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Delicate and colorful, flowers have long been important symbols of natural beauty and life. In fact, they’re undoubtedly some of the most prominent tattoo designs in history. The meanings behind flower tattoos are as multi-layered as they are variable; in ancient cultures, flowers were a direct symbol of god’s contentment. Today, flowers often represent the love between two people.
In this article, we’ll give you a detailed overview of flower tattoos, going over a bit of their history, the different meanings they can have, and what tattoos and placements they work with best.
Being so popular and prominent a symbol for so long, it’s no surprise that flowers have been a common motif throughout the history of tattooing. Some of the first tattoos were tribal tattoos, and while they were often rather abstract, both fauna and flora were often referenced in tribal tattooing. They tended to serve as a reminder of one’s origins, communicating the concept of coming from a place where a specific plant grows, such that it is part of one’s identity. Think of it like getting a California poppy tattoo when you are from California.
One other interesting historical instance of flower tattooing is amongst the convict population of Australia in the 19th century. Like American sailor tattoos, these convict tattoos – of which we know exclusively through written records – tended to focus on a few of the same images over and over again, one of which is the flowerpot, whose exact meaning remains unknown.
As the tattooing tradition involved, one of its most prominent waves that continues to be popular today was American traditional tattooing, with its signature bold lines and colors. Since its beginnings, American traditional started out by often reusing the same collection of specific symbols, one of which was the flower. To this day, the American traditional flower is one of the most recognizable tattoos around, one that has been reproduced again and again.
Today, as tattooing continues to develop and new styles come into fashion, the flower remains one of the most popular tattoo designs around, especially among women. With its universal recognizability, myriad of meanings, versatility, and timelessness, this is a tattoo you can expect to remain in fashion for centuries to come.
One of the most unique things about flower tattoos is that they can bear such specific and distinct meanings depending on the type of flower one gets tattooed. And with nearly 400,000 species of flowering plants known to science, that is quite the number of options. Below, we offer a comprehensive list of different floral tattoo meanings.
This unique plant can be red or white, and in Mediterranean countries, it represents life as well as immortality. It is also a common symbol of love and friendship.
Usually found in warmer climates in South Africa, this red, bulbous flower symbolizes encouragement or success after struggle.
In Ireland, these green bell-shaped flowers are a popular symbol of good fortune.
This flower tattoo design is a powerful symbol of desire, passion, and perfection. It can also represent longing.
Common in Japanese style tattoos, the cherry blossom symbolizes empathy and an appreciation for the ephemeral. Since these flowers possess a delicate beauty that fades rapidly, they also serve as a reminder of one’s mortality.
This flower, which blooms in autumn, has come to symbolize the transition from life to death. It also represents royalty and perfection.
A mellow yellow flower, the daffodil represents virtues such as honesty, truth, faith, and forgiveness.
A colorful and spicy flower, the dahlia is a symbol of change, and it can also represent looming betrayal.
Opening and closing with the sun’s rise and fall, the daisy was named after the expression, “day’s eye,” and has long been associated with modesty and simplicity. Daisies, like several other flower breeds, have different meanings depending on the color of the flower petals. We’ve listed them below:
These flowers represent one’s sentimental or emotional side.
The red daisy represents boldness and youthful energy
A white daisy tattoo tends to symbolize innocence
Yellow daisy tattoos represent intelligence and cheer
Like the tree that refused to lend its wood to build Jesus’s cross, the dogwood flower has come to represent empathy and pity. It also stands for unconditional love, or love that can withstand adversity.
In Japan, the hibiscus represents gentleness, while in Hawaii, it represents royalty, power, and respect.
The iris’s three petals symbolize faith, valor, and wisdom.
This tattoo design is a classic symbol of femininity and purity.
The lotus flower also has color-specific meanings, which we’ve highlighted below:
The blue lotus symbolizes mind over matter or spirituality overpowering impulse or compulsion.
This is the flower known as Buddha’s lotus and can be thought to be a symbol of Buddhism.
The purple lotus is a symbol that pays homage to Buddhist deities, symbolizing a mystical view of religion and spirituality.
