With blooms of all shapes and colors, chrysanthemums add joy to any garden or bouquet. However, they’re not just for show! Each chrysanthemum flower symbolizes something special. While people often use chrysanthemums as tokens of happiness and joy, the flower’s meaning varies depending on your location and the flower color.
Join us while we explore chrysanthemum meaning starting with Ancient China and continuing through the present-day. We’ll break down the symbolism behind each color so you can choose the perfect flower for every occasion. If that’s not enough, we’ll let you know what makes these plants special and discuss some of their unique uses.
Origin of Chrysanthemum Flowers
While there are thousands of different chrysanthemums available today, this flower started as a simple bloom. The first chrysanthemums originated in East Asia, with the majority coming from China. One of the first notes of chrysanthemums comes from the Chinese philosopher Confucious. Thousands of years ago he mentioned the chrysanthemum in his works. This reference described a simple golden flower rather than the chrysanthemums we know today.
A few hundred years later, Chinese people began cultivating these flowers. The Chinese held these flowers in a special light and many beautiful flowers were grown in China. Sometime during the fourth century, Buddhist Monks carried chrysanthemum plants to Japan. The Japanese quickly fell in love with the flower, so much so that they made it part of the Emperor’s crest and a symbol of the royal family.
Over time, chrysanthemums made it to the Western World. While they may seem like they’ve been around in the United States forever, they didn’t arrive until 1798.
Chrysanthemum Meanings Around the World
Chrysanthemum meanings vary depending on where you’re located. A flower that symbolizes happiness in one place might relate to death in another area. Before you use these flowers to send a message, take note of the recipient’s location and cultural background.
In Australia, mums are the official flower of Mother’s Day, aka Mum’s Day. Therefore, you can expect to see a lot of these blooms on this holiday.
In Belgium and other Western European countries like France and Austria, chrysanthemums symbolize death and mourning rather than life. They are commonly used as funeral and memorial flowers.
Buddhist monks believe that chrysanthemums contain Yang energy that adds brightness and liveliness to a home.
In Chinese culture, the chrysanthemum relates to long life and good fortune. Therefore, people often bring these flowers to events like baby showers and birthday celebrations.
Chinese people refer to the chrysanthemum, plum blossom, orchid, and bamboo as the “Four Gentleman.” Artists have painted these plants for over a thousand years, and they often use the four plants to show the changing of the seasons.
In Ancient China, people used the word chu to refer to a chrysanthemum flower. The city Chu-Hsien means chrysanthemum city. Today, the chrysanthemum is the official flower of the cities Beijing and Kaifeng.
While chrysanthemums relate to death in many parts of Europe, this isn’t true in Great Britain. The Brits view mums as a symbol of happiness and longevity.
When chrysanthemums first appeared in Japan, people noted that the flower’s petals opened in perfect order. Therefore, the Japanese began to associate mums with perfection. Chrysanthemums also symbolize the sun.
Japan loves the flower so much that they have a National Chrysanthemum Day which corresponds with the Festival of Happiness.
However, white chrysanthemums link to death, and people typically use them as funeral flowers and grave decorations.
In the United States, chrysanthemums symbolize friendship, happiness, and well-being. They are often tied to the arrival of autumn since they are one of the most popular fall flowers.
During the Victorian Era, Europeans viewed the chrysanthemum as a symbol of good luck and friendship. Therefore, friends and family often gifted one another mums.
The Colors and Symbolism
Like many types of flowers, the color of a chrysanthemum flower plays a big role in symbolism.
White chrysanthemum symbolism varies depending on where you are. In some places like Western Europe and Japan, white chrysanthemum flowers are reserved for mourning and grief. However, in other countries, white blooms relate to innocence, purity, honesty, and loyalty.
Like many red flowers, red chrysanthemums symbolize love and passion. If you’re looking for blooms for an anniversary or Valentine’s Day, take a break from roses and opt for red chrysanthemum flowers.
Pink chrysanthemum flowers are often tied to friendship and affection. They hold special symbolism in Japan since they symbolize the Imperial family.
Orange chrysanthemum symbolism falls a bit in between that of red and yellow flowers. They are linked with excitement, happiness, and other good feelings.
Yellow chrysanthemums frequently symbolize happiness, joy, and celebration. If you’re looking for a mum to brighten someone’s day, you can’t go wrong with yellow blooms.
A bit uncommon, green chrysanthemums symbolize rebirth, good health, and longevity.
While violet chrysanthemums can be challenging to find, they are gorgeous flowers. These purple blooms symbolize thoughtfulness and care.
Interesting and Unique Characteristics of the Chrysanthemum Flower
Even if chrysanthemums didn’t have rich meaning, they would still be pretty cool flowers!
More Than One Flower
When you first look at a chrysanthemum bloom, you may think it’s only one flower. Well, surprise, it’s not! Each bloom contains many tiny flowers. The middle of the flower is made up of disc florets and the “petals” are ray florets. This means each bloom can produce hundreds of seeds!
Tons of Cultivars
If you think a mum is a mum, think again. With thousands of chrysanthemum cultivars, you’ll find these flowers come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. Professional growers typically group these cultivars into 13 different categories including single blooms, pompons, spider mums, and cushion mums.
A Literal Name
The Chrysanthemum genus has quite a literal meaning. The word comes from the Greek words “chrysos” meaning gold and “antehmos” meaning flower. Since the original chrysanthemum was gold, this name made sense.
Chrysanthemum Plant Uses
While they’re obviously beautiful in bouquets and gardens, chrysanthemums also have several other uses.
Clean Air Pollution
According to the NASA Clean Air Study, chrysanthemums were some of the best plants for removing benzene. Some people speculate that this means mums can remove other forms of indoor air pollution.
Chrysanthemum flowers contain a natural substance called pyrethrum. Humans have found that this substance contains six individual compounds called pyrethrins. Farmers and gardeners use pyrethrin as an organic insecticide.
Various parts of the chrysanthemum plant were frequently used in traditional Chinese medicine. In Ancient China, people used the plant to help with chest pain, fever, inflammation, and high blood pressure. They also used boiled roots to help with headaches.
Modern studies have shown that chrysanthemum does contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. However, scientists are still researching to better understand the potential health benefits of the chrysanthemum plant. Currently, people still use the chrysanthemum as an herbal remedy.
What Month Does the Chrysanthemum Symbolize?
The chrysanthemum is the official birth flower of November.
What Do Chrysanthemum Tattoos Symbolize?
While the meaning behind a tattoo varies between individuals, chrysanthemums are often used to memorialize someone who has passed or represent a major change in life. They’re also simply gorgeous flowers, so they can also symbolize happiness and beauty.
Do Chrysanthemums Symbolize Death?
In some European countries including Austria, Belgium, France, and Italy, chrysanthemum flowers symbolize death and grief. Therefore, they are only given in time of mourning. In Japan, white chrysanthemum flowers symbolize death. However, in other parts of the world, chrysanthemums symbolize happiness, long life, and joy.