What is the meaning of the holly flower

What is the meaning of the holly flower?

Having signature red berries and striking, pointy leaves, the holly flower represents a happy family, good luck, and resistance against temptations.

The beloved holiday plant has been a traditional symbol of Christmas since the Middle Ages. So it adorns many shop windows, gift baskets, and homes around this time mostly in the US and Europe.

In this guide, we will explore this elegant flower, particularly its meaning, symbolism, and uses.

About the Holly Flower

About the Holly Flower

Genus: Holly or Ilex

Type: Evergreen or deciduous plants

Height range: Up to 50+ feet tall

Native habitat: Temperate and tropical regions worldwide

Some common species: I. aquifolium, I. cornata, and I. cassine

Holly or Ilex is a large genus of flowering plants. It comprises over 560 species of plants belonging to the family Aquifoliaceae.

Most holly flowers are evergreen, their leaves remaining verdant throughout the year. However, some are deciduous whose leaves fall in autumn but regrow in spring.

Depending on the species, the height of the holly plant varies, ranging from 40 inches for a small plant or low-ground cover to as tall as 50 feet for a tree.

Also, they are at home in temperate and tropical regions across the globe. 

In particular, I. aquifolium grows in Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia, the I. cornata originates in China and Korea, and I. cassine (or Dahoon holly) is native to the East Coast of the US, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Physical Description of Holly

Physical Description of Holly

Holly flowers are symmetrical. If you divide the flower in the middle, the halves will be perfect replicas of each other.

These types of flowers are called actinomorphic. Holly plants grow laterally with pointed leaves and berry fruits in the middle.

Their flowers, though, are often small and inconspicuous. And this can have a range of shades like white, pink, green, and yellow.

They’re also known for their pleasant and sweet fragrance. Pollinators like bees and butterflies are attracted to this scent.

Most holly varieties are dioecious, which means they will require pollen from both male and female plants to reproduce, unlike most flowers and plants.

What’s more, the amazing, uplifting flower can sport a variety of berry colors such as red, white, black, yellow, and even pink.

Holly Word Origin

Holly comes from the Old English word holegn or the Germanic word holen. It’s a “cousin” of the German word Hulst

One meaning of holegn translates to “prick,” which precisely fits the sharp-pointed leaves of the grand evergreen holly tree.

As we said earlier, holly’s other name is Ilex. This Latin word is used to scientifically refer to the holly, but because holly leaves resemble oak leaves, it had also been used to refer to oak trees up until the 19th century.

Holly Meaning and Symbolism

Holly Meaning and Symbolism

Holly has a deep association with the Christian religion. 

It’s nicknamed “Christ’s Thorns” and stands for the painful and prickly crown of thorns that Jesus wore. To Christians, it symbolizes Christ’s suffering and bearing of the guilt of man during his crucifixion.

Moreover, the plant’s red berries can be compared to the blood of Christ dripping while carrying the massively heavy cross on his shoulders.

There’s also a superstition that hollies mustn’t be brought into the house before Christmas Eve, as this is regarded as bad luck.

On the contrary, in the English Midlands, it’s considered good luck to hang a sprig of holly inside the home on Christmas. One can place it in the living room, a wall, or a door.

But generally, the holly flower indicates happiness and safety. For a lot of Christian families, there’s a sense of safety that comes with the Christmas season when loved ones gather for festivities. 

In Ancient Rome

Ancient Romans worshipped Saturn, a powerful Roman god of many things, including agriculture, wealth, time, generation, dissolution, and freedom. 

They used holly as an offering to this deity, especially during the Saturnalia festival held in mid-December.

Plus, many artworks depict the god Saturn holding the sacred holly plant or wearing a red-dotted holly crown.

In Celtic Nations

The Celts were an ancient European people connected with the Scots, Britons, and Irish in language and culture.

At that period, there were a lot of druids—Celtic priests, soothsayers, or magicians. Fpr them, the holly plant marked the winter solstice, which is when days become shorter and nights longer.

The Holly Tree as a Symbol of Protection

The Holly Tree as a Symbol of Protection

Holly appears in a Bible story with Jesus and Mary. It begins when a ruthless king orders all baby boys to be executed.

Mary heard about this news and kept her son, Jesus, in a young holly bush. But the plant was still too young and didn’t totally cover the baby.

So she begged and prayed to God for Jesus to be protected. Thereupon, the holly bush grew and grew until it became a large tree, successfully hiding the child.

