The Hibiscus Flower: Exploring its Rich Symbolic Landscape (2024)

Sometimes known as the rose mallow or rose of Sharon, hibiscus flowers grow in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates worldwide, from Haiti to Hawaii, India to Illinois. They are beloved for their bright colors and delicate beauty. Here, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the meaning and symbolism of hibiscus flowers.

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Table of Contents:

  • Hibiscus Flower Symbolism – Key Takeaways
  • Etymological Meaning
  • HibiscusFlowerMeaningand Symbolism
  • HibiscusFlowers in Hawaiian Culture
  • HibiscusFlowers in Greek Mythology
  • HibiscusFlowers in Ancient Egypt
  • HibiscusFlowers in Hinduism
  • HibiscusFlowers in Chinese Culture
  • HibiscusFlowers in Malaysia
  • HibiscusFlowers in Haiti
  • HibiscusFlowers in Victorian Times
  • Floral Symbols in Tattoos
  • Suitable Gifting Occasions
  • Hibiscus Flower FAQs:

Hibiscus Flower Symbolism – Key Takeaways

Hibiscus grow as perennials or annuals in climates ranging from tropical to temperate. These popular ornamental plants flower in a rainbow of colorful blooms, many imbued with meaning. Prized in cultures worldwide, short-lived but dramatic hibiscus flowers symbolize youth, beauty, success, glory, and femininity.

Etymological Meaning

The term “hibiscus” comes from the Greek word hibiskos or mallow. Some posit that an ancient botanist named Pedanius Dioscorides originated the term.

HibiscusFlowerMeaningand Symbolism

Hibiscusgrows in a range of colors. Many are associated withspecific meaningsor imbued with symbolism.

White Hibiscus Flowers

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Whitehibiscusflowers are associated with purity. In some cultures, this translates into an association with women, femininity, and innocence. Other cultures associate white blooms with beauty.

Yellow Hibiscus Flowers

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Yellowhibiscusblossoms are often associated with fortune and good luck. Happiness and sunshine are other meanings often attributed to yellowhibiscusflowers.

Red Hibiscus Flowers

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As with red roses, redhibiscusflowermeaningis often associated with passion. It’s often used to symbolize romance and love.

Purple Hibiscus Flowers

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The purplehibiscusflowermeaningis linked to knowledge and wisdom. Purple blooms may also be associated with mystery.

In some cultures, purple flowers are used to symbolize high class or royalty. They may be used to express the idea of worth or value, especially that of an individual.

Pink Hibiscus Flowers

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Pink hibiscus blossoms often symbolize friendship and various types of love, such as platonic or familial. Giving someone a pink flower is a way to express that you care about them.

HibiscusFlowers in Hawaiian Culture

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For residents of the Hawaiian Islands, hibiscus flowers have many special cultural meanings and uses. In fact, Hibiscus brackenridgei, a yellow species endemic to the Islands, is the state flower. Known in native Hawaiian as ma’o hau hele, they used the plant for a number of purposes.

Hibiscus bark was used to make cords to secure outrigger canoes, create sandal straps, and for sewing clothing. Flowers were used as a treatment for stomach ailments, while hibiscus wood was used to create charcoal for cooking and heating.

Hibiscus blossoms also have ornamental uses in Hawaiian culture. Flowers placed in the hair are a sign of beauty. Depending on which ear they’re tucked behind, they may symbolize the wearer’s availability for a romantic relationship.

Leis featuring hibiscus blooms are also prized, though the blooms are notoriously short-lived.

As for symbolism, the flowers are often used to represent hospitality. Sometimes, they also symbolize power and respect.

HibiscusFlowers in Greek Mythology

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Hibiscus flowers play a role in Greek mythology. The story of attraction and drama between the god Adonis and the goddess Aphrodite involves symbolism tied to the hibiscus blossom.

In some stories, Adonis turns into a hibiscus flower in order to stop Aphrodite from arguing with the goddess Persephone. In other variations of the tale, Aphrodite turns Adonis into an anemone flower. He’s then reborn as a handsome god.

