Amaryllis Flower Meaning and Symbolism

The amaryllis is a stunning flower, sold both as an ornamental bulb and as a cut flower, widely admired for its huge, lily-like blooms that come in bright colors.  

It’s often given as a holiday gift during the Christmas period, where it’s enjoyed indoors as a colorful and fragrant flower.

With some flowers, the meaning and its origins are easy to trace. When it comes to the amaryllis, there is some mystery surrounding this flower and its symbolism.

Read on to discover what this gorgeous plant represents.

What does ‘Amaryllis’ Mean?

In Ancient Rome, the poet Virgil created quite a few interesting and provoking poems, and in his Eclogues, the name Amaryllis first appears, which is the name of a shepherdess. The word comes from the Greek amarysso, which translates as “to sparkle”.

When we refer to amaryllis, we can mean two different types of plants. 

The first and usually the one we refer to is plants belonging to the Hippeastrum genus. These plants are the ones that flower during the holiday season. They are also referred to as the “naked lady” plants.

Hippeastrum (see also Hippeastrum Genus Guide) encompasses more than 90 different species, which cover at least 500 different varieties, found in tropical climates. The word for the genus comes from Greek, translating as both “knight star”, and “horseman’s star”. 

The second refers to plants that look very similar, but have different common names, such as the resurrection lily, or Lycoris squamigera (see also Lycoris Facts And Meaning). 

What does the Amaryllis Flower Represent?

The amaryllis flower has a moving origin story of deep devotion and love, which comes from Greek mythology.

Amaryllis was the name of a nervous nymph who loved Alteo, a shepherd who was blessed with Apollo’s looks and Hercules’ strength. As you might imagine, he had a lot of admirers, and poor Amaryllis went completely unnoticed. 

She did know one thing about him. He loved flowers. More than anything, he wanted to discover a flower so rare, no one had ever seen it before. 

Amaryllis thought this was a good place to start, even if it was aiming high. But she needed outside help.

She went to the oracle of Delphi, and as the advice of oracles go, the instructions she received were a bit mad by anyone’s standards. Still. 

For thirty nights, she stood outside his home, dressed in all white as a maiden. Each and every night, she pierced her heart with a golden arrow. Ouch. 

On the last night, he opened the door, and a huge crimson flower greeted him, unique and perfect. If you ignore the fact it grew from the blood of her heart, that is. He was immediately won over, and despite the mischief she’d done to herself, they lived happily.

While the story today might come across as creepy, a little stalker-y, it’s helped cement the amaryllis as a symbol of devotion, love, and a guiding hope.   

What does a Red Amaryllis Flower Mean?

A red amaryllis is perfect to symbolize romantic love, passion, and the determination that love can instill in someone, almost like a fever. 

In some places around the world, it’s symbolic of beauty. In China, it symbolizes good fortune.

What’s the Symbolism behind a Purple Amaryllis Flower?

A purple amaryllis symbolizes spirituality, and someone who you think is unique – their character is set above all others, and you feel that they deserve everything in the world. 

What does a White Amaryllis Flower Represent?

A white amaryllis indicates purity, and feminine beauty. It can also be a message of sympathy and love, especially when it comes to bereavement.

What does a Pink Amaryllis Flower Mean?

Pink amaryllis blooms stand for a deep connection between two people, but one that’s not necessarily romantic in nature. This flower represents your easy and profound connection with someone. Maintaining your relationship with them is no effort at all. 

What is the Cultural Significance Behind the Amaryllis Flower?

In the Victorian language of flowers, the amaryllis held similar symbolism of love and the perfect picture of romance, but also beauty and resilience. 

These all relate to the plant itself, which is fairly sturdy when you think of the weight of the flower heads, and how resilient this plant can be in warmer climates.

Its popularity within Victorian culture was also helped by Alfred Tennyson, among others, who included the amaryllis in captivating verse. 

“The Daisy” references the enigmatic bloom quite a few times, celebrating its beauty and unique form. 

When Should You Give Someone Amaryllis Flowers?

Amaryllis flowers are appropriate for a range of occasions, but especially when you want to express to someone how much they mean to you, and how important they are to you.

Of course, the color of the bloom itself is important, as the appropriateness of the gift will change with the flower color. A purple amaryllis speaks of how important someone is in your life, and how there is no one like them. 

A white amaryllis tells someone that you think they have a good heart, and while it can be used to symbolize the beauty of the recipient, it’s also appropriate as a gesture that you’re there for them in difficult times.

A red amaryllis is extremely fitting for a romantic love that seems to shape everything else in your life. A gift of red amaryllises is a message of devotion, of how vital the relationship is to your life, almost like blood is vital to your body.

As these flowers grow to impressive heights and the size of the blooms themselves is a captivating sight, they are worthy gifts. 

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