Commonly known as the Heart Lotus, the red lotus symbolizes the original state of the heart, standing for love, compassion, and passion, otherwise known as the ideal state of the heart.
With roots in Eastern culture, the white lotus flower represents knowledge and spiritual enlightenment.
An elegant and distinctive-looking flower, the magnolia is a popular symbol for the love of nature, beauty, and life.
In Japan, the orchid is a common symbol of bravery, while, in China, it represents prosperity and fertility.
Known as the King of Flowers in Japan, the peony symbolizes elegance and wealth.
This red flower is in remembrance of those who have died in war and represents eternal sleep. The poppy is featured in the famous poem, Flanders Fields.
This may come as a surprise to some, but the popular red rose is just one of a handful of rose colors. The meanings behind other rose colors are listed below:
The coral rose represents friendship, modesty, and sympathy
A lavender rose symbolizes love at first sight
Orange rose tattoos represent desire and enthusiasm
Roses in pink are symbols of grace and happiness
The classic red rose tattoo is an American symbol of love and beauty. It may also stand for hope and new beginnings.
Like with many other white flowers, the white rose represents purity, innocence, silence
A yellow rose tattoo might mean new beginnings, joy, or friendship
The sunflower was originally honored by the ancient Incas civilization as a symbol of the sun god, due to its resemblance to the sun. This tattoo design is a common symbol for warmth, happiness, and creation.
Vibrantly colored and delicate, the tulip is symbolic of prosperity and guilty pleasures.
This native Australian yellow puffball flower represents a love that is true, chaste, and pure, as well as beauty in retirement.
This deep red, blue, or white flower stands for forsaken love, anticipation, fragility, and protection from evil, as well as beauty and grace.
This gorgeous flower that ranges in color from a soft pink to a vibrant magenta, azaleas symbolize femininity, softness, love, and gentleness.
A tropical plant that comes in stunning red, yellow, and pink, begonias represent uniqueness, harmony, and respect, but are also known to function as a warning or sign of caution, which can make for an interesting and unique tattoo meaning.
Carnations, with their lovely colors and soft, crepey petals, are known to symbolize admiration, fascination, distinction, and love.
Known for their delicate white fuzzy seeds and many-petaled bright yellow flowers, dandelions are a common symbol of wishes, healing, and tenacity.
One of the most beautiful and sought-after flowers, the pure white gardenia is known to stand for purity, gentleness, trust, and respect.
In addition to being a common women’s name, heather is also a hardy purple plant that survives very well in cold weather, coming to represent concepts like protection, good luck, independence, and survival.
A flower so bright it’s almost hard to believe, geraniums are a symbol of friendship, intelligence, and positivity, making it a perfect tattoo for the optimists among us.
Once you’ve determined what type of flower species you want a tattoo of, the next step is choosing a tattoo style for your design. Here are some of the styles that make for the best flower tattoos.
Like we’ve mentioned above, the flower has long been prominent in American traditional, also called old school, tattooing, and there’s a good reason for it. The bold colors and strong lines of an American traditional tattoo really bring out the beauty of a flower, creating a vibrant and eye-catching result that is feminine while still being strong and striking.
Another option for a distinct, beautiful flower tattoo is the realism style. With this, you’ve got two main options. One is to go for a larger, more prominent, usually black and grey realism flower, which is great if you’re looking to have a sleeve tattoo or something more pronounced that really captures the essence of the flower you are tattooing.
But additionally, you can also get a micro realism flower tattoo, which is usually quite small and rendered in color. These types of tattoos are incredibly trendy right now and are a relatively new development in the tattooing world, making them fresh and exciting. Many women like this tattoo style because it is so delicate and feminine, being able to be created on a small scale while still including all of the beautiful detail that there is to be found in a flower.
Another flower tattoo style that is seeing a lot of popularity right now is the linework flower tattoo, which essentially looks like a drawing of a flower done in one color, usually black. These typically don’t have too much shading and can be done anywhere from a small to medium size. This type of flower tattoo is also a favorite for women because it is simple, elegant, and creates an impactful effect without being too dark or loud.
The best placements for your flower tattoo will largely depend on the style and size that you are looking to get, but here is a general idea of some of the best positions for a floral tattoo on the body.
