What Is the Meaning of a Tulip Flower?


There is a milieu of myths and symbolism surrounding tulips, from their origin to meaning. The genius Tulipa is a member of the Liliaceae family, and is native to Turkey and Persia. Today the tulip ranks as the world's third most-popular flower behind roses and carnations, respectively. With approximately 4,000 varieties, it is no wonder tulips have come to represent so many emotions and sentiments, including perfect love.

Name Origin

As dictated by custom, Persian and Turkish men wore gauze turbans which they often adorned with tulips. They were simply slipped into the folds of the turban. During the 16th century, the Dutch ambassador to Turkey became enchanted with tulips and returned to his native country with bulbs, introducing the tulip to western civilization. Whether the flower was named tulip because it is the Latin derivation for "dulband," the Persian word for turban, or because it is shaped like a turban remains to be seen.

Red Tulips

There is a fable that a handsome, young price called Farhad was love struck by a beautiful maiden named Shirin. Upon learning about her untimely death, Farhad committed suicide by riding his horse off a cliff. From every drop of blood he shed, it was said that a red tulip grew, representing Farhad's perfect love for Shirin. Without a doubt, this fable was carried to western civilization by the Dutch ambassador.

Holland's Role

While native to Turkey and Persia, Holland took tulips seriously and is commonly considered the world's source for tulips. During a period known as Tulipomania from 1624 to 1637, the Dutch actually used tulips as currency. Entire fortunes were gained and lost based upon the tulip market.

Color Meanings

Red tulips, the ultimate symbol of perfect love, also have a place in Feng Shui---bringing fame into your life when properly displayed within your home. Yellow tulips, once representing hopeless love, now carry warm, sunny thoughts. Pink tulips represent happiness and confidence, while white ones symbolize worthiness and forgiveness. Variegated tulips send the message that the recipient has beautiful eyes. Orange tulips denote warmth, happiness and fascination. Purple ones are often used to express sympathy as well as royalty.


Tulips are appropriate for any occasion and are recognized as the 11th wedding anniversary flower. A simple bouquet can say "I'm thinking of you" or make a perfect hostess gift. Both elegance and grace are expressed in a tulip bouquet, while tulips placed in complex floral arrangements represent luxury. Of course, nothing heralds spring quite like a pot of blooming tulips or the emergence of early garden tulips.

Keywords: tulip flower meaning, symbolism of tulips, meaning of tulips

About this Author

Linda Marie was first published in 1969 while a feature news writer for the "Selfridge Flyer". She has held positions in broadcast copywriting, trade magazine publications, retail advertising and medical marketing. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Oakland University, Rochester, Mich.