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Dahlia Meaning and Symbolism

Purple, yellow, red, orange and bi-color dahlias

You know dahlias are gorgeous, but do you know what they mean? If you look past their layered petals and long-lasting blooms, you’ll find these flowers are tied to rich symbolism and meaning. With beauty and intrigue, it’s no wonder dahlia bouquets are so popular!

The neat thing is that not all dahlias have the same meaning. Both the flower color and location play a role in determining what a dahlia means. Some dahlia flower meanings include inner strength, positive change, and commitment. By mixing and matching the different types of dahlia flowers, you can create a bouquet that sends just the message you’re looking for.

What’s in a Name?

When you’re looking at the symbolism of a flower, it’s always a good idea to start with the scientific name and etymological meaning.
Both the common name dahlia and the genus Dahlia honor botanist Anders Dahl. Dahl was a student of the famed taxonomist Carl Linneaus. In case you don’t already know, Linneaus was the person who came up with the naming system we still use today. While many people thought Linneaus named this flower, historical records show he died before there was any reference to a dahlia. Many historians believe that Royal Gardens director Anotonio Jose Cavanilles gave the dahlia flower its name.

Dahl also helped spur the common name valley flower. If you ever head to Sweden you’ll learn that ‘dal’ means valley. Therefore, people refer to dahlias as valley flowers. So if anyone tells you that this name means that dahlias only grow in valleys, go ahead and kindly set them straight.

Dahlia Flower Basics

In case you’re not familiar with these beautiful flowers, here is some basic information and facts.
Dahlias are a huge group of plants with diversity in shape, size, and color. Plant breeders have created a wide array of dahlia flowers, including single dahlias, cactus dahlias, and single orchid dahlias. Looking for a dark burgundy dahlia the size of a dinner plate? You got it! Prefer small flowers that resemble pink pom poms? You can have that too.

Along with being beautiful flowers, dahlias are relatively easy to grow. They bloom from midsummer through fall, lighting up landscapes even after trees have begun to drop their leaves.

Dahlias also make excellent cut flowers. Whether you’re looking for an elegant single stem or a romantic wedding bouquet, dahlia flowers will fit the bill.

General Dahlia Meaning and Symbolism

While you can pull out different meanings based on dahlia flower color and tradition, there are some general meanings tied to all dahlia flowers.

  • New beginnings and fresh starts
  • Diversity amidst a boring world
  • Enduring kindness and grace, even when things are hard
  • Commitment to what is good

Dahlias are also the birth flower for November, due to their ability to bloom late into the fall.

Meaning of Different Dahlia Colors

Like many types of flowers, a dahlia’s flower color has an impact on its meaning. It’s possible to find dahlias of just about every color besides blue and black.
While many dahlias are one color, some varieties have different colored stripes. That means you can mix and match colors to find just the meaning you’re looking for.

Red Dahlia Flower

With bright, striking colors, red dahlias symbolize perseverance and the ability to overcome. They serve as a reminder of the inner strength everyone possesses, even in dark times. Therefore, they’re the perfect gift for someone who is going through a rough patch or recovering from an illness.

Pink Dahlia Flower

It’s hard to look at a pink dahlia without feeling a bit better about the world! That’s why pink dahlias symbolize kindness and beauty.
These flowers also symbolize feminine beauty, which makes them a great gift for any special lady in your life. And they’re perfect for Mothers’ Day!

Purple Dahlia Flower

Like many purple flowers, purple dahlias are tied to royalty. If you’re trying to tell someone you respect and admire them, a purple dahlia is a great choice.

Yellow Dahlia Flower

Yellow dahlias are nothing but cheerful, so their flower symbolism is easy to see. These dahlias help us go through life with a bit of joy and childlike glee. If someone is having a bad day, a bouquet of yellow dahlias will help brighten things up.

White Dahlia Flower

White dahlias symbolize innocence, purity, and new birth. While people often view white flowers as a blank canvas, white dahlia flowers are not short on beauty. Therefore, these flowers are a great gift for a baptism, new baby, or other big events.

Green Dahlia Flower

Green dahlia flowers symbolize big change and new beginnings while remaining true to oneself. Think of these green blooms representing little sprouts that will grow up into tall trees.

Black Dahlia Flower

There’s no doubting the symbolism behind the black dahlia. While most dahlia flowers hold positive meanings, this dark flower is linked to something a bit more sinister.

