Sunflower symbolism: What is this flower supposed to represent?

Sunflower symbolism: What is this flower supposed to represent?

Sunflower symbolism is one of the most interesting concepts today. From the flower's colour meanings to stories and myths that revolve around the bloom, people associate it with a lot of good tidings, warmth and luck.

sunflower symbolism
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But what is the authentic sunflower meaning, if there is any? Well, the meaning has its origin in many places, with different parts of the world associating it with different things.

Common meaning of sunflower

As already stated,the meaning of sunflowers differ and vary depending on the place. Even so, many cultures around the world share certain meanings and attributes of the bloom based on its psychical attributes.

Some of the common meanings include:

  • Long life. This is mainly because most varieties stand in full bloom for months on end during the hottest days of summer despite the harsh weather.
  • Feelings of adoration, admiration, and platonic love towards a person, including family members and friends.
  • Loyalty and strong bonds between two people, as represented by the strong and upright stem.
  • Seeking out positivity and strength, which is indicated by the bloom that turns to face the sun.
  • Nourishing yourself and others, as the bloom is known to produce an abundance of edible seeds
  • Brightening your mood, through the vibrancy of the yellow or orange petals
  • It may also refer to good luck and lasting happiness, especially according to the Chinese culture

History and origin of sunflower

meaning of sunflower
Source: UGC

The above descriptions give a general meaning of the sunflower. However, what does sunflower mean etymologically?

There are different versions that describe the origin of the plant. One of the most popular is the Greek version, but it is not the only one since an American version exist.

The Greek story of the sunflower

According to the Greek, there existed a Greek water nymph by the name Clytie. Clytie fell in love with the Sun God named Apollo.

She always looked at him with the hope that he would be interested in her. Unfortunately, Apollo was interested in someone else, hence did not look in Clytie's way.

It took Clytie a long while to realize that Apollo had no interest in her. She became depressed as a result of the one-sided love.

She ended up not eating nor drinking anything as she just stared at Apollo. After some time, other Greek gods felt sorry for her and decided to transform her into a beautiful sunflower instead of leaving her the way she was.

Clytie, the now transformed flower, kept looking towards Apollo, the Sun God. This explains why these plants still follow the path of the sun even today.

While the origin of the Greek story is sad, it ended in a beautiful transformation that is still witnessed today.

Different versions of the Greek sunflower origin story

Apart from the said version of the Greek story, other different variations of the origin exist.

They include:

  • Clytie having wilted away into a plant after Apollo's refusal to love her back, hence becoming the beautiful flower.
  • Clytie becoming bitterly jealous of the love that Apollo had for Leucothoe. She plotted her revenge by reporting the two to Leucothoe's father. The girl's father got angry about the love affair which prompted him to have his daughter Leucothoe killed. On finding out, Apollo hated Clytie which made her to waste away in misery before she turned into a beautiful yellow flower.

The American story of the sunflower

Apart from the Greek story, an American story about the plant's beginning also exists. It is said that the plant is indigenous to America.

According to this story, in the 16th century, Incan priestesses in Peru worshipped a giant variety of the plant, which was a symbol of the Incan sun god.

The Incan priestesses would dress in clothes and ornaments with large flower shapes. The ornaments and decorations were purely made from gold.

Existing images show that the designs were discovered in Peruvian temples. This was a major part of their religious beliefs back then.

Native Americans planted it for food and other uses. It is also believed that it was a very important Native American crop that was also worshipped by the community.

Apart from being a source of food for them, the bloom was also used as a symbol of strength and endurance. In fact, the plant was such an important part of their life such that they always put its seeds on top of graves.

Currently, it is one of the major oil crops for the USA and in international markets.

Spiritual sunflowers meaning

what does sunflower mean
Source: UGC

Sunflower symbolism could also be based on spiritual beliefs. It is common for Dutch faithful to have its symbols on the books they read, especially captions from the Bible.

