An Emperor And His Hydrangeas

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Long ago, in the land of the rising sun, it is said that an emperor was so busy running errands and businesses that he neglected a maiden that he loves deeply. To make it up to her, he gave her blue hydrangeas as a symbol of his sincere apology and gratitude. Hydrangea or scientifically known as hydrangea macrophylla is called Ajisai (紫陽花) in Japanese was primarily cultivated in Japan. The flowers blossom during the rainy season between June to July and has transformed places like the Meigetsuin Temple into a mesmerizing sight.

Photo: Chao-Wei Juan/Flickr

Hydrangea is not only enjoyed by the Japanese. In fact, Europe also have the hydrangea in their culture dating back since 1736 when a colonist brought a hydrangea plant back to England. However, the hydrangea carries a whole other meaning in Europe. Since the plant can produce a handful of flowers but limited seeds, it is used by the English men of the 1800s by sending the flowers to the women who rejected them as a frigidity mockery. And due to this practice, it has seeded into the Victorian era that women who grew hydrangeas in their front yard will never get married.

Hydrangea Colors and Its Meanings

While hydrangea possess different symbolization between cultures, the colors however are uniform around the world.

Photo: Chao-Wei Juan/Flickr


The meaning of the blue hydrangeas is portrayed heavily in the Japanese emperor’s story. It symbolizes gratitude and by giving this flower can show the receiver that you are sincerely apologetic.


Pink hydrangeas carries the meaning of true feelings and is ideal for wedding arrangements. Some might say it symbolizes sincere emotions and love.


Purple hydrangeas carries the meaning of desire for deep understanding towards someone. It is often gifted during the fourth wedding anniversary of a couple. It is also represented by pride, royalty and gracefulness across different cultures so it is ideal to be gifted as a sign of appreciation to your partner after four years of marriage.


While white hydrangeas represents boastfulness, vanity and arrogance (thanks to the Victorian era), however the color also symbolizes purity and grace so it is ideal for giftings for your partners or loved ones.