The Tulip: Symbol Of Love

The tulip story begins in Central and Western Asia when the bulbs were brought to Turkey by nomadic tribes about 500 years ago. The Turks considered them to be jewels, but it was the Persians who named them “tulipant,” their word for turban which described the shape of the flower they often wore in their turbans. In the late 16th century a European ambassador visited the Ottoman Empire and was given the gift of tulip bulbs and seeds. He then gave some seeds to the Roman emperor, Ferdinand I, and Carolus Clusius, the emperor’s botanist—who introduced the species to Holland when he was appointed professor of botany at Leiden University. 

Between 1634 and 1637 “tulip mania” resulted in an economic frenzy in the Netherlands. The value of the bulbs shot up and quickly became the most expensive flower in the world. In some areas, it was traded as a form of currency. Bulbs were said to cost 10 times more than a working man’s average salary, making them more valuable than some homes. At its peak, a single bulb could change hands up to 10 times a day. Eventually, the economy collapsed, but the Netherlands is still the worlds leading producer, growing as many as 3 million bulbs per year, mostly for export.  Several decades later hysteria hit England where the government was forced to pass a law limiting the price of the single bulb to 400 old English pounds. (One Pound sterling is equivalent to $1.25). 

“Tulipia” is a member of the lily family. Although the blossoms are edible, were even a primary source of food for those starving in the Netherlands during World War II, the taste is not desirable. There are over 150 species and over 3,000 varieties of tulips. With some exceptions, they only bloom from 3-7 days in the early spring.

In Persia, many poets were inspired by tulips. In the Turkish language, tulips are called “lale,” which when written is spelled the same as Allah so it became a symbol of paradise in this world and everything divine. In the Netherlands, the tulip is the main symbol of Dutch culture and heritage, calling to mind the shortness of life since they only bloom for a short time. Every year, the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa celebrates Canada’s role in liberating the Dutch during World War II. It began when the Dutch Royal Family gifted the Canadian people with tulips. And now it’s the biggest tulip celebration with over a million tulips planted in the capital region, initiating a variety of fun activities and artworks consisting of tulips.

Florists have generally agreed upon the meaning of various blossoms—

  • Red blossoms are a declaration of passionate love.
  • Purple blossoms represent royalty, wealth, nobility, extravagance and devotion.
  • Varigated colors express a compliment, such as saying the receiver has beautiful eyes.
  • Yellow blossoms symbolize unrequited love.
  • Pink blossoms signify affection and love, but not in a romantic way.
  • White flowers signify peace or forgiveness.

The velvet-like center of tulips is said to represent the heart of a passionate lover.

As tulips are short-lived and a symbol of love, they can serve as a reminder to not let a day pass by without doing something to experience or express love, if even a little bit. An evocative experience can be as subtle or simple as the sight of a bird, clouds or someone we care about; the sound of a steam-whistle on a distant train, a piece of music or a person’s voice on the phone; the gentle touch of someone’s hand, the warmth of a fireplace on a cold night or the soft stroking of a furry animal, the smell of flowers, baking bread, summer rain or the taste of a favorite food or beverage. In these kinds of situations, paying attention to what we’re sensing triggers a heartfelt response that can be spontaneous or purposeful. 

Love triggered by the senses is a feeling that comes in response to something or someone outside us. Beyond the feeling, sensory stimuli can call up the awareness of unconditioned love that resides within us, and that it, along with consciousness, is fundamental to our nature. The implication is that love can be experienced as a purposeful choice, any time and anywhere, regardless of circumstances. Instead of looking for love as if it’s a need we’d like to have satisfied, we can awaken it with any experience, positive or negative. The soul, being a fully realized drop in the ocean of pure, eternal and unconditional love and consciousness, doesn’t distinguish between right and wrong, positive or negative. It’s already fully “realized.” So we can tap into the energy of love easily and often, simply by choosing to love whatever we notice—and saying so, whether to ourselves or others.  

Throughout the day, the content of our self-talk tends to focus on bodily concerns, household needs, work and other tasks, including relationships and what’s happening personally, socially, nationally and globally. These are the things that concern us to maintain health and grow, make the best of our situation, express ourselves and contribute our unique gifts as members of larger whole systems. Given the nature of the soul, one way to choose love is to incorporate love and its expressions (gratitude, appreciation and acknowledgment) in everyday self-talk.

Awareness + Desirable Object = Love. The equation holds no matter what the object, experience or perception. Whatever the awareness, when we choose to love—anything or anyone—we get a taste of the truth of our being, that we are love, the understanding of which transcends all the other kinds of love. According to Greek philosophers, these include eros (romantic love), philia (love between equals), philautia (self-love), storge (friend love), pragma (enduring love), ludus (infatuation or playful love), mania (obsessive love) and agape (unconditional love). What I’m observing here, is that every experience of love, no matter how fleeting or small, taps into the ground or source of love. 

The important thing is not to think much, but to love much, and so to do whatever best awakens you to love.

Teresa of Avila 

The challenge and opportunity then is to choose to love as much as possible of what life presents, moment-to-moment, regardless of our perceptions or judgments about it. It’s easy to love certain people and objects—such as tulips—not so easy to love pain, disappointment and suffering. In these situations the challenge is to remember that these too are the soul’s way of eliciting the awarness that we are more than our bodies, thoughts and circumstances. We didn’t come here to be comfortable and have fun. There’s a greater purpose behind the cards we’ve been dealt. Love both liberates and enlivens that purpose. 

Benjamin Disraeli wrote: “We are born for love. It is the principle of existence and its only end.” What is the consequence of this? My view combines what Mother Teresa and Teilhard de Chardin S.J. recommended, that as conscious beings evolution encourages us to maximize the amount of love in all that we do and, as much as possible, heighten its frequency until it becomes universal and unconditional, willing the good of the whole. Regarding tulips, a symbol of love, they don’t aspire to grow taller or be roses. They do aspire to be beautiful—so they can awaken love. And in that, they realize their uniqueness. And they endure. 

For a list of the “Top 50” tulip varieties and how best to grow them, visit on Florgeous.

In essence, our true nature is love. We actually are the love we seek from others, so seeking love outside our self takes us farther away from discovering the source of love.

Lynn Marie Lumiere

Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.

Teilhard de Chardin

It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters. 

Mother Teresa

Unconditional love exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It’s not ‘I love you’ for this or that reason, not ‘I love you if you love me.’ It’s love for no reason, love without an object.

Ram Dass  

If I love the world as it is, I’m already changing it: a first fragment of the world has been changed, and that is my own heart.

Dumitriu Petru

This is the revolution: to love all beings for themselves and not for their use.

Charles Eisenstein

Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom. They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.

Jim Carrey

Now is the time to know

That all that you do is sacred.

Now, why not consider

A lasting truce between you and the Divine.

Now is the time to understand

That all your ideas of right and wrong

Were just a child’s training wheels

To be laid aside when you can finally

Live with the veracity of love.

Now is the time to know

That every thought and action is sacred.

This is the time

For you to deeply compute the impossibility

That there is anything in this world but Grace.

Now is the time to know

That everything you do is sacred.


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