If you mention black dahlia, you’re talking about murder. In 1947, Elizabeth Short was brutally murdered in Los Angeles. Even after an extensive investigation, the murder remains unsolved.

During this time, it was common for reporters to nickname big crimes. That’s how this case became known as Black Dahlia. Wondering why? Some people reported that Short was known around LA by the nickname Black Dahlia. While it may have been a positive association at the time, the name now brings images of death and violence.

So before you buy a bunch of black dahlias for your friends, think about the message you want to send. And know that you aren’t really giving black flowers; they’re actually very dark maroon.

Dahlias Around the World

While dahlias are native to Mexico and Central America, they have spread throughout the world. While they look similar in different countries, their symbolism varies.


Mexico loves dahlias so much that its people have declared the garden dahlia the national flower of Mexico in 1963. While many people say this flower was chosen to honor the Aztec emperor Montezuma, records say otherwise. Despite people claiming that the dahlia was the emperor’s favorite flower, there’s no mention of the dahlia in historical texts.

The truth is that the leaders of the 1963 Floriculture Nacional event pushed President Adolfo Lopez Mateo to declare the dahlia the national flower. It worked.

It’s common for people to claim that the ancient Aztecs used the dahlia tubers for medicine. However, this all hinges on one little drawing in a 1552 manuscript on medicinal plants. While one flower resembles a dahlia, there’s no way to tell if this plant was another member of the Asteraceae family. So what’s this mean? It’s possible the ancient Aztecs used dahlias for food and medicine, but probably not to the extent some people say.

Today, the dahlia is known as the Queen of the Autumn Garden since it blooms outlast many other fall flowers.

Victorian Era

Once the dahlia made its way to Europe, plant breeders got to work creating showy blooms. During the Victorian era, people began to see the dahlia as a sign of devotion and love. They were also viewed as symbols of beauty and dignity. With these flower meanings in mind, it’s no surprise dahlias were widely used in wedding celebrations.

United States

Today, dahlia flowers symbolize beauty, commitment, and kindness. They’re also tied to steadfastness, due to their ability to bloom after many other flowers have died.

Growing Dahlias at Home

If you want to add these flowers to your garden, you’re in luck! Dahlias are hardy plants as long as you know how to properly grow and care for them. First thing’s first: dahlias grow from tubers rather than seeds. If someone hands you some “dahlia seeds”, go ahead and hand them right back.

Once you get some dahlia tubers, you’ll want to plant them in the ground once spring temperatures arrive. In many places, this means April or May. Choose a sunny site with well-draining soil, then plant the tubers a few inches below the ground.

Keep the area free from weeds and wait until shoots emerge. If you’d like straight stems, it’s a good idea to stake your dahlia plans with a wooden rod or tomato cage. Before long, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful flowers!

While dahlias are tender annuals, you can reuse the tubers for multiple years. Around the time of the first fall frost, cut back the stems so only a few inches remain. Next, dig up the tubers and place them in a dark area to dry (don’t wash away the dirt, it helps prolong storage life). Once dry, store them in a cool, dark location until you are ready to plant the following spring.

Cut Dahlia Flowers

While dahlias are beautiful in the garden, they’re practically made to be cut and brought inside. With long-lasting blooms and sturdy stems, dahlias are some of the best cut flowers.

The best time to harvest dahlias is in the morning when temperatures are cool. Use a pair of clean pruning shears and cut flowers that are partially or fully open. While some flowers can be cut in bud form, don’t try this with dahlias; their buds won’t open after they’re removed from the plant.

Strip off the leaves and give the stem a fresh 45° cut. Place them in a vase filled with room temperature water, and make sure to change the water every few days.

Beautiful and Meaningful Blooms

Now that you know about the dahlia flower meaning, it’s time to add some of these flowers to your home or send flower arrangements to a friend. Whether you’re looking for a bright pink bouquet to send some kindness to a sick friend or an elegant anniversary bouquet to celebrate an enduring marriage, you’ll be able to find a dahlia bouquet you love.

And if dahlias aren’t your thing, don’t worry! Pick out some classic blooms while learning the meaning behind tulips. Or read about orchid symbolism and order a new houseplant for the office. No matter which flowers you choose, they’ll make any ordinary day a bit more special.

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