Iris Symbolism – What This Flower Means

iris symbolism
Irises are popular flowers with more than 300 species available. These flowers have been here since ancient times and have different meanings in different cultures. The iris is commonly used in bridal bouquets and stands for purity, hope, wisdom, courage, nobility, faith, communication, chivalry, and messages. 

Iris Flower Meanings Based on Color and Type

The Iris flowers come in different colors. Iris is the word for rainbow, representing the Greek goddess Iris.

Purple Iris 

Purple has always been the color of royalty. Purple iris flowers symbolize royalty, goodwill, honor, forgiveness, pride, confidence, and understanding. The flowers are gifted to mentors, parents, teachers, etc. The flowers represent respect toward the other person and are gifted on the 25th wedding anniversary.

iris symbolism
Purple Iris

White Iris 

White irises symbolize faith, hope, sympathy, innocence, and purity. These flowers are gifted during retirement, graduation, christenings, etc. New mothers and brides also get white iris flowers as a gift to symbolize purity, hope, and a new beginning in their lives. 

iris symbolism
White Iris

Blue Iris 

Blue iris flowers represent faith, loyalty, hope, and trust. These flowers are gifted for birthdays and anniversaries. Florists use blue irises to add color to flower bouquets. The flowers are also a sign of good luck. The Victoria Falls iris and salty marsh iris flowers are available in blue color. 

iris symbolism
Blue Iris

Yellow Iris 

Yellow irises are used in water purification and symbolize love, friendship, purity, commitment, optimism, and passion. The flowers denote regeneration and renewal. Yellow iris flowers are gifted to signify a positive boost/ message. 

iris symbolism
Yellow Iris

Bearded Iris (Iris Germanica)

The bearded iris is the state flower of Tennessee. They symbolize love, protection, and wisdom. The Japanese use bearded iris to ward off evil spirits. 

The flower got its name from its wrinkly appearance. Iris flowers are available in different shades and sizes (tall and dwarf variants). They’re native to the Mediterranean region and are also called Queen Elizabeth root iris or Florentine iris. 

iris symbolism
Purple Bearded Iris

Dutch Iris (Iris Hollandica) 

These are a group of hybrid irises and are most commonly found as bulbs. The Dutch irises have three thin straight petals and three large downturned petals. The flowers grow from bulbs instead of rhizomes (roots) and are planted in autumn. The flowers are found in white, yellow, and purple colors. 

iris symbolism
Purple Dutch Iris

Other Color Irises

  • Red irises symbolize passion, romance, love, and security.
  • Brown iris flowers symbolize foundation, warmth, and stability (they symbolize the earth).
  • Pink irises are for renewal. 
  • Black irises represent rebellion, mystery, elegance, wisdom, and independence. 
  • Orange iris flowers denote wellness and bravery. 
  • The Siberian iris is beardless and comes in white, black, and pink colors.

What Do Irises Symbolize in Art?

The iris is a favorite flower in art. It has been painted by many artists and symbolizes different things. For example, irises were associated with victory and power for the Egyptians. The same flowers represent butterfly wings in China. The Chinese decorate their homes with irises to attract positive energy. 

Fleur-de-lis Symbol

Historians claim that the fleur-de-lis is not a lily but wild iris. The fleur-de-lis is an ancient symbol used to represent French monarchy and royalty. The symbol meant light, perfection, and life. King Louis VII first used the symbol on his shield in the 20th century. When they took over France, it wasn’t long before the English used it as a coat of arms. 

Iris Symbolism and the Virgin Mary

Medieval and Renaissance art had iris flowers on works of the Virgin Mary. Hugo van der Goes’s Portinari Altarpiece and the earlier version of Madonna of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci depicted iris flowers. Albrecht Dürer’s painting, The Virgin and the Child has purple Iris flowers.  

iris symbolism
Hugo van der Goes’s Portinari Altarpiece

Vincent van Gogh’s Irises

Vincent van Gogh’s Irises (1889), oil on canvas, is one of the most popular and expensive paintings to be sold at an auction. Van Gogh painted the piece when he was in the asylum at the Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The painting is a reflection of joy and happiness despite his mental condition. 

iris symbolism
van Gogh’s Irises

Katsushika Hokusai and Iris Imagery

The picture books of Katsushika Hokusai, a Japanese ukiyo-e artist from the Edo period, had many images of iris flowers. The Japanese considered the blue iris a symbol of success and bravery. The flowers were important to Japanese artists and poets. We can find irises mentioned in Haiku poems. 

iris symbolism
Iris imagery in Katsushika Hokusai’s books

What Does the Iris Symbolize in the Bible?

Iris flowers are associated with the Passion of Christ and the Resurrection. This is because the flowers bloom in the spring, around Easter time. It’s traditionally thought that irises grew in the Virgin Mary’s garden. The flowers can be seen in artworks with the Virgin Mary of Saint Joseph.

What is the Spiritual Meaning of Irises?

The iris symbolizes wisdom and spiritual enlightenment for ancient Greeks. The flowers also represent a mentor/spiritual teacher who will guide you through enlightenment. 

Iris flowers grow in muddy waters like lotus and lilies. Iris flowers are associated with people overcoming challenges to become better versions of themselves. The human spirit is similar to irises as it has the potential to handle tough situations, adapt to the conditions, and evolve as spiritually awakened beings. 

Irises represent the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit) in Christianity. They denote devotion, honor, and remembrance in Islam. Muslims place iris flowers on the graves of the dead to show that they will continue to remember them and honor their memory. 

Does the Flower Iris Mean Message?

Yes, iris flower means message and clear communication. In Greek mythology, Iris (goddess of the rainbow) is a messenger between the Olympian gods and humans. The flowers symbolize messages and a rainbow that connects heaven and earth. 

Guiding the Dead to Rest

The iris was also responsible for guiding the dead to their final resting place. The flowers are used during funerals and planted at gravesites in Greece. Greeks use iris flowers in graveyards to summon the goddess to take their loved ones to their forever resting home in the other world. 

Iris flowers have powerful meanings in various cultures. The iris flowers make soaps, perfumes, cosmetics, and wellness products. Iris tattoos and jewelry designs are also common. 


Vanessa's liberal arts background has prepared her well for Symbol Scholar. A self-proclaimed theology nerd, Vanessa has interests in world religions, Reformation theology, history, and more. When she's not working, Vanessa enjoys spending time with her family, reading, exercising, and watching professional basketball.

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