In this article, we’re taking a detailed look at flower tattoo meanings and ideas.
Meaningful and visually appealing, flower tattoos are versatile in every respect, from sizing to style and significance.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about flower symbolism and floral tattoo designs.
Meanings of flower tattoos
One of the most appealing aspects of floral tattoos is the range of symbolic meanings associated with different kinds of flowers.
There is a long history of using flowers to communicate and to express hidden meanings. This is known as the Language of Flowers, or floriography.
Floriography became particularly popular in Victorian England. You may have heard of elaborate, complex messages being delivered through nothing more than a bouquet of flowers.
Each flower has a highly specific meaning on its own. In addition, the colors used and other flowers in the bouquet can change the meaning.
Even today, many florists use the Language of Flowers. You may even use it without realising. For instance, we all instinctively connect a bouquet of red roses with a romantic occasion.
Similarly, flowers in tattoos often also carry symbolic meanings. Let’s go ahead and look at flower meanings for tattoos, specifically.
Popular flower tattoos
Although all floral designs look great, different flower tattoos will have different symbolic significance. Below, you’ll find an overview of popular flower tattoos and their meanings.
We have dedicated articles on many of these designs, so don’t forget to check these out if you’re interested in a particular flower!
There’s no better place to start than roses, the most popular of all flowers in tattoos.
Roses have a range of meanings. Firstly, as most people already know, they symbolize romantic love.
Secondly, they stand for secrets. In Ancient Rome, roses in a room or on a door indicated a private conversation happening inside.
Lastly, a rose signifies balance. This meaning comes from the symmetrical shape of the rose.
The color of the rose is an important factor in determining its meaning. For instance:
- Red roses symbolize romantic love, courage, and respect. A tattoo with a red rose could mean that you’re a romantic at heart, though it could also be a reflection of your strength and bravery.
- White roses symbolize innocence, chastity, and humility. A white rose tattoo often means faith, although it’s also sometimes a tribute to a lost loved one. White roses are the traditional choice of flowers for funerals of young people.
- Yellow roses symbolize friendship, loyalty, and non-romantic love. As such, they make for great matching friendship tattoos.
- Black roses symbolize mystery, death, and dark magic. In tattoos, they create a feeling of mysticism, fantasy, and the unexplored. Black roses don’t occur naturally in nature, so they stand for all things supernatural. Similarly, blue roses also symbolize mystery and magic.
Pink or orange roses appear less frequently in tattoos, although they do have specific meanings. Pink roses stand for gratitude and appreciation, while orange indicate enthusiasm and desire.
Naturally, many people get rose tattoos purely for the aesthetic effect – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! Don’t let any negative or unwelcome symbolic meanings deter you. These flowers make for some incredible-looking tattoos.
Most of us associate the lotus flower with spirituality and, specifically, Buddhism and Hinduism.
Buddha himself was, according to myth, born from a white lotus. Furthermore, the flower’s eight petals represent the Eightfold Path – the spiritual road towards liberation from endless rebirth.
Meanwhile, in Hinduism, lotus flowers are symbolic of purity and divine beauty, as well as spiritual awakening.
The idea of the lotus representing rebirth and purity reaches back thousands of years. Even the Ancient Egyptians saw the flower as a symbol of new beginnings and reincarnation.
A lotus flower tattoo, therefore, is most often a spiritual symbol. It doesn’t have to be an indication of belonging to a particular religious movement, of course – it can simply mean that the idea of spirituality is important to you.
Many people understand lotus tattoos to mean the concept of mortality in general, rather than rebirth. The lotus tattoo can be a reminder of our limited time and the importance of leading a fulfilling life.
Generally, cherry blossoms symbolize spring, renewal, and the impermanent nature of life. The flowers only bloom for a very short time each year, so they are often symbolic of fleeting moments and mindfulness.
Mostly associated with Asia, cherry blossoms frequently appear in Chinese- and Japanese-style tattoos.
Interestingly, in Japan, these flowers symbolize more than beauty and impermanence. They were also closely tied to Samurai traditions.
The trunk of the cherry blossom tree is strong and sturdy, and its flowers extremely delicate. The Samurai saw this juxtaposition as a reflection of their own values: strength and bravery combined with a noble mindfulness.
Similarly, World War II suicide pilots known as Kamikaze also used the cherry blossom as their symbol.
As you can see, then, tattoos with cherry blossoms therefore have a whole range of meanings. Whether they indicate bravery and sacrifice or beauty and purity, mindfulness and treasuring the present moment is the main theme.
As most other flowers, the symbolism of lily tattoos is quite complex.
