Italy is one of the most beautiful (and widely visited) countries in the world. The gorgeous greenery does nothing to dissuade these visiting tourists of the stunning beauty of Italy.
But, the shrubbery and flowers aren’t only for tourists – often, the flowers that are native and traditional to a region in Italy will be intertwined with the culture, symbolism and superstitions of the area.
If you have fallen in love with Italian gardens, foliage and greenery, then you have come to the right place. Here are a few of our favorite traditional and native Italian flowers, that you can incorporate into your own garden, patio containers, or indoor pots, for a Mediterranean feel.
This is one of the most well known of the traditional Italian flowers, and is commonly used across Italy to decorate for celebrations and ceremonies. It is also used as a gift for loved ones, to show their appreciation. There is no surprise, then, that the National Flower of Italy is a madonna lily.
They are used so much because for Italians, they symbolize typically Italian passions, such as love, moral values and family. For Italians, the orange lily symbolizes passion, the yellow one for happiness, white lilies are for virginity and modesty, and the famous Lily of the Valley symbolizes purity.
It isn’t just the Italians who love the lily, though – it is popular throughout Europe, and is particularly well-loved in France – it is actually their national flower!
Each lily flower has four to eight petals, and the plants themselves can grow to a pretty gigantic six ft tall in height. There are two main varieties of this plant. The Asiatic lily, and the oriental lily.
- The Asiatic lily is not a fragrant flower, but i very beautiful, and if often grown to extract the essential oil, which is said to have a whole host of benefits.
- Oriental lilies are known for their delectable fragrance, on the other hand.
There are a few hybrid species that have been bred as well, combining genes from both the Asiatic and the oriental lily. They have been grown for their fragrance, beauty and color. Lilies are able to grow in your garden flower beds, or in pots/containers.
Known as la Rosa in Italian, this is another traditional Italian flower. Just like the lily, roses can be found in flower gardens across the country, and different colors of the flower, when given to someone, have different meanings.
A red rose represents love and passion, as it does in most western countries, yellow symbolizes jealousy, blue for mystery, and white for purity.
Culturally, Italians have a certain set of customs and superstitions about gifting roses. They will give an even number of flowers for happy occasions, and an odd number for sad occasions, such as funerals.
An exception to this rule is twelve roses – which, when given to someone, symbolizes marriage, or the desire to spend the rest of your life with them.
Roses are pretty hardy plants, and can be grown in your garden beds, in containers, or indoors, so long as they receive enough sunlight.
Sunflowers are known as girasole in Italian, and are a stunning flower that grows native to Italy. When visiting the Tuscany region in Italy, you can see vast fields full of sunflowers, which light up under the bright Mediterranean sun.
The culture of this area has been intertwined with the sunflower, and its motif can be found in gift shops all around.
Whilst they are grown by farmers are grown as a cash crop in most parts of Italy, they are also a symbol of love, good intention, happiness, vitality and vigor.
This makes them an ideal gift for when someone achieves a major goal in their life, like purchasing a house, graduating, getting a dream job, or buying their first car.
Sunflowers are pretty easy to grow wherever you are – just sow them in spring,and then water regularly. If you live in a chillier area, you can start them inside, and then move them outdoors when the weather starts to hot up.
Mimosa plants produce a beautiful spray of flowers, the most common species being ‘Mimosa pudica’, which produces masses of buttery yellow flowers.
These warm yellow flowers have come to characterize this plant, as well as its tendency to fold up its leaves when it is touched, leading to the common name ‘touch-me-not’.
There are over 400 different species of mimosa, though pudica is the most common, though it is not related to the mimosa cocktail, which was actually named for the acacia dealbata plant.
It is a pretty dynamic plant – not only does it move its leaves when touched, but some species are also known to spread leaves when temperatures are hot, and fold up when it gets colder.
These movements aren’t the only reason that mimosas are a popular flower -in both Italy and Russia (and potentially other parts of the world), it has become a tradition to offer women mimosa flowers on International Women’s Day.
This tradition has history that dates back to the years just after World War Two, as the yellow color represents solidarity and feminism. It is even painted across Italy on this day, to show appreciation for women.
