Gardenia Flowers Meaning & Symbolism

I guess we can all agree that gardenias embody elegance – and a fragrance to match! It evokes black and white images of Billie Holiday adorned with her favorite hair accessory. However, a gardenia’s meaning and symbolism is far more profound than it appears to be.

The gardenia flower’s meaning and symbolism vary according to the bloom’s color. White flowers symbolize purity and innocence, while red blooms denote passionate love that must be surreptitious. Gardenias generally symbolize protection, elegance, and the power of femininity.

Choose your gardenia bouquet with care, as the wrong color may land you in hot water. Read on if you want to see what gardenias really mean.

The Gardenia’s Elegant Past

Part of the Rubiaceae family, the gardenia was originally found by traders in Southeast Asia. It was then planted by these traders in the Cape of Good Hope, which is why it is sometimes called the Cape jasmine, as its scent was akin to that flower.

It had been grown in Chinese gardens for hundreds of years before traders tried to export it to Europe. It was mostly grown in greenhouses in Europe and struggled to adapt to the climate. Conversely, it grew freely on the riverbanks in Japan and southern China.

The naming of the gardenia had a prelude when Dr. Alexander Garden, a Scottish physician and botanist, moved to Charleston in 1752. From there, Dr. Garden began sending botanical samples to his friend, a merchant named John Ellis, and to Carl Linnaeus, the famous Swedish botanist.

A few years later, in 1758, John Ellis discovered a plant in a garden in London that was thought to be jasmine, but which he doubted was one. Ellis then persuaded Linnaeus to name the evergreen plant for his friend, Dr. Garden, and thus the Gardenia jasminoides was born.

Interestingly, the first gardenia on American soil was planted in Dr. Garden’s plantation! There are now around 200 different and mostly hybrid species of gardenia worldwide, of which Gardenia jasminoides is only one. The flower is now a fixture in Southern gardens across the US.

The Meaning Of Gardenias Throughout History

In the Victorian era, people received messages of love through the medium of flowers. Flowers bore special meanings that everyone was aware of, and people sent messages this way.

The gardenia itself was used to anonymously express love and convey the loveliness of the recipient to them. The white color of the common gardenia also means purity and can refer to friendship, innocence, and self-reflection.

Because it has been used to mean innocence, it can be given to new parents. It also bears the meaning of hope and can be used to provide hope to someone at a turning point in their life. They are a reminder that life will get better and that nothing is permanent, especially trying times.

On the other hand, the red gardenia has a meaning of the secret love between two people. The covert nature of the red gardenia means that it is a covert way of saying “I love you.” Red gardenias also show admiration and respect.

Gardenia Symbolism Across The Globe

In Asian countries like Japan and China, gardenias are prized as they symbolize peace and clarity amid confusion.

The gardenia’s leaves are shiny and waxy, which symbolizes clarity and self-reflection to such an extent that they are often used in spiritual practices to heighten the practitioner’s understanding of their core beings and attain true enlightenment.

Gardenias are symbolic of a mirror in meditational practices as they reflect our true natures and our potential as human beings. Moreover, they provide an element of inner calm and peace during times of adversity.

Alternatively, Gardenia’s bouquets symbolize protection for the recipient as they naturally repel certain insects.

It is believed that by simply appreciating or nurturing a gardenia plant, a person may dispel negative energies or feelings on a metaphoric level.

Moreover, should you treat a gardenia plant with reverence and value its unique, beautiful energy, it will revitalize your life and clear away any confusion.

The Gardenia’s Cultural Significance

Not only was the gardenia the favorite of renowned psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, but it was also the favorite flower for jazz singer Billie Holiday to wear in her hair.

The story goes that Lady Day, as she is also known, burnt her hair with an overheated curling iron and used the gardenia to cover up the scorches.

From then on, she took to wearing gardenias in her hair every time she sang, and she quickly became famous for it.

When Hattie McDaniel accepted an Oscar for Gone with the Wind, the first African American to earn this honor, she famously wore gardenias in her hair. Mo’Nique paid tribute to McDaniel when she won her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2009 by wearing gardenias in her hair.

Gardenias In Modern Times

Gardenias are often center stage in weddings because of their association with purity and innocence. Moreover, they are often used as a beautiful adornment at proms and for elegant corsages.

Dreaming About Gardenias? This Is What It Means

Dreams about flowers like gardenia have various meanings; however, for the most part, they are a key reminder of the beauty of life and renewal.

Flowers like gardenias die in the winter and blossom in spring; they signify hope during difficult periods of our lives and encourage us to keep on growing even in the face of great adversity.

Gardenia flowers may also symbolize a passionate love relationship with an ill-suited person that could tear a family apart. Alternatively, if you dream of receiving a gardenia flower bouquet, it could mean that the giver is jealous of you.

Should you dream of planting gardenias, it could denote that you have entered a peaceful chapter of your life and are better equipped to deal with new challenges in your life.


The sublime image and fragrance of elegant gardenias have been coveted since they were first cultivated in their native southeast Asia.

Their meaning and symbolism have unique cultural and societal ties that differ worldwide. The gardenia is an essential component in traditional Chinese medicine. It has an incomparable effect on popular culture and fragrance collectors alike.