In general, lilies represent purity and renewal, as well as femininity and motherhood.
Pink lilies sometimes mean ambition and prosperity, yellow ones – healing and health, and red – passion and romance.
In addition, lilies are a common choice of tattoo commemorating a lost loved one. They are the traditional funeral flower, given to grieving families.
Still, lilies are highly unique and impressive flowers. As such, they can make great subjects for tattoo art without a deeper meaning intended.
Taking after Greek mythology, sunflowers symbolize loyalty and adoration. They are also the flower of happiness and friendship.
In China, sunflowers are associated with good fortune and a long, happy life. Similarly, Native American cultures viewed them as symbols of the harvest and provision.
Sunflowers in tattoos are usually a purely aesthetic element – the flower has an original look and hasn’t been overly exploited in tattoo art. They can, however, represent friendship and good fortune.
The hibiscus is one of the most versatile tattoo symbols, with a range of meanings.
Hibiscus tattoos can signify beauty, sophistication, love, and courage, but also completely different concepts, such as mortality. The exact meanings usually depend on the cultural context.
The color of the hibiscus flower in a tattoo can also have an impact on the resulting meaning. For instance, red hibiscus flowers stand for love, yellow – friendship, purple – wealth, and white – enlightenment.
Daisies are another floral tattoo favorite.
The common daisy has white petals and a yellow center. The larger, colorful version is known as a gerbera (or gerber) daisy. The gerbera is a more popular choice for tattoos, likely because it looks more eye-catching and interesting in full color.
The key meanings of daisy tattoos are:
- Purity and innocence
- New beginnings
- True love
Daisy tattoos sometimes include daisy chains – a string of daisies tied together. Such strings were traditionally given to Medieval knights by their loved ones, as a symbol of protection.
Nowadays, daisy chains make for great armband or bracelet tattoos.
These are plants that grow in the wild, rather than being cultivated on purpose. Herbs such as rosemary and oregano, field-flowers like poppies and pansies are all examples of wildflowers.
The overall wildflower tattoo meaning is that of freedom. We sometimes use the word ‘wildflower’ to describe a free-spirited, independent thinker.
Therefore, wildflower tattoos are often the mark of people who think outside of the mainstream and consider themselves different in some way.
Specific wildflowers also have their own meanings. For example, sage symbolizes immortality, chamomile – patience, and lavender – virtue.
Though the above are by far the most popular choices for tattoos, there are plenty of other flowers to choose from. For example:
- Tulips – as the first flowers to bloom in Spring, tulips in tattoos often represent rebirth. Tulip tattoos can also mean true love, particularly if the flowers are red. In addition, purple tulips symbolize royalty, white – forgiveness, and yellow – joy.
- Chrysanthemums – these flowers have many meanings, sometimes contradictory. In many European countries, chrysanthemums are reserved for funerals and a time of mourning. Meanwhile in Japan, chrysanthemums symbolize longevity, happiness, and good will. They are also symbols of the Fall season, the country, and the Emperor.
- Orchids – like many other flowers, orchids primarily symbolize love, beauty, luxury, and strength.
- Violets – for such small flowers, violets have some truly grand meanings. Violet tattoos can symbolize modesty, loyalty, truth, and spiritual wisdom. In Victorian times, violets were also used as a secret code to represent female homosexuality.
- Irises – iris tattoos can symbolize faith, hope, courage, wisdom and admiration. White irises are often used in bridal bouquets, so in tattoos they can be a commemoration of a person’s wedding day.
- Peonies – In China, peonies symbolize royalty and virtue. Meanwhile, in Japanese tattoos, peonies represent a cheerful, reckless attitude. Other meanings of this flower include prosperity, good fortune, and honor.
- Forget-me-nots – the little blue flowers are symbols of everlasting love and affection. As such, they make great matching tattoos for both couples and friends. In tattoos, they can also symbolize remembrance, loyalty, and promises.
Types of flower tattoos
Now that we’re familiar with the symbolic meanings of popular flowers, let’s look at the tattoo styles and designs to consider.
After all, the term ‘flower tattoo’ is incredibly broad, covering all sizes and styles of designs. If you’re thinking of getting a flower tattoo, you might want to use one of the following types as the starting point.
Traditional flower tattoos
Traditional (or old school) tattoos usually involve a black outline filled with vivid colors. Because this style doesn’t use a lot of shading, the resulting designs are a bit cartoon-like.
The style is the absolute staple of tattoo art, having been the most popular look for tattoos throughout most of the history of tattooing, particularly in the West.