The flower's tendencies to look up to the sun for its nourishment is the typical symbol of what a good Christian life should be like. Just like the sun is the source of heat and light for the plant's survival, God is the source of Christians' warmth, provision, and comfort in life.

Christians are called to look up to God for help in everything they need. He is the source of their radiance and truth, which when received makes a Christian feel the real transformation of being God's child.

What different colors of the sunflower mean

Different colors of the sunflower symbol mean different things. They are available in different colours including yellow, orange, purple, and even pink, all of which have different meanings as described below.


The red colour varies in intensity from bright red to deeper shades of the same. You are also likely to come across a velvet burgundy.

The meaning of a sunflower in red is vitality, passion, lust and energy. It could also mean luck and prosperity.


Although they are rare, they come alive in dreams and real life. Seeing one can be a sign of wisdom, truth, intellect, loyalty, eternity and peace


A single look at an orange variety shows vitality and vibrancy. Usually, these flowers attract pollinators such as hummingbirds, which is why it is not surprising that they could symbolize good fortune, energy, fertility, and great fortunes.


Having been linked to royalty and mystic powers, it is expected that this flower would symbolize splendor, majesty, glory, and wealth.


Black is mysterious and can be rare but with years of cross-pollination, it exists. It signifies maturity, perfection, secrecy, protection and mystery.

Choosing a black flower may mean that you swear your allegiance to whoever you give it to. You are simply declaring that you will keep their secret and protect them all the way.


The softness of this colour is a sign of unconditional love, patience, innocence and peace. The tenderness of this colour captures purity in all things.


White symbolizes peace, rebirth and purity. It serves as a summary of all the other colors and offers an array of opportunities and expectations.

White represents a new beginning and a chance to start all over no matter how bad things were before.

Sunflower facts and fun details

what does a sunflower symbolize
Source: UGC

The plant may be native to North America, but it has spread across the world through export.

Most people who gift these flowers do so on the third year wedding anniversaries as signs of adoration, strength, and loyalty. Below are some of the most interesting fun facts about this plant.

  • They often bloom in the summer.
  • Most varieties are heat and drought-resistant, which makes them easy to grow.
  • It may have been grown previously by Native Americans as a food source, but modern breeding emphasizes on petal size and count over seed production.
  • They differ in height and can be between six inches to over 10 feet tall, depending on the variety.
  • What season do sunflowers represent? The plants represent the Leo zodiac sign symbols which means that they cover periods between July 23 – August 22. People with Leo as their astrological sign are generous, strong, self-confident, honorable, and loving, just like the sunflower which is bright and full of energy.

Sunflower symbolism: What do sunflowers represent?

The sunflower symbolizes many things historically, spiritually and even culturally. In case you receive a sunflower bouquet, it could mean any of the following:

1. Longevity

Sending a bright yellow bouquet of sunflowers will not only make one feel special and bright, but also communicates your wishes of longevity for him or her. What is more, these flowers will last longer in a vase than most varieties would.

Chinese royal families would eat the seeds as a way of elongating their life and an attempt to achieve immortality. For this reason, they are the best gifts for summer weddings, and could indicate a blessing as the couple starts a new life together.

2. Good luck and happiness

The belief that sunflowers bring good luck mainly originate from the Chinese. It is believed that filling the home with blooming flowers in a vase brings in a sense of good fortune and safety.

They make excellent gifts for friends and family who are starting new things including school and businesses. If you have no idea which gift to give on such events, consider a bouquet of different colours.

3. Adoration and friendship

Sunflowers, especially the yellow ones, indicate a close bond between friends. People in relationships are likely to become closer if they receive these as gifts.

Consider sending a bouquet to someone you admire and hold in high esteem. You are likely to enhance your relationship just by this simple act.

4. Healing

When you send a sick person a beautiful bouquet of these flowers, you are likely to raise their spirits and encourage them to recover faster.

