As with many plants, ‘Trillium’ refers to both a genus of flowering herbaceous plants as well as a specific plant.
When we refer to a Trillium, we usually mean the woodland plant which produces three petals per flower.
These lovely flowers look a little like a cup sitting on a saucer, with its cluster of three petals standing on three leaves.
They usually add a wealth of color and interest into any garden during spring, though they can also flower in the early days of summer.
Trilliums are fairly hardy and thrive in soil with high levels of acidity, and do well in partial shade, but they also have a lot of symbolism behind these petite blooms.
Behind The Name: What Does ‘Trillium’ Mean?
Part of the bunchflower or Melanthiaceae plant family, the Trillium refers to around 50 flowering plants.
You have probably guessed that the prefix ‘tri’ refers to the three leaves, three petals, and three sepals that the plant produces.
You may have heard a trillium referred to by its common name, the wake robin, which refers to its appearance in early spring, around the same time as the robin appears in gardens.
The Meaning Behind the Trillium Flower
The blooms of a trillium plant have a multitude of symbolism. They are the epitome of grace, adding an element of showy charm to any garden, as well as signifying spirituality and a thoughtful, caring nature.
White trilliums signify the Holy Trinity within Christianity, grace, and a well-wish.
Red trilliums embody desire, romantic love, and elegance.
Some white trilliums turn pink as they mature, so these blooms also represent wisdom, experience, and a celebration of personal growth, or the rewards of success.
The Cultural Significance Behind the Trillium Flower
In some parts of the world, it’s illegal to pick trilliums, even if you’re only tempted to pick part of it, or to otherwise remove them from their natural habitat, as it can kill the whole rhizome of the plant.
Trilliums are highly prized, and represent a fragile beauty, as some species are endangered, and overharvesting because of their popularity within folk medicine plays a big part in their rarity.
They also bear the name ‘birthwort’ or ‘birthroot’ as these plants were used medicinally to help those in childbirth.
Both Ohio and Ontario have made the trillium flower their official symbol.
What Does a Trillium Flower Tattoo Mean?
A trillium flower makes for an unusual and striking tattoo design. Because the symbolism behind this flower is multi-layered, this also goes for a trillium tattoo.
It can symbolize something important to you which comes in threes, or three significant people in your life, thanks to its unusual habit of forming three petals and three leaves.
A trillium flower tattoo also means grace, which can represent a particularly graceful person, someone called Grace, or striving for perfection in every area of your life.
The image of a trillium also promotes the idea of precision, of shaping things into exactly what you want them to be, which can make for a thought-provoking tattoo.
When Should You Give Someone a Trillium Flower?
As long as you get trilliums from a sustainable and ethical source, trilliums are perfect for when you want to encourage someone to keep going, or to celebrate something special.
You can grow them yourself for this purpose. However, it’s worth noting that picking even a leaf off a trillium plant can cause the whole plant to suffer or even die, even if you don’t touch the rhizome, so only pick what you’re prepared to lose from your garden.
Giving someone a pink trillium plant signifies a celebration of personal achievement or the end of a long journey, while a red trillium flower conveys a message of deep passion and love for the recipient.
A white trillium can be given to anyone who you think is graceful or elegant, and carries a thoughtful message of good luck, and general well-wishing.
A white trillium also represents how glad you are that the recipient is healing or moving on after something traumatic.
It can also be an encouragement of a renewal after a difficult time, and that the dark times cannot last forever.