Classic and timeless, traditional flower tattoo designs usually involve a red rose. Chrysanthemums and lilies are also popular choices.
Chinese flower tattoos
This type of flower tattoo is inspired by traditional Chinese art. It often features delicately rendered cherry blossom branches, similar to those in paintings.
Writing in Chinese characters often accompanies the flowers to highlight the tribute to Chinese culture that the tattoo represents.
Japanese flower tattoos
The Japanese style of tattooing is definitely among the most distinctive. Japanese tattoos are characterized by their large size, vibrant colors, and complex imagery.
As it happens, flowers are often a key part of these designs.
Cherry blossoms, often carried by the wind or water, appear most frequently. They are Japan’s national flower, and symbolize life and the concept of mortality.
As mentioned above, peonies and chrysanthemums also hold particular importance in Japanese culture.
Mens floral tattoo
Although flowers are often associated with femininity, there are plenty of options for mens floral tattoos.
Japanese flower tattoos in particular are popular with men. This style features Samurai imagery, fantastic creatures such as dragons, and natural elements like animals and ocean waves.
Roses are another common choice for men. Rose tattoos, both in the traditional and more realistic style, are classic designs that suit every gender.
Holly flower tattoo
We’re all familiar with holly branches as symbols of Christmas. However, not everyone knows that this plant also produces flowers.
Holly flowers are unusual in that they have only four petals. They’re small, white-and-pink blossoms.
A holly flower tattoo can have an interesting symbolic meaning. Holly flowers are pretty and delicate, while the leaves are thorny and sharp.
This creates an interesting contrast, with meanings of duality and the complexity of nature.
If you follow floral tattoo trends online, you’re bound to have noticed that wildflower tattoos, usually in black ink, are among the latest fashions.
Wildflower tattoos in this style differ from most other floral designs in that they usually include the stems of the plants.
Rose or lily tattoos show only the most attractive part – the blossom. Wildflower designs, meanwhile, often show the whole plant.
This helps to identify the plants as wildflowers, as well as creating an elongated design that fits in well in any area of the body – particularly along the arms or the side of the ribs.
Many of these designs resemble drawings from a botanical guide. Made up mostly of black outlines, they use very thin lines to achieve an elegant and delicate effect.
Adding colors to the design will make for a more vibrant, more noticeable tattoo, changing the style from contemporary to traditional.
Wildflower designs are particularly popular among women. They make for gentle, minimal tattoos that highlight conventional femininity.
Delicate flower tattoos
Wildflowers, cherry blossoms, and other lightly rendered designs make for perfect delicate tattoos.
To give the designs a lighter appearance, consider opting for an outline-only tattoo with thin lines.
For colorful tattoos, a delicate feel can be maintained by using the watercolor style. Watercolor tattoos use gentle coloring that mimics the appearance of a watercolor painting.
The watercolor style is a perfect match for floral tattoos. Flowers are popular subjects in watercolor art, so there is plenty of inspiration for the tattoo designs.
Gentle colors with plenty of light areas will make the tattoo appear light and delicate, even when the design is quite large. Pinks, light blues, and purples are all calm, gentle colors that work really well with these kinds of tattoos.
Geometrical figures and dot-work patterns can be used to frame the flower. If enough space is left between individual elements, the design won’t be made any heavier by this addition.
Small flower tattoos
The obvious choice when looking for little flower tattoos is to opt for a single blossom. Start by considering flowers that are small in nature, such as daisies, cherry blossoms, and forget-me-nots.
Rather than trying to scale down a large flower (like a rose or a chrysanthemum), it’ll be easier to choose a simple flower to begin with. This is especially true because flowers with a lot of detail won’t look as good if the design is too small.
To properly render a rose, for instance, you need at least a medium amount of space. Otherwise, the details will be lost as the image is scaled down.
Little, basic flowers, meanwhile, make for tattoos that can be truly tiny, requiring less than half an inch of space. With the right design, a small flower tattoo can even fit on your finger.
Simple flower tattoos can involve just the blossom, or the stem with a single flower.
Large flower tattoos
Big tattoos, in turn, require expansive designs that either involve large flowers or complex compositions.
Roses, bouquets, chrysanthemums, and lilies all make excellent subjects for large tattoos, such as sleeves and back pieces.
With medium to large tattoos, you can can begin considering adding more realism to the design. A bigger surface means that your tattoo artists can accurately render more detail.
3D flower tattoos are particularly impressive examples of realistic designs, aiming for full photo-realism.
Hopefully, you now have all the information you need to make an informed decision about your next tattoo.
And now, for some visual inspiration: enjoy browsing our gallery of meaningful flower tattoos!