Plants, flowers and other foliage symbolize emotions, ideas and actions. Each plant has its own meaning and surrounding yourself with plants that symbolize things you want or value can create a positive environment.
Knowing plant symbolism can help you pick decor and gifts that are more meaningful and personalized. Symbolism is also important when picking out plants for one of life’s biggest moments like a wedding or other ceremony.
Another thing to keep in mind when selecting a plant or floral gift is that different colours have their own meanings as well.
To give you a better idea of what each plant means, we’ve shared the history of plant symbolism and the symbolism of the most popular plants from a ProFlowers blog we loved.
Plant Symbolism History
There is evidence of plant symbolism in literature, art and folklore as early as the Ancient Greeks and likely other comparable civilizations. Plant and flower symbolism has appeared throughout history in religious texts like the Bible, in art and literature during the Middle Ages and Renaissance (including Shakespearean plays), all the way into modern day culture.
Plant and flower meanings became a popular subject to study after Joseph Hammer-Purgstall’s Dictionnaire du language des fleurs was published in 1809. Translated to “dictionary of the language of flowers,” this publication formalized the study of plant symbolism.
Plant Meanings + Symbolism
With so many different plants to choose from, we are sharing the below guide of plants and their meanings, put together by ProFlowers. Skip to your favourite plant or peruse the whole guide to find new favourites and add to your garden wish list!
Air Plant (Tillandsia)
- Freedom and creativity
- Great for: People who like change or live in small spaces
Air plants thrive in temperatures between 10 and 32º C, and indirect sunlight but make sure to keep them away from any cold or hot drafts that could dry them out. To water an air plant soak them in water for 10–15 minutes every 1–2 weeks.
Bonsai (Juniperus procumbens)
- Harmony, wisdom and calm
- Great for: Someone who needs more balance in their life
Bonsai trees love plenty of direct sunlight, 10–20ºC and being watered once a week. They also need misting on their leaves so their pores don’t get clogged. Bonsai tree care entails pruning which will become easier with practice.
- Protection and endurance
- Great for: Someone who is very determined or going through a tough time
Cacti thrive when they are watered about once a week, although they can survive with less. Most cacti love bright light but make sure you look into the needs of your cactus as different species have different care requirements.
Ficus (Ficus microcarpa)
- Abundance and peace
- Great for: Someone who is a leader to symbolize unity and success
Ficus plants need indirect sunlight and to be kept in temperatures above 15º C. Ficus plants should be watered weekly, but back off of watering during the winter.
Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
- Perseverance and longing
- Great for: Someone who continually follows their dreams—try a hanging arrangement to symbolize reaching new heights
Pothos plants care includes keeping them in medium indoor light and in a temperature range of 12–32º C. Allow their soil to dry in between waterings in the cooler months and keep the soil moist in warmer parts of the year.
Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena braunii)
- Good fortune and longevity
- Great for: Someone who is entering a new chapter in their life
Make sure the roots of your bamboo are always covered with water, try filling the vase every 7–10 days. Bamboo prefers moderate to indirect sunlight and temperatures of 18-35°C.
Money Tree (Pachira aquatica)
- Wealth and good fortune
- Great for: Someone who is career-driven or starting a new business
Money Trees do best in temperatures of 18-23º C. They like some direct and indirect sunlight and moist soil in the hotter months, but allow its soil to dry in between watering when it’s cold.
Monstera (Monstera deliciosa)
- Honor, respect and longevity
- Great for: Someone who values their background and family history
Monstera plant care involves watering the plant when the first couple of inches of their soil is dry. Keep them in indirect sunlight and in temperatures 20-30º C.
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
- Peace and sympathy
- Great for: Someone who went through a recent loss or needs a reminder of peace in their life
Peace lilies do best in evenly moist soil. They prefer bright light and are most comfortable in temperatures above 12º F.
Philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum)
- Love of nature and growth
- Great for: Someone who cares about the environment or experiencing personal growth
Philodendrons can survive in the temperature range of 12-32º C and do best in indirect light. They should be watered when their soil is half dry.
Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)
- Devotion and focus
- Great for: Someone who loves to stay organized and on schedule like the changing leaves of a prayer plant
Grow prayer plants in a temperature range of 12-29º C and in medium to filtered bright light, although they can also survive in low light. Use warm water to keep their soil moist but not soggy and overwatered.
Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
- Cleanliness and tenacity
- Great for: Someone who is creative or as a housewarming gift because it naturally purifies the air
Snake plant care includes keeping them in indirect light and temperatures above 10º C. You should let their soil dry in between watering and avoid getting the leaves wet.
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
- Mindfulness and health
- Great for: Someone moving away from home for the first time
Spider plants love bright indirect light and temperatures of 12-26º C. Water your spider plant well but be careful not to overwater. Their small size makes them a great apartment plant.