HibiscusFlowers in Ancient Egypt

Several cultures use hibiscus tea to boost mood. But the ancient Egyptians took it a step further. They believed that the flower was an aphrodisiac and used it to arouse licentious moods. As a result, unmarried women weren’t allowed to drink hibiscus tea.

HibiscusFlowers in Hinduism

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In Hinduism, the redhibiscusblossom belongs to the goddess Kali, and sometimes mayrepresent her tongue. The flowers feature prominently in art that depicts Kali, especially from the Bengal region. Often, Kali is shown merging into ahibiscusblossom.

Another deity, Lord Ganesha, is also associated withhibiscus. Ganesha is believed to prize the flowers for their ability to take consciousness to a divine level. Hindus may presenthibiscusflowers when making offerings to Kali and Ganesha.

HibiscusFlowers in Chinese Culture

In China,the hibiscus flower is often associated with personal power, fame, and glory. The blossoms may also be associated with wealth.

Both men and women can give and receivehibiscusflowers. A gift of ahibiscusmay indicate that the gifter admires the giftee or that they wish them glory and success.

HibiscusFlowers in Malaysia

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The hibiscus is Malaysia’s national flower, where it’s known as Bunga Raya or “big flower”. Here, it’s a symbol of the country’s national philosophy, known as Rukun Negara.

The flower’s five red petals represent the inclusion of diverse races and ethnic groups. The hibiscus stands for unity, an important part of Malaysia’s national character.

HibiscusFlowers in Haiti

The beautiful flower is prized by Haitians; while it’s not their official national flower, it’s largely been adopted as their national symbol. In Haiti, the hibiscus has many uses. Plant extract is thought to have antiviral qualities and is used to boost immune response and regulate cholesterol.

Hibiscus is consumed as a health drink. It’s also used as an ingredient in many products, from shoe polish to fabric dye.

HibiscusFlowers in Victorian Times

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In mid- to late 1800s England, the hibiscus symbolized womanhood in the Victorian language of flowers. Specifically, the flowers represented a certain style of delicate feminine beauty. Presenting a woman with a hibiscus flower was an acknowledgment of her delicate, beautiful nature.

Floral Symbols in Tattoos

Today, thehibiscusfloweris apopular tattoo choice. For some, it may represent respect for Hawaiian culture. For others, the flower represents love, friendship, power, or success.

Suitable Gifting Occasions

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Hibiscus plants make a wonderful gift for anyone who appreciates bright flowers and a lush, tropical look. Red flowering plants make a perfect flower as a gesture of romantic love or passion, while pink flowers represent non-romantic love.

To wish someone success or cheer, yellow flowering hibiscus is a good choice. A gift of white blooms may be taken as a compliment on someone’s physical beauty.

Hibiscus Flower FAQs:

What is hibiscus flower used for?

Several cultures use thehibiscusfloweras an edible delicacy. In many parts of the world, blooms from thehibiscuscommonly known as roselle (H.sabdariffa)are used to make a hot or cold tea. In West Africa, the red, tart drink isknown asbissap.It’s calledaqua de jamaicain Mexico and Central America, sorrel in the Caribbean,orhulin India,karkadein Egypt, andgul e khatmiin Iran.

What does Hibiscus mean in English?

The term “hibiscus” comes from the Greekhibiskosor mallow. Some posit that an ancientbotanist named Pedanius Dioscoridesoriginated the term. Prized in cultures around the world, short-lived but dramatichibiscusflowers may symbolize youth, beauty, success, glory, or femininity.

What are the characteristics of the hibiscus flower?

Flowers bloom in a virtual rainbow of colors, from red to purple to bicolor and everything in between (except green). Depending on the variety, flower size may reach up to 12 inches across. Flowers are funnel-, trumpet- or dinner-plate shaped, with at least five petals and an erect center stalk.

Which type of flower is hibiscus?

Hibiscusbelongs to theMalvaceaeor mallowfamily,whichcontainsalmost 300 species. Depending on climate and variety,hibiscus may grow as perennials or annual shrubs or evergreen or deciduous trees.

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The Hibiscus Flower: Exploring its Rich Symbolic Landscape (2024)
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