A complete guide to Floral tattoos
Floral is a tattoo style characterised by the representation of flowers and related flora motifs.
Its roots extend as far back as the ancient tattooing traditions itself. Since the modern West picked it up, the style has only increased in popularity. In fact, it became so widespread that even thought it’s not a style per se (but a group of common elements that can be represented in several styles) it deserves a category of its own.
Flower tattoos came in all shapes, colors and styles
These tattoos are both aesthetically pleasing and can hold compelling meaning, thus checking the boxes for the two most important elements people consider before getting ink done.
Origin of Floral Tattoo Designs
Looking at the history of tattoo itself, we see that people have used flower designs since they started to get ink on their bodies. It was present in tribal traditions via symbols and patterns and helped establish a sense of identity.
Tribal Tattoo with fauna and flora references
Tattooing the flora could be understood as today’s equivalent of tattooing a patriotic symbol, an element that reminds you of your origins. In tribal tradition it communicated to others: I came from the place where this plant grows - it feels part of my home, of my identity.
Although Henna isn’t considered a tattoo, it is indeed ink and its influence on body modification (by use paint) should be taken into account. In Indian Henna tradition, flowers were one of the common motifs and inspired the beautiful patterns we often see today.
Henna hand with floral elements from Amo Tatuagem
When tattoos started to spread in the modern Western culture, flowers were invariably one of the first elements to become widespread. The American Traditional flower is one of the most recognizable tattoos and has been reproduced countless times.
Old school Rose by Samuele Briganti
Nowadays, you can find all kinds of flowers in all kinds of styles.
Neotraditional style on the thigh by Monnet tattoo
Realistic blue and purple Daisy by Phil Garcia
Are Flower tattoos painful?
After you’ve taken into account elements such as the body placement, size of the piece and the level of detail, you are ready to ask: will a flower tattoo hurt more than the average tattoo? The answer is, on most cases, yes.
Generally these pieces have a lot of intricate details, which will require longer periods with smaller area needles, they require layers of complexity, which means tattooing the same area more than once, and use colors that make the process more painful, such as white, due to how far in the skin the needle has to go. This doesn't mean that all flower tattoo will hurt! It's means that if you want an amazing work, it will take time and it might be painful.
Floral Tattoo Meanings
A floral tattoo carries the meaning of the flower (or plant) that it represents. Of course, the meaning is always idiosyncratic, specially if it’s in your own body, but it's important to take into account that each flower bears a commonly perceived meaning. You wouldn’t bring roses to a funeral, would you?
So before getting your ink done, make sure the generic meaning is aligned with your wishes.
Roses are by far the most popular flower being tattooed today, but its symbolism has been changing throughout time.
From its origin in Persia, the flower was associated with the masculine energy and some time would pass before the symbolism shifted. During the 16th century, a Rose tattoo didn't have the romantic connotation we attribute it today. Much on the contrary, it was used to mark those who were given the death sentence, being tattooed in visible areas. In case they escaped the execution, the rose tattoo would forever expose them.
Later on the rose started being more associated with beauty, then passion and finally love. During the western adoption of tattoos in the beginning of the 20th century, sailors started tattooing them as a tribute to, and a reminder of, their wives, girlfriends and mothers.
Nowadays, Roses can be found in almost any color and style and in almost all body places. The meaning depends strongly on the color chosen and therefore we composed a guide with the most popular colors and examples:
Red: A red rose signifies love and romance. On the other hand, it could also mean beauty, hope, and new beginnings.
Realistic red rose by Rostra
Pink: A deep and fiery pink represents appreciation, gratitude, feminine beauty, respect, and recognition. On the other hand, a lighter pink hue stands for joy, happiness, and gentleness.
Realistic pink rose by Rostra
Yellow: A yellow rose means friendship. On the other hand, it can also signify new beginnings and happiness.
Yellow Rose in bicep by Pony Wave
Lavender: The color lavender stands for enchantment and love at first sight. If it’s a little dark (purple), then it can mean feminine beauty and elegance.
