We all love popping some lilies in our vases. I mean who wouldn’t want these gorgeous flowers adorning their homes! But have you ever considered the importance of white lilies? From joyous occasions such as christenings to weddings, to more delicate occasions such as funerals, this flower is tied to a whole range of emotions and has a history that goes back thousands of years.
We’ve rounded up all you need to know about the white lily flower, explain the meaning behind this bloom and also throw in a few interesting facts.
History of White Lilies
The best thing about the white lily is that it has a great story to tell, with white lilies being among some of the oldest cultivated plants around. Head back to Asia around 3,000 years ago and this flower was being grown specifically for uses in medicine and food.
Jump forward to the times of Ancient Greece and Rome and white lilies were used for medicine. They would use every part of the lily – leaves, roots, bulbs and flowers – for use in oils and balms. The Romans in particular would use lilies to soften the skin on their feet. Head over to Egypt and they would use the flower to treat inflammation and burns and even use the leaves as plasters. It’s during this time that the lily also started to take on more of a symbolic meaning.
It doesn’t stop there either. Continue through history and into the middle ages and the candidium lily was used as a symbol of purity and the Virgin Mary. In fact, find some paintings of the period and you will often see this flower included.
Meaning of White Lilies
With a flower that has been around as long as the lily, it’s not surprising that it has become mixed up with so many different emotions. So, what does a white lily represent?
Over the centuries this flower has been used to send powerful messages. If we go back to Ancient Greece, this flower wasn’t only about healing people, it was also a symbol of femininity and fertility. In Greek mythology, Zeus fathered a son called Heracles with a mortal woman. So that he would become immortal, Zeus took the baby and tricked his wife Hera into breastfeeding the child. When Hera discovers what has happened, she throws the baby away. In doing so, drops of her milk falls and white lilies are said to have grown where it touches the ground.
For this reason, in Ancient Greece and Rome, brides would wear these flowers as a crown to represent their purity and was said that if you received a sweet-smelling lily, you would know it was from the love of your life. This one is still a popular choice with brides today, although we think this has more to do with the elegant style the bloom provides to a bouquet.
In the Victorian era, they were crazy about floriography where flowers were given their very own language, with each bloom having its own meaning. It provided the perfect way of conveying their emotions and sending messages when society restricted them from doing so.
Taking a cue from the Victorians and their secret message of love, these flowers are a perfect way to tell someone that you utterly adore them. I mean what could be better than receiving a big bouquet of white lilies from the love of your life? Talking about love and marriage, did you know that this flower is also the official anniversary flower if you are celebrating 30 years? You can find out more about anniversary milestones in our handy guide.
While white lilies are used for happy events, they are also the flower of choice for funerals because they symbolise beauty and peace. Due to their links with death, they used to be seen as an omen and it was considered bad luck to bring them indoors. Fortunately, attitudes have changed, which is a good job when you consider just how beautiful these flowers are sitting in your vase.
Types of White Lilies
When it comes to the world of lilies, there are plenty of choices. You’ll find these flowers are split into nine groups, here are some of our favourite white picks.
This is one of two main types of lilies that you’ll often find in your vase and growing in our gardens. Now, if you’re looking for the purest of whites, you would need to choose Casa Blanca. The petals on this one are icy white and perfectly frame the dark red stamens that grow from the centre. If you want to soften things up a bit, have a look at The Edge. This one delivers a soft white flower which, as the name suggests, is edged with the most gorgeous baby pink.
You’ll commonly see this group called Easter lilies because the trumpet-shaped flower is often associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Strange when you consider these lilies don’t flower until June and July, but they can be an extra treat for summer. For a perfect and showy example go with White Heaven which produces large flowers and gorgeous scent. For something a bit different, go with Lily Eyeliner. A deep purple line edges the petals – just like someone drew it on with eyeliner.
This lot are the big flowers in the group and tend to have the best fragrance. If you’re looking for an extra helping of flowers, then you would need to choose Oriental Lily Polar Star. This is a double-blooming lily which delivers perfectly white petals that are almost fluffy in appearance. Another great-smelling choice is Lily Playtime. This one has large white blooms with a streak of yellow and magenta spreading up from the centre to the tips of the petals.
Facts about White Lilies
Despite their delicate looks, lilies are tough plants. They happily survive in the wild without much help from us humans.
Did you know that a white lily flower has six petals and six stamens?
It is said that the symbol of French royalty, the fleur-de-lis, was based on the lily flower (although some argue it comes from the iris flower).
These flowers are not great for our pets, being especially poisonous for cats. Even the smallest amount can cause kidney failure – best keep them away! However, they are perfectly fine for us humans. In fact, varieties of the lily are grown specifically for food in Asia where they eat the bulbs.
Ready to add scented, elegant white lilies to your home?