If you’re considering a lily tattoo, you’re in the right place. This comprehensive guide will explain everything you need to know – from stargazer to lily of the valley flowers, their meanings, best ideas for a lily flower tattoo design, and interesting placements to consider.
Floral designs have always been one of the most popular choices for tattoos, and they’re not likely to go out of fashion anytime soon. In fact, recent years have seen increased interest in using specific types of flowers in tattoo art in order to express more defined meanings and values.
We’ve also compiled a massive gallery of lily designs to inspire and guide you as you plan your next tattoo!
Lily flowers, in general, have a long history of spiritual and symbolic meanings, reaching as far back as Ancient Greece.
In Greek mythology, lilies sprouted from the spilled milk of the goddess Hera herself, the queen of the gods. They were therefore highly revered among the Ancient Greeks, and made for a popular form of decoration, both as cut flowers and as paintings and ornaments.
The broad symbolic meaning of a lily – and therefore a lily tattoo – is that of renewal and purity. The flower is also associated with femininity (particularly motherhood), passion, and royalty.
The color of a lily determines its more specific meaning in both bouquets and in tattoo art. And so:
- White lilies are symbolic of purity and associated with the Virgin Mary in the Christian tradition
- Pink lilies stand for prosperity and ambition
- Yellow lilies are associated with healing and good health
- Red lilies represent passion and romance
Lilies are commonly given to grieving families at funerals. They are believed to alleviate the heartache following the loss of a loved one. Many lily tattoos you’ll see on other people will hold the personal meaning of mourning a person who has passed away and expressing the hope to meet again in the afterlife.
On a happier note, lilies are also given to couples on the day of their 30th wedding anniversary. Lily tattoos are therefore also symbolic of love and lasting relationships.
Stargazer lily tattoos
Stargazers are a variety of lilies that have been developed in the second half of the 20th century. This exotic hybrid stands out most prominently for its size: they can reach an impressive height of 36 inches (over 90 cm), with 2 to 8 flowers per stem, each at 10 to 14 inches (25-35 cm) in spread.
Stargazers are usually pink – the petals are dark pink in the middle, fading to white around the edges. Pink stargazer lilies, in tattoos and otherwise, are symbolic of prosperity, wealth, and ambition. White stargazers, meanwhile, symbolize purity, usually in a spiritual sense rather than a religious one.
As with many other types of lilies, white stargazers in particular are often given as tokens of sympathy at funerals. Quite often, stargazer lily tattoos are done as a way to honor and remember a lost loved one.
Lily of the valley tattoos
The lily of the valley looks completely different to other lilies – probably because despite its name, it’s not actually a member of the lily family. These woodland plants are much smaller, with several small, bell-shaped flowers on each stem.
In floriography, or ‘the language of flowers’, lily of the valley means the return of happiness. The general symbolic meanings of these flowers include purity, chastity, modesty, and happiness.
In European folklore, lily of the valley was believed to protect gardens from evil spirits, and to be the flower associated with fairies – who’d use the bell-shaped flowers as cups. In the legends of some European countries, particularly Germany and Scandinavia, the flower symbolizes good luck.
In the Christian tradition, it’s believed that the lily of the valley symbolizes the Virgin Mary’s tears at the cross of Christ, and Eve’s tears as she and Adam were cast out of paradise. Another story tells of lily of the valley growing from the bloodshed by Saint Leonard during his battle with a dragon.
Despite these associations with tears and blood, the lily of the valley is a positive symbol. In tattoos, it can mean happiness, renewal, and new beginnings. It’s also connected to love and relationships, as a popular wedding flower and a traditional gift for a couple’s second wedding anniversary.
For those interested in astrology, the lily of the valley is the official flower of Gemini. Since it blooms only for a short period of time in May, the flower is associated with springtime.
Popular design ideas for a lily tattoo
There are plenty of options when planning a lily tattoo design. The flowers look incredible on their own, but combining them with other elements can add another layer of meaning to the tattoo and help to express a specific idea.
- Lily blossoms tattoo – one or more lily flowers arranged in a linear pattern is more than enough to make for an intricate, captivating design. The flower itself is quite complex and detailed, so even a tattoo of one lily blossom will be far from simple or minimalistic. In order to fully render the aesthetic beauty of lilies, these tattoos are usually relatively realistic or even 3D. They look great both in full color and in shades of black.
- Lily and butterfly tattoo – like most flowers, lilies are often combined with butterflies in tattoo designs. Perhaps no other flower, though, is as suitable for this combination as the lily – the butterfly symbolizes life, the soul, resurrection, hope, and change. You’ll notice many of these meanings are complementary to those of a lily – which means that symbolically, this type of tattoo design will make a cohesive whole. Just like lilies, butterflies are often associated with springtime and make for popular symbols for weddings and other celebrations.
- Lily and hummingbird tattoo – combined with a lily in a single design, hummingbirds not only make for an eye-catching and vibrant tattoo but also enrich the meaning of the piece. These tiny, colorful birds symbolize living in the moment and enjoying life, as well as endurance and adaptability. Lily and hummingbird tattoos are most often done in full color.
- Lily and writing tattoo – text is a great addition to any tattoo, and lilies are no exception. Consider adding a meaningful quotation, one word that captivates your most important values, or the name of a loved one to your lily tattoo. Italics or handwritten fonts are usually the best choice to compliment a lily design.
When seeing a lily tattoo with a name on someone else, it’s best to be considerate and careful when asking about it – lily tattoos are sometimes done as a way to honor a lost loved one.
- Watercolor lily tattoo – the watercolor tattoo style aims to emulate a watercolor painting through bright, ‘watered down’ colors that blend easily into one another, with or without a black outline. Watercolor tattoos work great for lilies, since there are plenty of colors and shades to blend into a vibrant design.
Lily tattoo placement and scale
Despite their large size in real life, lilies are a viable option for even the smallest of tattoos. Although a tiny lily tattoo would result in less detailing than a larger design would permit, it can still look great and remain recognizable.
Small lily tattoos can fit in such tiny spaces as your finger. For a more discrete and original placement, consider your ear – a small lily can fit in the space behind the ear or along the outer edge. Elongated designs work best for the latter, to place along the natural curve of the ear.
For a lily tattoo to be small enough to fit in these spaces, it needs to be a simplified image of the flower – bear in mind it will be impossible to create a detailed rendition, or one involving other elements such as butterflies. One or two lily blossoms is probably the most that will fit in such a tiny space.
Lilies are a popular choice for large, elongated designs to fit on one half of the back or along the side (ribs). They also make for great sleeves and half-sleeves, usually in the form of three lily blossoms arranged in a suitable pattern.
For a lily of the valley tattoo, particularly if the design involves a single stem, consider a placement that makes the most sense for a thin, long tattoo. Top suggestions would include along the collarbone, spine, finger, or forearm.
Lily tattoos are a great choice for both men and women, with a huge range of variety in designs and possible placements. The flowers are not only visually appealing but also hold a number of meanings that are sure to resonate with just about every one of us at some point in our lives.
For more inspiration and ideas, have a browse of our gallery of lily tattoos. And feel free to take a moment to let us know your favorites in the comments section below!