This is just one of the tales that made the beautiful holly plant a religious symbol of protection as well as dedication.

Holly Flower Color Meaning

Holly Flower Color Meaning

The particular hue of the holly also gives it a certain meaning. See below to know each of them!

  • White Flowers

White flowers give it the meaning of holiness, purity, innocence, and good luck. Hollies with white central blooms make a fabulous pairing with red berries. 

Also, the combination of white and red also makes for a very Christmassy look more than any other holly colors.

  • Yellow Flowers

Another color you may find with hollies is yellow. They mean happiness, smiles, and not giving up on romance or life.

So if you know someone who has a vivacious character, this may be the perfect flower color to give them.

  • Pink Flowers

Pink-flowering hollies look majestic and enchanting. They symbolize fun, playfulness, femininity, and happy love.

Whether as a vase bunch or wreath, they’re very beautiful to display at one’s home, as they give a refreshing and positive vibe.

  • Green Flowers

Green is extremely rare for a holly plant. That gives it the meaning of luck like when you’ve unexpectedly spotted a four-leaf clover.

The other meaning of green hollies is fantastic health, abundance, and defense or protection in life.

When is the best time to give someone a holly flower?

When is the best time to give someone a holly flower

As a wonderful tradition, holly gifts are best given during the holiday season from Christmas to the New Year. Don’t attempt to give it before Christmas Eve, as it’s believed to be unlucky.

The holly plant can be given independently or as part of a bouquet, vase, or wreath ensemble. You can hang it at your door or hallway or dry it and include it as decoration in your greeting card. 

If you’re having an event in the winter, you can have a florist use hollies for your table centerpieces or venue decor. The shiny leaves and bright berries will surely brighten someone’s day!

The Medicinal Uses of the Holly Plant

The Medicinal Uses of the Holly Plant

In the field of medicine, the holly flower and certain parts of the plant are used to treat several health ailments and conditions.

In the 1800s, the holly was extensively used to treat fever. Also, they were used as a remedy for pleurisy, in which the two large layers of tissues that separate the lungs and chest wall swell.

In modern times, it’s still used to cure jaundice, which causes yellowing of the eyes or skin. Additionally, this plant can induce vomiting and nausea in a person that has ingested toxic items or food.

Plus, holly leaves can be brewed into tea to cure the common cold, coughing, and pneumonia. Applied directly to the skin, it can remedy sores, rashes, and measles too, so the plant is pretty useful.

How to Take Care of a Cut Holly Plant

How to Take Care of a Cut Holly Plant

As soon you get your cut holly plant from a florist or garden, you have to maintain it so that it won’t dry and wither.

1) Like with a regular flower, snip off the ends of the stem diagonally, crush the ends, and immerse the plant in water.

2) Place it inside your home in a cool, moist location. Don’t put it inside the fridge because it will dry out quickly.

A tip: you may want to spray the branch with an antidesiccant substance to help it retain moisture and last longer.

Fun Facts about Holly

Fun Facts about Holly
  • Holly is a popular name for girls born in December
  • Holly flowers had been used for centuries before the spread of Christianity. It was used as a way of marking and celebrating the winter solstice.
  • Their strong spiny leaves can act as a lightning rod to direct lightning away from adjacent trees.
  • In the Ancient Roman era, holly represented the god Saturn and was used during the Saturnalia festival, which occurs around Christmas and the winter solstice.
  • In numerology, holly corresponds with the number seven. In terms of planets, this pertains to Neptune, which has the qualities of awareness, reflection, understanding, and peace.

FAQs about the Holly Flower

FAQs about the Holly Flower
  1. Does holly mean happiness?

Holly means domestic happiness, which is invaluable for a family. It’s what a lot of people wish and long for.

It can also be thought of as the flower that brings people together because it’s brought out during Christmas and Thanksgiving. And it has a deep religious significance reminding Christians of how Christ suffered for mankind.

  1. Is the holly flower toxic?

Despite its charm, the whole holly flower is toxic to humans, dogs, cats, and horses. Ingesting its berries can cause dehydration, light-headedness, sleepiness, nausea, and vomiting.

And so, you should keep this flower away from the reach of everyone, especially young children. Be careful and don’t give them a gift with a holly flower.

  1. How long can holly bushes live?

Given a suitable climate and the right care, holly bushes can impressively last very long for over 75 years!

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