If you’re thinking of getting your flower tattoo in a small or medium size, the inner arm is a perfect placement for it. It’s just enough space to be able to fit an entire flower without it warping around the curve of the arm, yet not too large such that a small or medium flower would look like it is randomly floating in space in the middle of it, like if you were to get a small flower tattoo in the middle of your back. Both the forearm and upper inner arm are great choices.
In contrast, if you’re looking to get a larger flower tattoo, one of the best places you can get it is on your thighs and hips, especially if the tattoo organically flows down the side of the body from the hip to the upper thigh. This is a great tattoo location for flower tattoos because the curvature of the woman’s hip area beautifully complements the natural, organic nature of a flower tattoo. In this location, it can appear like your large floral tattoo is blooming, growing, and spreading itself over your body.
A great spot for daintier, smaller flower tattoos, the ankle is a good place to get your floral tattoo if you don’t want the tattoo to be very prominent and easy to see. If you ever need to hide your tattoo, this location is great, because you can easily cover it with socks and pants, but you’ll still have the freedom to show it off when you want to by choosing different footwear. Ankle placement works well with flower tattoos because this is a delicate, soft part of the body, matching the gentle and graceful nature of the flower design.
If you want to get your flower tattoo as part of a more complex, intricate, or larger piece, one of the ways you can expand upon the flower design is to pair it with other images as part of the same tattoo. Here are just a few examples of some of the types of designs that work best as part of a flower tattoo.
If you’re a fan of contrast and juxtaposition, a very powerful tool in art and design, then you’ll love the idea of pairing your floral tattoo with a more geometric shape or line. By putting together both an organic, natural element like a flower with a bolder, more graphic element full of straight lines and angles, you’ll help both parts of the tattoo stand out even more.
This one might seem a little obvious, but one of the most natural choices of other design elements to pair with flowers are the things flowers are found connected to in the natural world, namely leaves and stems. These pair perfectly with flower tattoos, going together in a way that feels intuitive and organic.
Another natural choice is to pair your flower tattoo with an animal that is drawn to flowers in real life, like butterflies or bees. Butterflies are a very common tattoo for women due to their beautiful, intricate, and delicate beauty and meanings of transformation, resilience, rebirth, and freedom. This makes them a perfect choice to combine with flower tattoos. Bees are also a great option as they can represent feminine power and the beauty of the natural world.
Again in the vein of using contrast as a powerful design choice for a tattoo, another type of symbol that is known to pair very well with flower tattoos is a clock. With the flower representing nature and beauty and the clock representing technology and mechanics, the flower and clock tattoo together can represent life and the human condition of constant progress and being caught between nature and technology.
While the snake tattoo often symbolizes things like danger, risk, and power, when combined with a floral tattoo, it tends to take on more positive and wholesome meanings such as rebirth, change, transformation, fertility, and grace.
Have you noticed a pattern yet? Floral tattoos make for a great point of contrast for other symbols that are more dark or intense, which is one of the reasons that flower and skull tattoos are so common. While skulls are macabre and grim in their constant reminder of mortality and death, their meaning shifts when paired with flowers to one that is more complex if not also a bit softer – namely, the dueling powers of good and evil, of life and death.
A very popular companion for flower tattoos is word or quote tattoos, which are usually used to add a visual enhancement and added beauty to the more simplistic tattoo that a word, phrase, or sentence usually is. The meaning of a flower and quote tattoo is almost entirely determined by the content of the words themselves, though the flower can enhance or add a twist to the words depending on what they are. For example, a tattoo saying “grace” with a flower next to it is a great visual representation of the verbal concept it symbolizes, while a tattoo reading “We all die alone” next to a daisy is more likely to be meant as ironic and tongue-in-cheek.
There is an abundance of uniquely beautiful flowers that have held great cultural and spiritual importance throughout the ages. The flower’s look and the meanings behind it speak volumes about the environment in which it grows, as well as the people that live there. As a result, the options for flower tattoos are endless, with different combinations of symbols, designs, placements, and styles offering countless opportunities for personalizing and creating a unique flower tattoo that you will love.
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