What is the Meaning of Hibiscus?
There is not actually 'one' meaning of hibiscus, and one must understand different origins and cultures to understand how this beautiful flower represents one thing in one country, and a completely different thing in another. Today the flower is widespread all over the world and people associate different meanings with it. On top of that, the hibiscus family embraces over 200 varieties which are different in time, space and appearance. You may find them in any color combination, often in red and pink shades, but also in the blue and orange areas.
While there are hibiscus varieties that date back all the way to the European Victorian era, the newer types have arguably a different meaning due to the timely difference. Not only that - Europe is one of the many places where the plant was originally found. Asian countries put a lot of weight into the meaning of hibiscus, and beautiful island regions such as Hawaii have made the hibiscus flower very popular as a 'summer' symbol.
So let's see what the hibiscus plant means to different people.
The first thing that the hibiscus flower represents is a sunny summer. Now this is a fairly broad meaning, and many flowers are associated with that- so why hibiscus? Well, the hibiscus plant is quite a fussy one and if the summer is not sunny and nice, the plant won't bloom.
The Europeans prefer the meaning 'delicate beauty' which is the widely known association today. No matter which color or what variety the hibiscus you have may be, the most universal meaning spread by Europe's Victorians is and remains 'delicate beauty'. Again, it relates back to the fussiness of the actual plant, meaning that is it quite delicate and fragile.
Hawaiians on the other hand have come up with their very own meaning of hibiscus which is 'old royalty'. Because the people of Hawaii are known for their hospitality and friendly welcome, the hibiscus flower is given to visitors - often state officials or royalty. Out of this historical tradition came the meaning of 'royalty', a symbol of great honor, respect and warm welcome. The flower is not only given as individual, but often as a necklace. At the same time, Hawaiian women often wear flowers in their hair which does somehow relate back to the good old European ‘delicate beauty’ that is a general and more universal association.
The Japanese are similarly known for their friendly customs, their great respect and sense of honor for visitors or people of higher prestige. Thus, they have taken on a Hawaiian approach, using the hibiscus flower as a symbol for welcome and hospitality while at the same time embracing the European view of the hibiscus being fragile. Thus, their meaning of hibiscus is simple and straightforward: 'gentle'. It symbolizes both the warm welcome, but also the delicate nature of the plant.
In China, the meanings vary a little which is not surprising when taking into account the vast number of people, cultures, languages and customs there are in this well-populated country. While some people associate hibiscus with wealth and fame, others view the delicate hibiscus flower in a more sexual way, representing the very special appeal of a young female virgin.
Korean nationals have a completely different view on the meaning of hibiscus - they associate this flower with 'immortality'. Considering the fact that the plant is fairly fragile, it is a very different and interesting approach. It is the national symbol in the South Korean flag and especially on weddings it is often used to represent the immortality of love, so it is not only a symbol for warriors or invincible military.