Iris Flower Meaning

Dig into the language of flowers by learning iris meanings. 

Autumn Circus Tall Bearded Iris (Iris ‘Autumn Circus’)

Autumn Circus Tall Bearded Iris (Iris ‘Autumn Circus’)

Give your late spring garden a touch of hybrid beauty with the beautiful purple and white blooms of Autumn Circus tall bearded iris. Site plants in full sun for the strongest flower show, and make sure soil drains well year round. Fertilize iris in early spring, after flowers fade and again in early fall. Plants are hardy in Zones 3 to 10.

Photo by:

Related To:

Discover the rich history behind iris flowers and iris meaning. This beautiful bloom traces a heritage through Greek mythology. In Greek, the name “Iris” translates as “rainbow,” which is one iris definition. There’s another Greek word, “eiris,” which means “messenger,” which gave rise to another iris flower meaning having to do with words.

Most folks assume that the iris definition of rainbow refers to the many colors this flower comes in, but the root of the meaning traces to Greek mythology. There was a Greek goddess named Iris who delivered messages for the gods and from the Underworld. She would travel along rainbows as she moved between heaven and earth, which explains the iris definition rainbow.  

Another iris flower meaning is eloquence, which relates to the messages the Greek goddess carried. Composed with well-chosen words, the messages embodied eloquence and communication, and so iris definition embraced the same idea.  

The goddess Iris also escorted the deceased from earth to heaven, guiding them to their final destination. This association of irises and the afterlife became so entrenched in Greek culture that individuals would plant irises on the graves of loved ones as a sign to the goddess Iris, calling her to come and escort their loved one in the afterlife.  

In Japanese culture, the iris flower is revered for its purifying properties. In Japan, a common iris definition includes the idea of purifying evil energies and protecting those who wear it. The iris flower is a common symbol found in kimono fabrics, as well as in paintings and the short Japanese poetry style known as haiku. 

In Chinese art, the iris definition most often supported is “the dancing spirit of early summer.” The petals of iris blooms easily move in the wind, mimicking the fluttering of butterfly wings. Thus one iris definition in Chinese culture is “the purple butterfly.  

The Victorian era language of flowers gives a host of meanings to iris flowers. They can represent faith, hope, courage, wisdom and admiration. Specific flower colors attach further meanings to the pretty blooms. Purple iris brings a message of wisdom and compliments, while a bouquet of blue iris blossoms speak of hope and faith.  

When passion is the iris definition you wish to convey, send yellow blooms. For bridal bouquets, white iris flowers are ideal, because these blooms symbolize purity. Iris flowers of any color also have meanings of cherished friendship and promise in loving relationships.  

Iris definitions don’t include any religious expressions, although this plant is frequently included in traditional gardens that honor the Virgin Mary. The inclusion comes from the plant’s sword-like leaves, which are said to mimic the sorrows that pierced Mary’s heart as she watched her son Jesus suffer and die.  

This lovely flower is the floral emblem of France and Florence, Italy, as well as the inspiration for the world-renowned symbol of the fleur-de-lis. Bearded iris (Iris germanica) is the state flower of Tennessee.

Next Up

Iris Flowers

Learn about the beautiful blooms of iris flowers.

Reblooming Irises

The only thing better than an iris in bloom is an iris that blooms more than once.

Dutch Irises

Learn about Dutch iris, a type of iris that grows from bulbs.

Iris Bulbs

Discover types of iris that grow from bulbs.

African Irises

Learn about this low-maintenance, drought-tolerant perennial.

Bearded Irises

Grace your garden with the elegant blooms of bearded iris.

Iris Flower Colors

Paint a rainbow in your garden with iris flowers.

Japanese Iris

Japanese iris has the largest bloom of any iris and thrives in wet soil.

Reblooming Irises

Extend the iris season with types that flower more than once per growing season.

Iris Varieties

Discover different types of iris you can grow in your garden. 

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.


Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.