What Do Tulips Mean?


Tulips come to us from Turkey and Persia, appearing heavily in folk art and literary works throughout that region. In Iran, tulip petals sometimes adorned turbans, from which etymologists believe the flower got its name. Every year, people in Istanbul celebrate the flower by dedicating a whole festival to tulips during the months of April and May. Once introduced to Europe, tulips became extremely popular, especially in the Netherlands. The connection to this region became strong enough that people still call certain cultivars by the name "Dutch tulips."

Language of Flowers

According to Iowa State University, tulips represent perfect love. Each color of this flower has an additional meaning. For example, yellow tulips symbolize a happy relationship, while an apologetic suitor might send white tulips in the hopes of restoring peace in the relationship. Variegated tulips act as a compliment to your lover's beautiful eyes.

Persian Myth

The University of Minnesota recounts a Persian Legend that begins with a young man by the name of Ferhad. Sadly the young women denied his love, and so he left to wander in the desert. When he could travel no more, he sat and cried wearily, his tears becoming tulips. To this day its customary for young men in Iran to offer the flower to a girl he hopes to marry as a way of saying, "don't break my heart."

Dutch History

During the 1600s people in the Netherlands used tulips as currency. As retold by Business Weekly, tulip mania swept through Dutch regions where people actually abandoned jobs to become tulip peddlers. Some rare tulip bulbs began selling for huge sums the highest recorded amount being 5,200 guilders, roughly 2,900 based on 2010 conversion rates. As a result tulips came to represent status and wealth particularly among the aristocratic class.

Spring Portent

Every spring tulips grow among the first-blooming flowers sometimes even peeking up when there's still snow. That's why the tulip became popular during Easter. Its bright emergence from the cold grasp of winter makes it a symbol of spring and hope.

Hex Signs

In Thomas E. Graves' and Dan Yoder's book on Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Symbols, tulips appear frequently in hex motifs. In this setting they represent faith.

Keywords: tulip symbolism, tulip history, tulip flower language, tulip hex sign, tulips represent love

About this Author

Patricia Telesco has been a writer since 1992. She has produced more than 60 books with publishers that include HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. Her articles have appeared in "Woman's World" and "National Geographic Today." Telesco holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Buffalo.