmas. The deep red hue of the flower’s leaves is absolutely perfect for the holiday season and they are really easy to obtain in winter. They aren’t as widely recognized as poinsettias, but still symbolize this magical holiday. Even outside of Christmastime, amaryllises are beautiful gifts, made famous by poets such as Alfred Tennyson who referenced the flowers in “The Daisy”.

Clearly, amaryllis flowers mean different things to different cultures and peoples across the world. You can hold onto a Red Ferrari as a sign of hope or display a tall, proud Picasso to remind you of your strength.

At Let‘em Bloom, we are over the moon about amaryllis flowers and everything they represent. Whether you need to liven up your space, decorate for a celebration or show a loved one how much you care, we can help.

Visit one of our incredible retail partners today for an Amaryllis Flower Bulb of your own. Or find one for a friend!

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