Lotus Flower Meaning and Symbolism

Lotus flowers are among the most beautiful of aquatic plants, also known as sacred lotuses, or Nelumbo nucifera

In the wild, you can find it in the slow-moving waters of Southeast Asia, as well as cultivated water gardens, ponds and rivers across the world. In art, you’ll find it all over the world in many different mediums.

But what does the lotus flower actually mean? Can you give a lotus flower as a gift, and what message does it send?

Lotus Flowers At A Glance

Lotus flowers belong to the very small plant family Nelumbonaceae which only consists of two species. 

You’ll find lotus flowers in slow-paced rivers and deltas in Asia, though they have naturalized in different parts of the world. 

Lotus plants produce thousands and thousands of seeds every year, most of which are eaten by wildlife, but quite a few lie dormant when the water dries up. When it floods again, the seeds ‘wake up’ and germinate.

These seeds can lie dormant for literally a thousand years, so there are some interesting associations with this flower!

Lotus flowers are among the oldest cultivated edible seed plants in the world, spanning over 3,000 years, and are also the national flower of Vietnam and India.

What’s The Difference Between Lotus Flowers And Water Lilies?

Lotus flowers are popular in many cultures, though they often get confused with water lilies, as they both live in water, have lily pads, and produce some of the most enchanting flowers nature is capable of. 

You can tell the difference between a lotus and a water lily by the leaves. The foliage of a water lily has thick and waxy leaves, and has a distinctive notch in each leaf. 

The difference is also easier to spot in the flowers. Water lily flowers have pointed petals, and form a star-shaped flower, whereas lotus flowers have rounded petals, which often take a ruffled form. 

The flowers of a water lily are also thick and waxy to the touch, while lotus flowers are much more delicate.

What Do Lotus Flowers Symbolize?

Lotus flowers are a popular symbol across the world, but especially so in Asia. 

One of the most prevalent symbols of the lotus flower is purity, as these plants produce fantastically beautiful flowers in such vivid colors when the plants themselves grow in muddy or even murky water where you might not expect such beauty.

It’s an interesting thought, and also has the association of enlightenment, that something so perfect can come after a time of confusion, chaos, or challenge. 

Others associate the lotus flower with renewal and rebirth, especially when you think that lotus plants grow in quite murky water and produce some of the most beautiful flowers found in nature.

Lotus flowers symbolize the intricate designs of nature, as well as beauty, purity, and as they live in slow-moving waters, peace. 

Lotus Flowers In Different Cultures

While you’re probably familiar with how lotus flowers are associated with peace, rebirth, beauty, spirituality, and renewal, you might not know that they have many medicinal and edible uses.

In Korea, the lotus plant is used to make tea from the petals and stamens, while the other parts are used in salads and traditional cuisine.

In Buddhism, the lotus flower represents purity, where someone has pushed past any negativity in their life and their past, and has become enlightened.

It also symbolizes spiritual growth, reflecting someone’s journey in life, and how through tough times you can begin to understand more about yourself and the universe, too. 

In Hinduism, the lotus flower is associated with divinity and purity, as well as being the flower of many deities. 

Lotus Flower Tattoo Meaning

Lotus blooms are a big part of many religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, but they are also a big part of tattoos in other ways, and there are many reasons why you might get a lotus flower tattoo.

A lotus flower tattoo can represent renewal, spirituality, revitalized energy, purity, and rebirth. As most of the plant lives below the surface of the water, and the flowers appear above the water, it’s all about internal change and spiritual growth.

 It also means that through determination, you can free yourself of any situation or difficult time you find yourself in, and learn and grow.

Lotus flowers also represent a love of nature, beauty, resilience, and adapting to tricky situations, as these beautiful blooms can seemingly appear from the mud out of nowhere.

When Should You Give A Lotus Flower As A Gift?

Giving a lotus flower as a gift is a great idea, but it’s important to know when it is appropriate to do so, and when it might backfire!

Depending on where you live, lotus flowers may be available all year round, but with the different times of year comes different associations. 

A lotus in winter, for example, represents rebirth and optimism in the darkest times of the year, and looking forward to the future.

A lotus flower may be given as a celebration of all the things someone has accomplished so far, despite what they have been through, good has come of it.

It can also represent a new life stage, a turning point in your life, or the moment of an epiphany or new purpose in life, as it represents renewal.  

Some people use lotus flowers to celebrate milestones, such as births and weddings in particular.

It is important to remember that a lotus flower given as a gift can backfire. In some cultures, a lotus flower represents death rather than rebirth, so make sure you are sending the right message! 

Botanically speaking, it may be easier to give someone lotus flower seeds rather than the flower or plant itself, as it is an aquatic plant, it will be difficult to transport and care for.

But this has an interesting meaning in itself, in that the recipient can watch for themselves how their care and determination can mean something amazing and beautiful, given enough time.

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