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Gardenia: exploring the symbolism and fragrance of a feminine flower

The plant you give as a gift on 8 March, in honour of Women’s Day


The gardenia stands out as a symbol of femininity, grace, and purity, with its striking snow-white petals and rich symbolic meaning. It’s no surprise that this flower is often associated with Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March, and is commonly exchanged as a gift on this special occasion.


Gardenia: origins, cultivation, flowers

The gardenia is a popular ornamental plant, commonly used for outdoor gardens. With over 100 different species, most gardenias grow up to 2 metres in height (except for the gardenia grandiflora, which can reach up to 3 metres) and bloom during the summer between May and July. The sweet, fragrant scent of gardenia flowers spreads through the air during this time, adding to their popularity. The gardenia is an evergreen shrub with shiny, hardy leaves. It is named after Alexander Garden, an 18th-century Scottish botanist who used to collect plants and flower specimens in North America.

Gardenia originates in other latitudes, particularly in Asia and southern Africa. It prefers mild climates and does not tolerate harsh winter temperatures. Several species cannot withstand temperatures below 12°C, which is why they are grown in pots instead of in the ground to protect them during the colder months. Gardenia is particularly appreciated for its cream- or milk-white flowers, which occasionally have pink streaks. They last until the end of summer and are extremely fragrant.

The fragrance of gardenia flowers is intoxicating, rich, and intensely floral. It expresses sensuality and freshness while presenting creamy floral notes—an intriguing, velvety, and very enveloping essence with multiple facets.

gardenia white flowers


Gardenia symbolism then and now

The Gardenia flower gained popularity during the Romanticism era in Europe, towards the end of the 18th century. Its popularity continued to grow until the early 20th century, when men started to adorn their jackets with a gardenia flower during social events to add to their elegance. This made gardenias one of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s favourite flowers. Already in the 19th century, a water vial containing cut orchid flowers was already marketed in England to preserve them.

Due to its white petals, the gardenia symbolises elegance, purity, and beauty in the language of flowers. It is also a symbol of sincerity and romance, making it an ideal gift to express admiration and love. Many brides include gardenias in their bouquets due to their white colour and representation of joyful and mutual fidelity.

In recent times, the gardenia flower has been used as a symbol of female unity in the battle against multiple sclerosis. On 8 March, celebrated as International Women’s Day, AISM (Italian Multiple Sclerosis Association) sells gardenias to raise funds for scientific research in this area and also to honour and appreciate women with a floral tribute.

bouquet with gardenia

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