Camellia Flower Meaning and Symbolism

Part of the flowering tea family Theaceae, the Camellia is from eastern and southern Asia, and is grown throughout the world because of its nearly-maintenance free nature, and how it produces prolific blooms in red, white, and pink. 

When people refer to the camellia flower, they usually mean Camellia japonica, or Camellia sasanqua, but it’s most likely the former. Another type of Camellia, the Camellia oleifera, produces tea seed oil, which is used in cosmetics.

The leaves of Camellia sinensis are processed to make tea. 

There are a few interesting meanings behind the Camellia flower, which makes it ever popular both as an ornamental plant to have in the garden, and its use throughout art in many forms. 

What does ‘Camellia’ Mean?

The name ‘camellia’ came from Carl Linnaeus, who standardized plant names. He named this flower after Father Georg Joseph Kamel, who was a botanist. 

Kamel created the first detailed lists of the wildlife native to the Philippines, and while the first version of the list was lost to pirates, he managed to ship his findings to London where they were published in 1704. 

What does a Camellia Flower Represent?

Camellia flowers signify perseverance, love, devotion, and a great admiration for someone. 

They also represent perfection and faith, but this depends on the color of the flower and the context in which it is given to someone. 

In the Victorian language of flowers, camellias were given to someone as a symbol of a deep longing for their company, and that the person receiving the flower was a flawless beauty. 

In China, camellia flowers are said to bring luck into the new year, and they were often offered to the gods during the Chinese New Year.

In Japan, the flower is often used in religious ceremonies, where it represents divinity, and spring’s arrival.

In the US, the camellia is Alabama’s state flower, and the bloom is usually associated with southern beauty. 

What does a White Camellia Flower Symbolize?

White camellia flowers symbolize good luck. They are also often used to represent the eternal love between a mother and her child, and this is why it’s used at funerals.

In some places, giving a white camellia flower to a man is believed to invite good luck. 

What does a Red or a Pink Camellia Flower Represent?

Pink camellias symbolize longing and affection for someone, but not quite as deep as love or passion, but maybe the beginnings of such. 

Red camellias symbolize romantic love, desire, passion, and being unable to stop thinking of someone. 

To the Victorians, red camellias symbolized that the recipient was the “flame” of the giver’s heart, a renewed reason for living that colors everything. 

What is the Cultural Significance Behind the Camellia Flower?

In China, the camellia is used to decorate homes during the Chinese New Year, in order to invite good luck for the year ahead. 

It’s also used at weddings, where it represents the unity between a couple. 

The flower represents the woman, while the calyx – which holds the petals together – represents the man, and this links to how the flower decays. In other flowers, the petals and the calyx separate – one drops before the other.

In the case of the camellia, both the petals and the calyx fall from the plant together, symbolizing how even death cannot separate those tied by love. 

What does a Camellia Tattoo Mean?

While a camellia tattoo is admired for its beauty, it also has a lot of symbolism attached, like the flower itself. Camellia tattoos are used to represent love, longing, the pursuit of perfection and enjoying life.

The meaning gets clarified further with the use of color. White camellias are often used to represent purity, divinity, enduring love and protection. Sometimes they’re used as a symbol to invite good luck into someone’s life. 

Thanks to the book To Kill A Mockingbird, white camellias also represent empathy. Mrs Lafayette Dubose is racist and mean, and to punish her, Jem cuts off the white camellias in bloom in her garden. 

Eventually, through his assigned punishment of reading to her, he comes to realize she had problems of her own. Through the strength she gained in his company, she managed to kick a morphine addiction, and when she died, she gave him a white camellia flower to symbolize their precious time together, and how they’d both grown as people through knowing each other. 

Pink camellia tattoos represent affection, or gratitude, or even a bittersweet love.

Red camellia tattoos symbolize passion, romantic love, and devotion.

When Should You Give Someone Camellia Flowers?

With any flower given as a gift, it’s important to note the color – as red or pink flowers often symbolize romantic intentions. Be careful you’re not giving out the wrong message, when all you want to do is thank someone!

Camellia blooms are wonderful if not rarer cut flowers to give as gifts, but that doesn’t make them less meaningful. They represent devotion and faithfulness, the likes of which you’re sure will endure all time and obstacles. 

They also symbolize perfection – so a gift of camellias is a message that you think the other person is perfect in every way – even with the flaws they have. 

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