1. Home
  2. Plant Care Guides
  3. Houseplants
  4. Orchids
  5. Horticultural Heroes: Exploring the History & Symbolism of Orchids

Horticultural Heroes: Exploring the History & Symbolism of Orchids

To celebrate National Orchid Day (16th April), we’re taking a deep dive into the history, symbolism, and importance of orchids. A classic houseplant, these beauties are well-known for their stunning flowers – but how much do you really know about them? Keep reading to learn all about this significant plant.

The Origin of Orchids

These plants have an incredibly rich history. They are one of the most ancient groups in the plant kingdom, boasting an immense 100 million years of existence. While they are found in many regions across the world, these plants are thought to have originated from Asia and Australia.

The Importance of Orchids

Popularity

Orchids are one of the most well-known, popular houseplants with economic significance. No only are they relatively easy to care for, but they also produce gorgeous ornamental blooms.

Medicinal uses

They also have a long history of importance in medicine, especially in Asia. In China, tea made from orchids has historically been used to treat a huge array of issues, from trouble with eyesight to cancer. Different orchid species are used throughout Taiwan, Japan, and Korea to treat night sweats and strenghthen the stomach and kidneys.

Culinary use

As well as in medicine, they have various uses in cooking. One of the better known uses is for vanilla flavouring. Vanilla beans come from the seed pod of a particular orchid species – Vanilla planifolia. It is a beautiful plant often grown as a houseplant, producing seed pods with iconic vanilla flavouring.

Another culinary use of orchids is to use the blooms as edible garnishes to add some colour and flair to dishes and drinks. These flowers are known for their light taste, sometimes compared to watercress. As well as using them as garnishes, they could be used throughout the cooking process – either with the petals or as a dried powder – to boost flavour profiles.

Orchids in research

As if these beautiful plants couldn’t get more valuable to society, they are also used in research! One example of this is in conservation biology. These plants are well suited to research with the goal of understanding the ecological and genetic determinants of variation at – and below – the species level.

In a similar vein, orchid plants are also being studied for their use removing and repairing environmental damage. Their ability to absorb heavy metal and toxins from air, soil, and water makes them valuable for research in pollution reduction.

Symbolism in Different Cultures and Countries

Orchids have long been linked with the Greek goddess Aphrodite, associating them with love, beauty, and attraction. Ancient Greeks also believed orchids held a strong power; they thought that eating the roots of this plant could control the sex of their unborn child. The belief was that for a male child, the father needed to eat large, new tubers. For a female child, however, the mother would need to eat smaller tubers. Similarly, certain orhcid leaves were used by African men on their wedding day in the hopes of producing male children.

Ancient Romans, as well as Greeks, considered orchids a symbol of love and fertility. Orchids have been recently discovered on Roman monumnets, disproving the idea that they weren’t used in art until much later on.

Colour Theory: Which Should You Pick?

Red: Love and strength

Red flowers are most commonly associated with love and passion, and the same goes for orchids. As well as love and desire, red orchids can also symbolise strength and bravery.

Orange: Excitement

Orange orchids are often associated with enthusiasm, determination, and pride. You may gift an orange orchid to someone who is starting a new, exciting project.

Yellow: Happiness

Similar to many associations surrounding this colour, yellow orchids symbolise joy, friendship, and warmth.

Green: Good luck, health, and fortune

Green is associated with money and luck. Therefore, green orchids can be gifted to someone who is starting a new job or is struggling with their luck, as they are thought to bring good fortune.

Blue: Rarity

Blue orchids are difficult to come by, so tend to represent uniqueness. We are lucky enough to stock a striking blue orchid – click here to check it out!

Purple: Wealth

Purple tends to be associated with royalty, so purple orchids generally represent wealth and dignity.

Pink: Femininity and gratitude

Pink is traditionally the colour of femininity. Acting as a toned-down red, it can also represent admiration and affection. 

White: Purity

As with many white flowers, white orchids are associated with innocence, purity, and youth.

Black: Mystery and power

Black orchids – often, in reality, very dark purple – symbolise mystery and power. You may find these among darker decor or in a brighter room to make a statement.

You Might Be Interested In…

Updated on April 16, 2024

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles