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Azalea Flower – Meaning and Symbolism

Azalea is a popular flower used in a variety of ways. It makes for perfect bouquets, décor, landscaping as well as bonsai trees. Aside from that, this flower is also given as a present because of its meaningful symbolism. Here’s what you need to know about azalea.  

About the Azalea

What is azalea

Azalea is a flowering shrub under the Rhododendron family. As such, this beautiful blossom is voluminous but is still a single-stemmed flower. The name azalea originated in Greece and means dry, a name given to it likely because of its quick-draining habit.

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Initially, azalea was cultivated in Japan and China, and it was exported to Europe and North America, where it became extremely popular. Typically, the flower blooms during spring, but some varieties blossoms during summer and fall. Aside from that, this lovely flower comes in a variety of colors, including pink, purple, white, and yellow.

The azalea is also a highly popular plant for bonsai trees, as its beautiful flowers covering the little tree look stunning, while the leaves are smaller and perfectly suited for bonsai.

Stories and Myth about the Azalea

The are several stories about the origin of azalea. According to a Chinese folktale, an azalea appears when a cuckoo sings. As the story goes, there was a selfish king who ruled his land terribly, making his people angry. One day, a warrior assassinated the evil ruler, but before the king died, he transformed into a cuckoo. The cuckoo sang in an angry and resentful way until blood came out of his bill. According to the folktale, the blood of the cuckoo allowed the azalea to bloom vibrantly. At first, this beautiful flower was white, but the blood turned pink, and then red.

In another Chinese legend, an emperor who was famous for his numerous victories in war pined in loneliness, despite all his glory. One day, he was given some azaleas and was enchanted by their beauty. Afterward, he planted this flowering shrub in his garden. Immediately, he found the one he has been longing for. From that moment, azalea was associated with luck, love, passion, and sudden happiness.

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Symbolism and Meaning of Azalea

Pink azalea bouquet
Pink azalea bouquet by Teleflora. Check the price here.

Because azalea is a widely known flower, it has numerous meanings that vary depending on the culture.

  • TemperanceIn Victorian times, the azalea is a symbol of temperance. The flower is usually given to a person who is simple, modest, and kind.
  • Taking Care of a Person In some cultures, azalea means taking care of yourself and the people around you. For this reason, the flower is an excellent get-well gift to tell the recipient that you want them to feel better. Additionally, it can also be given to someone you sincerely care about.
  • Wealth and Elegance – As a symbol of wealth and elegance, the azalea is often used as décor to make homes look more appealing. Aside from that, this beautiful blossom can also be given to an elegant person who you respect and love.
  • AbundanceAzalea symbolizes abundance and makes an ideal gift for a person who wants to be successful. By giving this flower, you are telling the recipient you hope that good things may come their way.
Pink azalea plant
Pink azalea plant by FTD. Check the price here.
  • Passion – As a symbol of passion, azalea can express your strong emotions. As such, the flower is a great present for someone you love because it can express your desire to be with that person.  
  • Homesickness In China and Japan, the azalea is associated with the feeling of being homesick. Usually, the gorgeous blossom is given to parents or family members to tell them that you miss them and want to see them soon. 
  • Fragile Love – Although beautiful, azalea easily falls off from its stem, even with a slight touch. For this reason, the flower is used to represent a fragile love that can still blossom and turn into a long-lasting relationship.
  • Death Threat – Azalea is poisonous. Because of this reason, some cultures use this flower to send a death threat. Usually, a bouquet of this flower is placed on a black vase to indicate the threat.
Symbolism of azalea

Aside from those interpretations, azalea also has other meanings based on its color.

  • White White azalea symbolizes purity and is used in wedding receptions and other ceremonies. Aside from that, the flower can also be used as a symbol of restraint and civility.
  • Dark PinkDark pink azalea is a symbol of passion, love, and romance. As such, it can be an excellent gift for your special someone to tell that you love and care for them.
  • Red – Like the dark pink varieties, red azalea represents romance and passion and is a great present for someone you truly love.
  • Purple Purple azalea is a symbol of nobility and royalty. Usually, it is given to someone who has made an impact on your life as a way to express your gratitude.
  • Yellow Aside from friendship, yellow azalea also symbolizes happiness and positive energy. For this reason, this lovely blossom is often given to a friend. 

Uses of Azalea throughout History

As mentioned, azalea is poisonous, so it doesn’t have medicinal or gastronomical uses. Even so, people from ancient times have used this flower for various purposes, including the following:

  • In Gardens – Because of their beauty and vibrant colors, the azalea is planted to create beautiful flower beds.
  • In Arts and Literature – In China, the azalea is known as sixiang shu, which means thinking of home bush, referring to the role of the flower as a symbol of homesickness and home. The flower was often portrayed in poems written by Du Fu.

Azalea in Use Today

Blooming garden basket with azalea
Blooming garden basket with azalea by Teleflora. Check the price here.

Today, a potted plant or bouquet of azaleas is given to express heartfelt emotions. The flower is also used as decor for various events, including weddings. Aside from those uses, the azalea is also the national flower in Nepal. Additionally, São Paulo, in Brazil, uses this flower as one of their symbols.

When to Give Azalea

Azalea has many positive meanings which make it an excellent flower to present to your loved ones.

  • Valentine’s DayAs a symbol of romance, love, and passion, the red azalea is a great alternative to roses. When given to your special someone, the flower will express your love and affection.
  • HousewarmingsYellow azalea is a symbol of happiness and positive energy. When given as a housewarming present, you’re letting the recipient know that you wish them joy and happiness. Aside from that, this flower will not only bring positive energy to the home. It can also make any room look elegant.
  • Get Well Gift – Azalea means taking care of a person, and the yellow variety can be given to someone who is feeling unwell. The flower will not only brighten the person’s day. It can also tell the recipient that you want them to get well soon.

In Conclusion

All in all, the azalea is a beautiful blossom with positive meanings. Its beautiful hues add a splash of color to any garden and is a welcome addition to any floral decoration.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.