Succulent (Sedum morganianum)
- Loyalty and endurance
- Great for: Someone who’s trustworthy and always there for you
Succulents are fairly low-maintenance plants, a good rule of thumb for watering is to water them once a week and make sure the soil is wet but not soaked. Most succulents need at least six hours of sunlight and prefer temperatures no colder than 10º C.
Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
- Strength and courage
- Great for: Someone who’s adventurous or eccentric
Venus flytraps require direct sunlight, so try placing them near a sunny window. They prefer warmer climates but can survive in temperatures ranging from 0-30º C. They prefer soil that is wet but not soggy so water them as they lose moisture depending on the season.
Additional Plant Meanings + Symbolism
Didn’t see your favorite plant above? Check out these additional plants, the list includes flower and herb meanings as well.
Aloe (Aloe vera)
- Healing and protection
- Great for: People interested in holistic health
Aloe does best in bright, indirect sunlight and temperatures of 55–80º F. They should be watered every three weeks and even less during cold months.
- Femininity, strength and beauty
- Great for: Reminding someone of their inner and outer beauty
Azaleas will thrive best in indirect sunlight and cannot be kept in temperatures below 4º C. Proper azalea care includes keeping soil evenly moist but be careful to not overwater them.
Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus)
- Love and femininity
- Great for: An anniversary or Valentine’s Day bouquet to show your affection
Carnations love being watered 1–2 times weekly depending on the soil, it should be kept moist but not wet. Some other carnation care tips include keeping them in bright indirect light.
Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
- Innocence and purity
- Great for: New and expecting mothers to symbolize their bundle of joy
Daisies do best when they are watered any time the top inch of their soil is dry. To keep daisies alive longer, keep them away from extreme heat, they prefer cooler temperatures below 21ºC.
Fern (Adiantum pedatum)
- Health, luck and protection
- Great for: Someone moving to a new city or in a transition period of their life
You should water ferns regularly, making sure they are evenly moist. Ferns prefer shade or partial light and a temperature of 18-23ºC.
Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)
- Trust, clarity and purity
- Great for: A family member or long-time friend as a fragrant reminder of your solid relationship
Keep gardenia plants’ soil moist but well-drained. Gardenias require bright and indirect light and can tolerate temperatures no lower than 16º F.
Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana)
- Eternal love and persistence
- Great for: Someone to remind them of their endurance and love
Kalanchoe loves light but make sure it gets no more than two hours of direct sunlight and that they are kept in temperatures above 60º F. They should be watered every two weeks in warmer months, but test the soil to make sure it’s moist and not wet.
- Relaxation and comfort
- Great for: Someone who needs to destress or loves a trip to the spa
Lavender prefers full sunlight and comfortably warm temperatures. Water new lavender once or twice a week and reduce watering as they grow.
- Admiration and love
- Great for: A mentor or someone that has inspired you—they also add a delicate vibrancy to home decor
Orchids can survive in temperatures of 15-37º C during their growing season and 12-21º C during their off-season. There are different care requirements for orchids depending on their species.
- Compassion and good relationships
- Great for: Someone in a new or evolving relationship or someone starting a family
Peonies need about six hours of moderate sunlight to thrive. They should be watered once to twice a week, depending on the moistness of the soil.
- Romance and love
- Great for: Someone that you love — different coloured roses stand for different types of love
Roses need bright light for at least six hours per day and prefer temperatures no lower than 12º C. Rose care includes watering them when an inch of their soil is dry.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
- Remembrance, love and fidelity
- Great for: Those who love to cook or maintain their own herb garden
This medicinal herb loves a lot of light and to be watered about twice a week. Rosemary can’t tolerate temperatures lower than 0º C but is a great fit for an indoor herb garden.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Health, purity and wisdom
- Great for: Spiritual people who enjoy smudging their house to eradicate negative energy
Sage does best in medium to bright light and does not do well in temperatures lower than 0º C. Let a sage plant’s soil dry in between watering. Sage is fairly cold and drought-resistant, making it an easy herb plan to take care of.
- Happiness, adoration and loyalty
- Great for: The warm and fuzzy type of friend who brings joy to everyone’s day
Sunflowers need full sunlight, prefer a temperature range of 21-25º C and their watering needs vary based on their phase in the growing cycle. Sunflowers are best kept as outdoor plants because they can grow to be 9–12 feet tall, but they can bring colour and cheer indoors in the form of a bouquet.
- Unconditional love and cheer
- Great for: Springtime home decor and for mothers to show your appreciation
Tulips should be watered about once or twice weekly and placed somewhere that receives sun and shade throughout the day. Tulips like to be potted in cold soil but prefer moderate air temperatures.
Winter Cactus (Schlumbergera)
- Vibrancy and celebration
- Great for: A holiday, birthday, host gift and those who love color in their homes
Christmas cactus plants love lots of indirect sunlight but need a dark period for six weeks leading up to winter with 12 hours of darkness per day. They should be watered thoroughly and allowed to dry in between watering.