Belonging to the genus Ranunculus, this yellowy flower was first given the name ‘buttercup’ when it arrived in Europe. Again, like the mimosa, the buttercup has over 400 subspecies. Initially, they appeared in Asia, before they started to spread across Europe, and then, the world.
In spite of their name, they are not always yellow, but also come in white and pink (although, they yellow flower buttercups are the only type that have the reflective petals.
The flowers themselves can form in a cyme (a small arrangement of flowers in a plant inflorescence), or appear as a single flower. The leaves usually form a small, flat rosette along the stem, which can make them difficult when they make their way into your lawn.
In Italian culture, buttercups are seen as a symbol of innocence, humility and playfulness.
The Italian Poppy
Italian poppies (also known as the Tuscany poppies), have a firm, and nearly sentimental place in Italy’s landscape and culture. They are a traditional garden staple, and a favorite flower of Italy.
They are sometimes referred to as Tuscany poppies because of the soil and climate in Tuscan, which is ideally conducive to growing them.
Their flowers have up to six petals, and usually come in a dark, rich red color, though they can come in any color. Our personal favorite is white – when grown together in large groups, the white petals clustered together can be very striking.
They typically bloom in the beginning of May, and are seen as an important sign in Italy that summer is on the way. They are grown on farms across Italy, as there is a superstition that their growth will ensure a good harvest, a belief which originated from Ancient Greek mythology.
These flowers are also commonly seen as a symbol of death or an eternal sleep – in Ancient Rome, they were used to decorate grave sites, and in modern day Europe, the red poppy is a symbol of remembrance for all those who died fighting in the world wars.
This is because poppies grow rampantly over many of the battlefields (most notable of which is Flanders Field, in Belgium).
Sometimes otherwise known as the Nerium, or Nerium oleanders, this shrub is a native plant to the Mediterranean region, particularly Italy.
These shrubs can grow to a huge 20 feet tall, and are usually identified by the five lobed flower that it sprouts in spring and summer, which can usually be either pink, white, or red.
You can usually find this shrub growing along river banks, where it thrives, but nowadays, it is a popular ornamental plant that is grown in gardens worldwide. But – don’t let the beautiful flowers and foliage fool you, the oleander plant is poisonous to both animals and humans, and they should never be ingested.
They are actually so poisonous that have been used by historical serial murderers Lavinia Fischer and her husband. However, oleander has such an overwhelmingly bitter taste, that you probably wouldn’t ever consume it.
Bougainvilliea is one of the most unique and beautiful flowers that grows in Italy. It is from a genus of thorny, ornamental bushes, vines, or trees, which tend to grow covering parts of houses, walls, or gates.
The flowers of bourgainvillea themselves are actually very tiny, but are surrounded by big, papery bracts (which is a modified leaf, with a small flower or cluster of flowers at its axil).
The bract is lager and more brightly colored than the true flower of bourgainvillea, and tehre are three of them that surround and protect the flowers. They can come in purple and white colors, which are quite common, but are also sometimes seen in yellow, pink, red, peach, and blue varieties.
Jasmine is a common shrub and vine found across Italy. It has more han 200 species, which grow in tropical, warm, or temperature regions. Jasmine flowers are widely cultivated across the world, both for their beautiful and unique fragrance, and elegant tiny white flowers.
If you fancy your own Mediterranean twist in your garden, then you can plant jasmine to make your whole garden smell tropical and thoroughly Italian.
These stunning purple flowers are said to be a favorite snack of pigs, and have hence derived the nickname swinebread and sowbread flowers. The entire plant grows from a tuber, and can sprout a white, pink, or purple colored flower.
The flowers themselves are very unique looking, having panels arranged like a butterfly wing. Different to a lot of the other flowers on this list, as it is dormant thorough the Mediterranean summer, with their leaves coming up in autumn, growing and flowering in the winter, and dying back in the spring.
Italy has some of the most beautiful plants in the world – and their flowers are second to none. As the weather across the regions and seasons in Italy is quite changeable, many of the plants that we have on this list can be grown across a lot of different climates.
Add any of these to your garden for a give it a pop pf Italian inspired color, some Mediterranean fragrance, and a little pizzazz.