What do white tulips signify?

Updated April 15, 2017

Tulips (Tulipa) originated in an area from central Asia to China. Persian plant growers were breeding the bulbs by the 12th century, and the flowers were introduced to Europe in the 1500s. With more than 700 years of active cultivation, white tulips in particular and tulips in general symbolise various emotions and feelings, as well as an era in Turkish history and one of the most notorious stock market speculation bubbles.


Various symbolic meanings are attached to white tulips. Two of the more important virtues they represent are purity and innocence, according to the Flower-Advisor website. Tulips in general are also symbolic of perfect love, reports the Living Arts Originals website. Combining purity with perfect love, these attributes make white tulips a growing favourite for wedding arrangements, as well as the white being a natural complement to a white wedding dress.


Giving white tulips is a way of saying, "I'm sorry," a floral request for forgiveness in many cultures. At the same time, white tulips are a way to claim worthiness. When forgiveness pairs up with worthiness, it is a good flower to use when apologising without appearing to beg for a general pardon. White tulips are also symbolic of rebirth, renewal and a sense of hope, according to the Tulip Time website.


White tulips are used at funerals as a sign of respect and remembrance. The tulips also stand for the eternal rest of the deceased. White is a symbol of heaven, which further ties white tulips to funerals and memorials. When displayed in a mass planting, a white tulip garden represents heaven on earth. White tulips are also used at baby showers for their association with heaven, newness and purity, according to the Living Arts Originals website.

Tulip Era

The years 1718 to 1730 are known as the "Tulip Era" in Turkey, reports the World Turkey website. Tulips are associated with a time of peace and enjoyment that marked these years in Turkish history. This time is noted for a heightened appreciation of tulips and a lifestyle that linked the display of tulips with the arts, embroidered goods, handmade fashions, and the use of tulip shapes and designs. The era ended when a revolt overthrew Tulip Era leader sultan Ahmed III.


Tulips of all colours are symbols of one of the greatest examples of an out-of-control futures market, Tulipmania. From 1620 to 1637, traders in Holland created a speculative market based on tulips and tulip bulbs. Contracts for future bulbs were traded many times before delivery, if delivery was actually made, according to the International Flower Bulb Centre. Tulips, bulbs and contracts for tulips and bulbs were symbols of wealth and status. The bubble started expanding in earnest in 1634 and finally burst in 1637, with thousands of bankruptcies and large personal property losses, but not before homes were mortgaged for a few bulbs, and one bulb was sold for 454 Kilogram of cheese, reports the Herrick District Library.

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About the Author

Austin resident Thomas Charles has written professionally for more than 30 years, first as a daily newspaper reporter, more recently online with SEO content, consumer and high tech marketing, public relations and grant campaigns. He holds a journalism and law degree from the University of Texas.