These flowers tend to communicate a strong message of healing and recovery. The seeds have positive health properties when eaten, especially for people who need to recover from ailments.

5. Focus

The bright flowers can be a great gift of encouragement to anyone who is about to face a challenge such as an exam. In addition to that, its seeds are said to be a great food choice for anyone who wants to improve their focus and brainpower.

Incorporate the seeds in your diet, especially in pastries to benefit from the super-food. Using its oil for your cooking can also go a long way.

6. Radiating joy and happiness

Undoubtedly, sunflowers radiate pure joy with their tall stalks and giant heads, especially when they are adorned with lush yellow petals. They seem to emit positive energy and good vibes just as the sun itself.

For this reason, sunflower arrangements are excellent gifts to be given for any joyous occasions, including baby showers, business launches, birthdays, as well as graduations.

What does a sunflower symbolize culturally?

It is common knowledge that flower petals have been used by artists over the years. One of the most common and well-known portrayal of sunflowers is Van Gogh’s sunflower series that includes Vase With Twelve Sunflowers, Two Cut Sunflowers, and Four Cut Sunflowers.

Other influential people have used sunflower symbolism to inspire themselves to create masterpieces. Some of the most common quotes that have been born from these include:

  • Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. It’s what the sunflowers do. – Helen Keller
  • Every friend is to the other a sun, and a sunflower also. He attracts and follows. – Jean Paul
  • Light-enchanted sunflower, thou/ Who gazest ever true and tender/ On the sun’s revolving splendour. – Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Sunflower tattoo meaning

sunflower tattoo meaning
Source: UGC

What does a sunflower tattoo represent? Different tattoos with the sunflower symbol mean different things.

The colours used in the tattoos as well as the sunflower's presentation have the ability to alter the symbolism of a sunflower tattoo. You can always incorporate the sunflower's special meaning in your tattoo.

Additional elements

Adding elements such as ladybugs climbing stems, butterflies hovering nearby or caterpillars climbing the stalk could transform the meaning of the original sunflower tattoo. A good example would be the caterpillar, which represents transformation, whereas the ladybug represents abundance.

Adding a butterfly can also symbolize change and joy.

Graphics addition

Adding graphics at the center of the flower or choosing to transform the petals into another familiar design also helps in personalizing the tattoo and making it unique. You can use diverse and meaningful images such as flames, feathers, or leaves.


You can also use a variety of colours in your tattoo to enhance its beauty and capture different symbolic meanings. Yellow represents life and vitality while red represents your ambitions and passion in life's pursuits.

Choosing to go for rich orange will capture the idea of enthusiasm, encouragement, or success. Make sure you pick a colour that truly captures your personality and displays who you truly are.


How the sunflower tattoo is presented matters. It can be a single flower or can be clusters arranged together in a bouquet.

For mixed arrangements, you can go for a mix with a small flower tattoo, like a dandelion, daisy or rose, which you then mix with the bright yellow or red sunflowers to add contrast and make the tattoo more interesting.

Best sunflower tattoo placements

The nature of the flowers makes it possible for them to be worn on any part of the body. Many people would prefer to place a sunflower tattoo in a visible location to show it off.

Potential places include on shoulders, ankles, hands, and feet. You need to choose a location that is visible to all so that you can flaunt the beautifully done petals that display your vitality, strength and joy from the flower.

Sunflower tattoo messages

Usually, the tattoos send a warm and inviting message that reflects your inviting personality. They tend to evoke feelings of joy and happiness, thus bringing positivity to the wearer.

People who wear these tattoos tend to be upbeat. They also enjoy life in its fullness.

Why people choose sunflower tattoos

Anyone who enjoys beautiful tattoos will love sunflower tattoos. Most people who go for these drawings are usually trying to share with the world the joy that they experience each day.

Sunflower symbolism is unique as it captures different things. From its history, the flower is one of the most positive, warm, and attractive flowers.


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