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Known for its airy cloud of white blossoms, baby’s breath deserves a place in your flower borders, cottage and rock gardens. Here’s why these flowers are a favorite in bouquets and wedding arrangements, and what it symbolizes.
About Baby’s Breath
Native to Eastern Europe and Turkey, baby’s breath refers to the dainty blossoms of the Gypsophila genus, belonging to the Caryophyllaceae family. It’s one of the largest groups in the carnation tribe.
The name Gypsophila is derived from the Greek terms gypsos, which means gypsum, and philos that translates as friend. Gypsum is actually a soft sulfate mineral made of calcium, suggesting the flower’s preference for a soil rich in gypsum. However, its popular name is baby’s breath a reference to its soft, airy and pure look which has associations with little babies.
Sometimes called maiden’s breath, these flowers white or pink flowers that range in 4 to 6mm in size. Its clouds of tiny flowers have thin, wispy stems, giving off a fine misty effect in gardens and floral arrangements. While they look delicate and dainty, baby’s breath is tough enough in cold climates and dry soils, blooming from early spring to mid-summer.
- Note: Some variants of these dainty flowers are considered to be weeds in certain regions of the U.S. and Canada due to their invasive nature that competes with native plants.
Meaning and Symbolism of Baby’s Breath
- Everlasting Love – Because of their ability to thrive in difficult environments, they have been associated with everlasting and undying love. While they’re commonly used in weddings to represent romantic love, the symbolism can also refer to familial or platonic relationships.
- Purity and Innocence – Baby’s breath flowers are commonly seen in white, making them a representation of purity, chastity and modesty. In religious contexts, they have been associated with spirituality and the power of Holy Spirit in Christian faith. The bloom can symbolize self-discipline too, reminding someone to dedicate his life to a greater purpose and not be tempted by evil.
- Sweet Beauty – Also referred to as love chalk, baby’s breath boasts its full clusters of delicate blooms, adding a soft touch to bouquets and arrangements.
- In some contexts, they represent joy and happiness, and they’re sometimes called happy festival.
In general, baby’s breath symbolizes sincerity, purity, chastity, compassion, love, innocence and romance. The flower was loved by Victorians because of its delicate look and symbolic meanings in the language of flowers.
Uses of Baby’s Breath Flowers throughout History
Baby’s breath has been cultivated for centuries, with some kinds used in herbal medicine and floristry.
Some varieties of baby’s breath are a rich source of saponins, an extract commonly used in making soap and shampoo.
The said extract from the flower, especially from the G. paniculata, is proven to boost the efficiency of various medicines, particularly the antibody-based drugs and anti-cancer drugs for leukemia.
In the Middle East, some varieties of baby’s breath are commonly used to make sweet confections such as the flour-based or nut butter-based halva. In some regions, baby’s breath serves as a garnish in cocktails—a chic replacement to typical lime and lemon twists.
In Gardening and Floristry
In 1828, Victorian gardeners introduced the bloom to America, and baby’s breath became a favorite filler flower in arrangements and bouquets. Some varieties are popular as a cut flower and can last for several days. Some species of the plant can clean up the environment by absorbing toxic elements.
The Baby’s Breath Flower in Use Today
Most times, we favor larger blooms than dainty flowers, but baby’s breath looks beautiful on its own or as a filler flower. Also, they can be grown with other drought-resistant plants as an annual or perennial flower. If you’re looking for delicate flowers to be used as a ground cover, some varieties of baby’s breath look excellent, especially in rock gardens.
Baby’s breath might be dainty, but they make up for it in volume, adding a delicate look to bouquets, boutonnieres and centerpieces. In rustic weddings, they’re ideal for aisle, chair and cake decorations. These blooms are perfect for bohemian themed weddings too, as they look ethereal in flower crowns and hair accessories.
If you’re into arts and crafts, baby’s breath can be dried naturally or treated with glycerin—some even dye them in a variety of colors. Floral balls, hanging arrangements, table runners and wreaths decorated with these blooms are stunning as home decorations, as well as in holiday parties and celebrations. You can also use the dried flowers for making personalized greeting cards and bookmarks.
When to Give Baby’s Breath Flowers
For obvious reasons, baby’s breath is a perfect present for baby showers and for any special event. They can be gifted in a bouquet, basket, wooden box, or even in antiquated birdcages for a whimsical look. Due to their symbolic meanings, baby’s breath flowers are best given to your loved ones, friends, and even to a crush as a message of affection. For a more personalized gift, think of pressed flower jewelry or resin-made keychains.
Romantic and ethereal, baby’s breath are a perfect addition to your landscape. As a symbol of everlasting love and purity, baby’s breath add a touch of symbolism and meaning to weddings and other occasions.