Lavender Rose tattoo on shoulder by Phil Garcia
White: White mostly stands for purity and innocence. It could also mean sympathy and spirituality.
Black: Black is a tragic color for a flower. It might mean something along the lines of death, heartbreak or regret. On a more positive note it can also mean bouncing back. You ink a black rose if you have been through a difficult time in your life, and now are full of lessons and willing to take the next challenges life throws at you.
Coral: A coral rose is for friendship, modesty, and sympathy.
Orange: An orange rose represents desire (enthusiasm), satisfaction, fascination, and positive energy. You get this if you want to say you are happy to live and are looking for new possibilities in life.
Another popular choice is the Lotus tattoo. More often than not, you'll find this flower in black and grey where only its general shape is portrayed. Any tattoo styles can be used to depict a Lotus and its almost guaranteed other people will recognize the flower.
This flower has a strong mystical feel to it due to its strange life cycle. Most Lotus flowers only last up to 5 days before dying, but in those few days of existence, the flower reacts to sunlight by opening to be pollinated by insects, closing at sunset and retreat into submersion into water, only to come back to life the next day and repeating the cycle.
It is used in spiritual and religious ceremonies and its imagery has been present in a wide range of rituals, from Egypt, to India, to Vietnam. Most people associate it with relaxation, self control and spirituality due to the Lotus posture in Yogi practices.
Lotus flowers in several styles (sketch, blackwork, dotwork and black & grey)
When the flower is drawn with a color, the meanings the shift and become more pronounced. Here's what each color means:
Pink: Similar to the white flower, it can stand for spiritual enlightenment. Anyway, pink lotus also means purity and devotion.
Pink lotus in minimalist style by Breno Filipe Ferreira
Purple: You see, the lotus is mostly connected to the Eastern religions. The white lotus is the lotus of Mata Saraswathi, who is the Hindu goddess of knowledge and music. The pink lotus is Buddha’s lotus and purple is of his followers. So, it also means spirituality and mystical energy.
White: In Hinduism and Buddhism, the white lotus stands for knowledge and spiritual enlightenment.
Blue: Blue lotus means that you have control over yourself. It says that you think mind and knowledge are the most important things for you.
The Tulip has a funny story. It originated in Persia and modern Turkey, just like Roses did, and traveled with the merchants to Europe during the 16th century. There, the Tulip became popular. In fact, so popular that its value skyrocketed causing what was name the "tulip mania". At its peak, a single bulb could be the same price as a house. This caused the markets in the Netherlands to crash giving birth to the first recorded economic bubble. Nowadays you can find tulips in all the colors of the rainbow.
This flowers bears a different meaning according to where you're from. In England, it is considered symbol of charity and chivalry. The Dutch view it as a national emblem. The Turkish carry the Ottoman tradition, where this flower was a reminder of beauty, purity and transcendence. For everyone else, the Tulip is a very versatile flower. Not too eccentric, not too exquisite, not too eccentric. It's therefore a symbol of equilibrium, peace and prudence. In terms of colours, the only exception to this rule would be the red Tulip, which has an association to romantic love and passion due to the many legends associated with it.
Beautiful orange Tulip in illustrative style by Leila Ramos
Lovely pink Tulip in forearm by Siyeon
These flowers are unique due to their shape and color. Tattoos of this flower are unmistakable and will always be make a presence. They have a strong, yet delicate presence and several people can instantly connect to the feeling the smell of the flower brings them.
Delicate Lavender flowers with watercolor touches by Poliszka Tattoo
Sunflower is the golden color of the sun. It stands for happiness, warmth, creation, positivity, longevity, and new beginnings.
Several sunflower tattoos by Joyce Wang
Cherry Blossom (Sakura)
The Cherry Blossom is one of the most popular flowers in Japan. Widely used in Irezumi compositions, it is a symbol of spring and new beginnings. In tattoos, it means beauty, elegance, and appreciation of what you have before you lose it.
Realistic cherry blossom flower by Pony Wave
Discreet and elegant, this flower is a popular choice for those who want to have something cute and classy. Daisy tattoos came in all forms and shapes, sometimes including solely the petals and the stamen, other times a full composition involving leafs and animals, and other times included in a bouquet.
