The Iris Flower: Meanings, Images & Insights

The iris flower is loved by many, and not just due to its unique bloom! This flower has elegant lilac petals and a unique structure, a woody and powdery scent, divine origins, it works well in a variety of floral arrangements, and it even has the ability to attract butterflies. 

If you've ever wondered about the symbolism of irises or about this unique flower's history, continue reading!

Iris Flower Meaning & Symbolism

In floriography, the iris flower symbolises faith, courage, valour, hope and wisdom. However, the colours of iris flowers have a range of different meanings, and choosing the right colour can determine how your flower is received. 

purple iris flowers

Iris flower colour meanings

Irises bloom from late spring to early summer, and aren’t limited in terms of their colour. Irises can be blue, yellow, pink, peach, white, orange, red, black, brown, as well as it’s most popular and recognisable choice of purple. 

Purple irises

Like other purple blooms, he purple iris typically symbolises royalty. But this most iconic iris also reflects wisdom, strength and courage. If someone you love has completed a great achievement recently, a purple iris is the flower to give them.

White irises

White flowers often symbolise innocence and purity, and this is also true of white irises. Consider giving white irises to celebrate a newborn baby or to decorate a toddler's birthday party. White irises are also ideal wedding flowers.

Pink irises

A pink iris flower symbolises love (both romantic and non-romantic), understanding and deep friendships. Pink irises are perfect for gifting to your closest friends and any other special women in your life.

Yellow irises

Turns out red isn’t the only flower colour that symbolises love and devotion! Yellow irises imply passion, so you can gift these bright flowers to your closest friend or family member. 

Yellow irises, like other yellow flowers, also symbolise joy and happiness, and are perfect for birthdays and other happy occasions.

blue iris flower

Blue irises

Irises are one of very few blooms that produce a true blue hue. Blue iris flowers are often associated with hope and faith, so this is a great gift for someone who’s been a bit down lately. Show your support with a bunch of gorgeous blue irises!

Orange irises

Vibrant orange irises symbolise courage, bravery and passion. Orange flowers in general also symbolise excitement and energy, and are the perfect flowers to give someone who's about to start a new job, move into a new home or do something else exciting!

Red irises

Red irises are symbols of romantic passion and love. They make a wonderful alternative to red roses on romantic occasions, such as anniversaries and dates.

Brown irises

An unusual colour, brown irises symbolise stability, security and warmth.

Black irises

These exotic and unusual blooms symbolise elegance, mystery and rebellion. 

black iris

Iris Flower History & Insights

If you’re seeking a flower with a unique story behind it, the iris is the one to look for.

The iris was originally cultivated in 1749 BC, after King Thutmose III conquered Syria. This land was covered in irises. 

The name "iris" means ‘rainbow’ in Greek, which is fitting for a flower that comes in so many colours! Irises were said to represent the messenger of the gods in Greek Mythology, Iris. To the Greeks, she was known to be a rainbow, a link between heaven and earth.

Time and time again this flower has been used by royalty. The French monarchy adopted irises for their royal emblem, as King Clovis I created royal banners known as the fleurs-de-lis. Now, the iris emblem is used in New Orleans! Likewise, the Ancient Egyptians used irises for aesthetic reasons, both for their kings and their palaces.

Can irises be made into perfume?

In the perfume world, the iris is known as orris, and the making of iris perfumes is a patient process. The roots need to be left for three to five years to mature, which then becomes a fashionable fragrance. It is definitely an expensive scent.

Do irises have medicinal uses?

As well as having an extraordinary history, the iris has traditionally been used in a variety of ways by herbalists to help the sick and injured. 

The roots of some irises have been used to assist appetite and digestion, joint pain, migraines, toothaches, the kidneys, and more. However, there isn’t a lot of medical evidence proving its efficacy, so consult a medical professional if you’re thinking of testing the effects. With any flower or herb, you want to be safe.

Are irises poisonous?

Yes, irises are toxic to humans, dogs, cats, and horses when consumed in large quantities. Consuming the plant can cause nausea, abdominal pain, and other symptoms. 

pink and blue iris flower

Types of Irises

The iris flower belongs to the Iridaceae family, also known as the Iris family. This family also includes other well-known flowers such as freesias and gladioli. There are over 300 variations of the iris flower. These are some of the most popular: 

Bearded irises

The bearded iris is a spring favourite, and arrange beautifully when cut. Compared to a regular iris, the bearded iris is thicker and has a beard-like shape below its bud. Its scientific name is iris germanica.

Crested irises

Crested irises, or dwarf crested irises, are known for being smaller than other species of iris, growing only 14-20cm tall. Petals point sharply like swords and are marked with yellow-white or purple bands at the centre.

Louisiana irises

Also dubbed the iris fulva and native to Louisiana, United States, these irises are one of the most beautiful, due to their striking dark purple colour. 

Japanese irises

Also called the Japanese water iris or iris ensata, this flower is native to Japan and can show soft pink petals, ruffled edges, and mauve veins.

Siberian irises

Iris siberica is considerably smaller than the bearded iris, with straight stalks and thin petals that come in violet, blue, or white colours.

Reticulata irises

Also called the netted iris, these petite and tall flowers bloom in groups, and are known for their bright blue petals with yellow markings. They can also flower into lilac or mauve shades. 

Dutch irises

The Dutch iris, or iris hollandica, is perhaps one of the most common. These blooms are differentiated by the time of year they bloom, which is in the middle of summer. Most irises flower from spring to early summer.

Dutch irises can complement anything with their broad scope of colours. Interestingly, the lower petals develop a different colour to the top petals, such as yellow lower petals with purple upper petals.

irises in vase

How to Care for Iris Flowers

Do you want your iris bouquets to stay beautiful? As with any type of flower, it is important to know how to care for your irises once they’ve been cut. So, how can you keep that iris bouquet looking bright and beautiful? 

  • Place your irises away from direct sunlight, intense heat and breezes

  • Snip any wilted petals and foliage immediately, as these may cause the healthy parts of the flowers to wilt faster 
  • Add a preservative or flower food into the vase water as this helps preserve the irises. Some flower foods may also inhibit bacterial growth

  • Cut the stems by a few centimetres and remove any lower leaves that will sit below the waterline in your vase 
  • Irises are thirsty blooms, so make sure you refill the vase daily with clean water, snipping the stems of the iris each time to improve water uptake.

Irises are a radiant addition to any home and can last up to 7 days in a vase if properly cared for.

When Should You Give Someone Irises?

While irises are a perfect gift for any occasion, there are two particularly special times to give someone irises.

Everyone has their own unique birth flower depending on the month they were born, and irises are the birth flower of February. You can happily gift this flower to someone born in this month.

Irises are also the traditional flower of a 25th wedding anniversary, symbolising the faith and wisdom gained through a quarter of a century of marriage.

If you want to send irises to someone you care about, check out our Iris Posy.


Do you want to learn more about your favourite flowers? You can read more about dahlias, peonies, orchids, and more.