Roses are red, violets are blue, Chinese New Year is nearly here, what flowers are in bloom? Falling on February 1, 2022, the Lunar New Year holiday welcomes the bright, new future and bids farewell to the past. With the highly anticipated holiday on its way, people get their homes in order, cleaning them and decking them out with bunches of new flowers.
Why? Flowers are a pretty sight, but for Chinese people, each flower has a symbolic meaning that is believed to usher in the values that it represents. From bringing true love to hitting the jackpot in wealth, scroll through to discover the meaning of essential Chinese New Year flowers.
Orchids (laan fa in Cantonese or lánhuā in Mandarin, 蘭花) are delicate and graceful plants that make perfect gifts during Chinese New Year. They represent fertility and abundance, as well as good taste, beauty, luxury and innocence. Resilient plants, orchids bloom in multiple seasons: the fall, winter and spring. They come in different colors, with yellow symbolising friendship, white symbolising purity, and pink symbolising femininity. Though orchids tend to be on the pricier side, they are arguably the most popular plant displayed during the new year, coming in a variety of colors and sizes to suit every living space.
Usually associated with pandas or building scaffolding in Hong Kong, during the new year, bamboo plants (juk ji or zhúzi, 竹子) are a lucky plant believed to bring good luck and fortune. Their sturdiness also makes them symbolic of strength. They’re easy to care for, and sometimes seen growing in interesting twists and turns. The number of stalks a bamboo plant has represents various blessings. For instance, two stalks bring double the luck and five stalks bring overall good health. Note that four stalks are never gifted, as the number four (si, 四), sounds similar to the Chinese word for “death” (si, 死).
Gladiolus (gim laan or jiànlán, 劍蘭), also known as the Sword Lily, features an abundant amount of blossoms on a single branch. It’s a beautiful flower for home decor coming in colors like white for purity, red for passionate love, yellow for cheerfulness and purple for grace. The gladiolus represents growth or promotion in your career and self-development. These flowers begin blooming in July and carry into early winter, steadily progressing throughout the year and syncing up to their Chinese symbolic meaning. For Chinese New Year, it’s most common to go for the fiery red gladiolus!
Narcissus flowers (seui sin or shuǐxiān, 水仙) are the most auspicious flowers for the lunar new year, and look and smell magical. Dainty and pretty, they are also known as water fairy flowers or daffodils. In auspicious terms, they represent good fortune and prosperity. Narcissus flowers grow relatively fast, especially in warm temperatures; therefore, it’s suggested to buy them right before inviting friends and family over during the 15-day Chinese New Year holiday to see them in full bloom. Some may think of a sunny-side-up egg when viewing these beauties!
Pussy willows (teui sik lau or tuìshǎi liǔ, 褪色柳) represent growth and incoming prosperity and point to the start of spring. They’re tall and slender in shape, and can sustain for long periods of time, only needing biweekly watering. Pussy willows normally come in grey and white, but sometimes, florists get creative by adding a dash of colour to the furry buds that make them stand out among other plants. They bloom in early spring and make fascinating house plants to welcome new beginnings at the beginning of the lunar year.
Mandarin or tangerine trees
In the month leading up to Chinese New Year, it’s a common sighting to see lots of plants containing tangarines (gwat ji or jú zǐ, 金桔), mandarin oranges, or kumquats. These plants are typically ordered in bulk in advance to place by the entrance of homes, buildings, and stores. These column-like plants dotted with orange represent good luck and wealth, with the more fruit the trees bear, the more luck and wealth they bring. Placing them at your front door ensures that people walking into your home bring in good luck. And the bright orange colors and aromatic citrus smell just brighten the entire atmosphere.
Bearing resemblance to most of the auspicious meanings behind the plants seen thus far, jade plants (yuk chong or yù chǎng, 玉廠) symbolize prosperity, wealth and fortune. Native to South Africa, jade plants are highly regarded for their leaves that look like jade stones; thus, the prosperous meaning they hold. They take on a tree form and are easy to care for as they fall under the succulent family, requiring little time and attention. Their longevity and self-sustaining ways also earn them the symbolic virtue of strength.
Plum blossoms (mui fa or méihuā, 梅花) are also known as peach blossoms or sakura flowers. The beautiful vibrant pink flowers symbolise perseverance and reliability as they bloom even throughout harsh cold weather. Hence, they persevere in the face of hardship with the hope of a promising future ahead. Plum blossoms also represent growth, prosperity and romance for those looking for love. They’re typically placed in vases when bought for the home during Chinese New Year, and people walk around the blossoms to have their wishes fulfilled.
Very similar in appearance to plum blossoms, cherry blossoms (ying fa or yīnghuā, 櫻花) are popular springtime flowers. Thus, cherry blossoms represent new beginnings and a renewal of life. And because they have long branches, they also represent longevity. If you want to tell cherry blossoms and plum blossoms apart, look at the petals. Cherry blossoms have small split ends on each petal whereas plum blossoms don’t. Be sure to head to a park where cherry blossom bloom from mid-March to mid-April, like Tai Po Waterfront Park, to enjoy the spectacular views!
Also called “nipplefruits”, “fox head”, “cow’s udder”, or “apple of Sodom”, solanum mammosum plants can be seen in wet markets and shops during Chinese New Year. Called ng doi tung tong (五代同堂) in Chinese, which can be literally translated as “five generations together household”, the fruit represents longevity for the family. Don’t be fooled by this beautiful golden colored fruit – it is inedible and poisonous.
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Header image credits: Kelvin Yan via Unsplash