In daisies, the color is also an important elements. Red represents youth, yellow is for cheerfulness, white signifies purity and loyalty and blue is for overflowing emotions.
Cute pink daisy in upper arm by Siyeon
A daffodil flower stands for rebirth and new beginnings. Also, if it is yellow, it signifies happiness.
Beautiful yellow Daffodil in upper arm by G.NO
Acacia (also known as Mimosa, Thorntree or Wattle)
Acacias are present all over the world, from Australia, to Africa, to central America. Still, they are most prominent in Australia. For this reason, several people choose to tattoo the variations of this tree, leafs and flowers as a proud display of their heritage. Acacia can mean concealed love and friendship but most often depict life, immorality and perseverance, as this specie is known to be very fire resistant, generally not burning in the first wave of bushfire.
Cute Acacia flower and leafs by Nico Tatuto
This is another one for the dreamers. Having a Camellia floral tattoo design means you have been longing for something for a long time. It signifies that you have a strong desire and passion for something.
Blooming Camellia by Tattooist Sion
Dahlia stands for elegance, personal bonds, change, and dignity. On the negative side, a Dahlia could also represent betrayal, instability, and being on the receiving end of dishonesty.
Realistic Blue Dahlia by Monny 636
Red Dahlia in traditional style by Karen Glass
The meaning of this flower depends on the type of art. You see, in the eastern culture, Hibiscus stands for gentleness, while in the west, it means power, royalty, and respect.
Red Hibiscus with small dragonfly by Nichelle Gabbard
Beautiful fineline Hibiscus by Yarina Tattooing
This flower has exactly three meanings connected to each individual petals. They signify faith, valor, and wisdom.
Iris in realism style by Eunyu Tattoo
This flower has a strong history with its meaning changing through time. Among the Mayas, the plumeria plant represented life and fertility, and the flowers were strongly connected with female sexuality. With the Aztecs they signified elite status. In Southern Asia this plant has many meanings according to who you ask. In some locations with pagan religions the plant is believed to provide shelter to ghosts and demons. In places where Hindu, Jain, or Buddhist cultures are present this flower is associated with the temples and the spiritual life.
Dotwork Frangipani in a circular frame created by Anna Bravo
Lilies come in all colours and shapes. They are native to the northern hemisphere but known and loved throughout the world, being one of the most popular flowers getting tattooed today, specially in Asia. It has always stood for feminine beauty and purity and in some cultures it can also be a tribute to the soul of those who've departed.
Beautiful purple Lilies by True Love Art
Black and grey Lilies by Bodytag
In ancient Greece and Rome, poppies used to be offerings for the dead. Thus, they represent eternal sleep, and sometimes, the loss of a loved one.
Beautiful orange Poppy on the ribs by Pony Wave
Poppy flower with watercolor and lettering elements by Mattia Meningas
Black and grey Poppy by Emily Effler
In Japan, they refer to Peony as the ‘King of Flowers’. It represents wealth, elegance, and royalty.
Beautiful Peony tattoo with ornamental motifs by Gloria Tattoo
Orchids have different meanings in different cultures. For example, in Japan, it stands for bravery while in Aztec, it is the symbol of power and strength. An orchid flower means prosperity, fertility, and, refinement in Chinese culture.
Delicate purple Orchid by Donghwa Tattoo
The petal rich flower is being a popular choice for tattoo getters these days, specially in Neotraditional and Irezumi tattoo. It signifies happiness, optimism, and joy. It could also mean perfection.
Chrysanthemum in neotraditional style by Gareth Parry
Chrysanthemum in black and grey style by Andrea Gilbert
Flowers look splendid on nature and on the skin. They provide an excellent way to tell your story if you know what they mean. All you need to do is make sure you have the right design and know the best tattoo artist that can give life to it.
If you’re looking to find an artists or studio for you next floral tattoo, make sure to check Tattoos Wizard.
For those looking for extra inspiration, make sure to take a peak at Sarah Wu's compilation of tattoo flowers.