There have been different types of flowers connected to each month throughout history.
In every culture and in every age man has marked time by the cyclical behavior of the Earth. Seasons are man’s arbitrary way to divide up the year by weather conditions, the way plants grow, and when they can be harvested. In the Middle Ages the 12 months of the year we’re always symbolized by the agricultural activities of the farmer, the chores of his wife, and the occasional recreational task – like, uh, bathing.
Time passed and people became more literary and poetically inclined toward the 19th century and the calendars in the Western World began to adopt ancient Oriental customs of symbolizing the months through different types of flowers and plants, according to their seasonal appearance.
Gardening in the Far East had been elevated to fine art and symbolic meanings had been applied to every flower in those cultures since antiquity. This flower calendar is the oldest of it’s kind and has been copied through the centuries by the cultures who came in contact with this idea.
What follows is a list by month of flowers in each of the three most prominent floral calendars. Each page shows three flowers based on the old English flower calendar, the traditional Chinese flower calendar, and the traditional Japanese flower calendar. Click on the links below to find the names of flowers associated with that month.
Different Types of Flowers based on the Month of the Year
There are different names of flowers for different months. These are the names of flowers according to traditional English, Chinese and Japanese calendars.
(In the illustration the traditional English flower is closest to the bottom, the traditional Chinese flower is closest to the middle and the traditional Japanese flower is at the top.)
January isn’t typically thought of for its flowers, so it’s not surprising that the flowers that represent it are quiet performers in the garden…one of them isn’t even a flower. There are diminutive snowdrops peeking out from under a blanket of snow, plum blossoms that put on quite a show but for a very short time and stalwart pines. These all herald this deep winter month.
English Calendar = Snowdrop
Chinese Calendar = Plum Blossom (Mei Hua) symbol of Beauty and Longevity
Japanese Calendar = Pine (Matsu)
February is represented in Far Eastern cultures by two beautiful blooming stone fruit trees, and in Europe by a small, but lovely garden standard. These flowers all encourage us of good things yet to come.
English Calendar = Primrose
Chinese Calendar = Peach Blossom (Tao Hua) symbol of Longevity and Marriage
Japanese Calendar = Plum (Ume)
March Names of Flowers
March flowers span two interesting ends of the hardiness spectrum. English calendars celebrate March with tender violets which can whither and fade if kissed by frost. China, on the other hand, celebrates with tree peonies which have been recorded as living for well over a hundred years. Japan devotes March to cherry blossoms, harbingers of delicious fruit later on in the spring.
English Calendar = Violet
Chinese Calendar = Tree Peony(Mu Tan) symbol of Love and Affection
Japanese Calendar = Cherry (Sakura)
April is officially the height of spring and, as such, the flowers represented by this month are all recognizable spring flowers – the classic daisy, fragrant cherry blossoms, and the stunning weeping wisteria. All three of these flowers instantly invoke images of fresh air and lawn parties.
English Calendar = Daisy
Chinese Calendar = Cherry Blossom (Ying Hua) emblem of the Feminine Principle
Japanese Calendar = Wisteria (Fuji)
As the seasons progress the flowers begin to hold more mystery and more color – blushing but exuberant Hawthorne, fragrant magnolia, and beautiful iris. In China, the magnolia bears the name of the legendary warrior princess who was a ‘late-bloomer’, Mulan.
English Calendar = Hawthorne
Chinese Calendar = Magnolia (Mu Lan) symbol of Feminine Sweetness
Japanese Calendar = Iris (Ayame)
June is the beginning of the warm summer months and the flowers begin to reflect the season’s change. Honeysuckle, with its potent perfume, pomegranate with its sensual fruit and intensely romantic peonies, one of the oldest cultivated flowers know to man being garden grown over 4000 years ago.
English Calendar = Honeysuckle
Chinese Calendar = Pomegranate (Tan Tsao) symbol of progeny and posterity
Japanese Calendar = Peony (Botan)
July is peak summer, so it’s no wonder that flowers representing this month are born of water and air to cool and refresh. Water lilies and lotuses, both revered as symbols of heavenly sun and light. Mountain clover evokes lushness and fresh mountain air.
English Calendar = Water Lily
Chinese Calendar = Lotus (Lien Hua) symbol of Perfection and Purity
Japanese Calendar = Mountain Clover (Hagi)
August is the month of “dog days”. Rippling waves of heat in the fields and longing for the cool days of Fall to arrive. The English chose the Poppy, with its tolerance of intense heat and colors that seem to vibrate in the sun.
The Chinese chose the Pear Blossom which heralds the delicious fruit of Fall. Interestingly, the Japanese didn’t choose a flower at all for this month.
This is the only month on any floral calendar that has a non-flower emblem, but the Japenese still gave it significance. The Hill Crest over which the Autumn Moon rises is both the symbol of good fortune and the welcoming coolness of the evening.
English Calendar = Poppy
Chinese Calendar = Pear Blossom (Li Hua) symbol of purity and longevity
Japanese Calendar = Hill Crest (Oka)
September, a month when the heat of summer gives way to the coolness of fall, is represented by exuberantly blooming flowers to match the change of attitude that comes with the change in the weather.
Morning Glories that can cover buildings with a lush canopy of clear blue; Mallow enrobed in sparkling star-shaped flowers; Chrysanthemum, whose flowers can cover a bush so completely that almost no leaves can be seen – talk about exuberant!
English Calendar = Morning Glory
Chinese Calendar = Mallow Blossom (Kuai Hua) magic charm against evil spirits
Japanese Calendar = Chrysanthemum (Kiku)
October bursts forth with all of the colors of fall, and the flowers and plants were chosen to represent this month most surely reflect that color explosion.
In the Far East, Chrysanthemums and Maple Leaves pop in oranges, reds, and yellows. In the West, a far more utilitarian plant is chosen – Hops, the main ingredient in brewing beer. Octoberfest, anyone?
English Calendar = Hops
Chinese Calendar = Chrysanthemum (Chu Hua) symbol of Harvest, Rest and Ease
Japanese Calendar = Maple (Momiji)
November Names of Flowers
November – when Fall turns to Winter. The flowers and plants that represent this month turn, too, from the riotous colors of Autumn to a simpler, demure palette of creams and greens.
Chrysanthemums have made appearances on the floral calendar in earlier months, but the Japanese calendar adds in the graceful Willow, a debutante in any garden, and the Chinese calendar gives us Gardenias, the heavenly-scented belle-of-the-ball.
English Calendar = Chrysanthemum
Chinese Calendar = Gardenia(Pai Ch’an)
Japanese Calendar = Willow (Yanagi)
Flowers and plants representing December shine in festive colors, from the glossy berries and shiny leaves of Holly and the crepe-paper look of Poppies to the trumpet-clusters found on Paulownias.
Though the sentiments attached to them may not reflect their beauty (the Chinese call Poppies the emblem of evil and dissipation at this time of year), the flowers still brighten this deep winter month.
English Calendar = Holly
Chinese Calendar = Poppy (A Fu Jung) Emblem of Evil and Dissipation
Japanese Calendar = Paulownia (Kiri)