Iris Flowers Meaning & Symbolism

Iris plants have elaborately decorative and sensual-looking flowers in all the dazzling colors of the rainbow, except red. The word Iris is Greek for rainbow and hints at this flower’s spiritual connection to the heavenly realms, royalty, and nobility. Additional meanings associated with the iris flower include purity and new beginnings.

Iris plants flower in spring, making them symbols of the renewal of life. Historically the three flower petals representing wisdom, faith, and bravery are included in many heraldic emblems like the Fleur-de-lis. The wands of Egyptian pharaohs displayed stylized Irises symbolizing victory and power.

There are 300 different types of Iris plants in the family Iridaceae. Historical uses and meanings of the Iris are just as varied as the shapes and colors of the flowers. A gift of Iris flowers can speak volumes. In Japanese, the language of flowers is called Hanakatoba. In essence, flowers can convey emotions and intentions better than words.

The History Of The Iris Flower

Iris flower cultivation started in ancient Egypt in 1749 BC. King Thutmose III brought Iris plants back from the conquered Syria and decorated the temple of Amon in Karnak with stylized Iris sculptures. Irises were seen as symbols of wisdom and a divine connection by the Egyptians. Iris roots were used medicinally and in perfume making.

The King of the Franks, Clovis I, took the Iris flower as his personal emblem after converting to Christianity. The Fleur-de-lis, inspired by the shape of Iris and lily flowers, became the emblem of the French monarchy decorating coins, shields, flags, and coat of arms. It represented purity and the Virgin Mary.

The Iris flower became the emblem of Florence, Italy, in the 19th century. Irises symbolized grandeur, honor, and unity. Dried Iris rootstock was a precious commodity chewed for fresher breath and used in making face powders, hair powders, perfumes, and added as a flavoring in drinks. Rosary beads were carved from the hard rhizomes.

European settlers and Spanish colonizers brought Irises to the Americas. Iris germanica or the bearded Iris became the official State-flower of Tennessee. Irises are treasured as decorative garden flowers worldwide. They appear in paintings by artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Durer, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Monet.

Mythology And Symbolism Of The Iris Flower

In Greek mythology, the goddess Eiris was a bearer of messages from the gods in heaven to the people on earth. She traveled on a rainbow, and where she walked on earth, Iris flowers would start growing. Iris flowers are thus symbols of communication, eloquence, and messages from higher powers.

In Greece, purple Irises were planted on women’s graves, believing that the goddess Eiris would accompany them to heaven. Muslim soldiers planted the rootstocks of white-flowered Irises on the graves of their dead comrades. This gives the Iris meanings of heroism, courage, devotion, honor, and remembrance.

In ancient China, it was believed that Iris flowers could destroy negative energies inside the home. Purple Irises were seen as metaphors of transformation and change. Iris flowers are called Purple-butterflies in China, announcing the arrival of summer as their petals blow in the breeze. Irises are special flowers for people born in February.

Ancient Japanese festivals celebrated Iris flowers on the 5th day of the 5th month. Iris flowers were seen as protection against evil spirits. Boys bathed with long, pointy Iris leaves that resemble swords and symbolize the warrior spirit. ‘Sweet flag’ is an old English name for ‘sword,’ and yellow Iris flowers are often called Flags.

In Hanakatoba, the Japanese flower language, Shobu (the Japanese Iris flower) denotes good news, happy tidings, and loyalty. Hanakatoba links with Buddhist ideas of cherishing the beauty of fragility and paying attention to details. Iris flowers in their fragile and fleeting beauty are ideal subjects for mindfulness meditation practices.

Color Symbolism Of The Iris Flower

Iris flowers have varied symbolism, including happiness, love, passion, kindness, faith, hope, compassion, and much more. To delve deeper into Iris symbology, take a look at the colors of the flowers.

The Meanings Of Blue And Purple Iris Flowers

Iris flowers naturally have deep blue colors, which is a rare sight. A blue Iris symbolizes hope, faith, freedom, and royalty. In the Japanese tradition, they embody heroism and blue-blooded courage. Blue Irises are ideal gifts for birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and well-wishes for recuperation after sickness.

Purple Irises represent wisdom, spirituality, and royalty. It is suited as gifts for birthdays, first dates, graduation celebrations, and a traditional gift for a 25th wedding anniversary.

The Meanings Of Yellow Iris Flowers

Yellow Irises have uplifting and happy energy and signify positivity, passion, hope, pride, and clarity. It makes an ideal gift to work colleagues, graduation ceremonies, and speedy recovery wishes.

The Meanings Of White Iris Flowers

White is the personification of purity, peace, innocence, and safety. White Irises are often used in bridal flower arrangements. They are excellent wedding gifts and fitting for anniversaries and conveying condolences.

Iris Flowers In Dreams

Dreaming of Irises are generally positive signs of happiness and sweet remembrances.

The specific colors of the flowers in your dream can lead to more specific meanings.

Consider the following ideas when you dream of Iris flowers:

  • Always remain optimistic despite circumstances.
  • Delve deeper into your unconscious, spiritual side.
  • Move beyond superficial appearances.
  • Express your true colors and vibrancy.
  • Accept the seasons of change in your life.

The Medicinal Uses Of Iris Flowers

Iris flowers have been used in medicines and perfumes since ancient times.

Flowers and extracted oils of the Iris are used in skincare, clearing acne and revitalizing the hair and scalp.

Dried Orris roots are used to flavor toothpaste, powders, and potpourri mixes.

Follow this link for a detailed article on the historical uses of the Iris plant and its roots.


Iris flowers bring beauty, wonder, hope, and positive energy into our lives. Their elegant and flamboyant flowers symbolize wisdom, faith, nobility, and courage.

Iris flowers can indeed convey passion and secret messages beyond the power of words.