Purple flowers come in many varieties, each with their own unique name and characteristics. In this article, we will explore some of the most popular purple blooms and examine what makes them distinct.
One of the most well-known purple flowers is the violet. There are over 400 species of violets that come in a range of purple shades from light lavender to deep royal purple. The common violet (Viola sororia) grows wild in many parts of the world and is recognized by its heart-shaped leaves and five-petaled flowers. Another popular violet is the African violet (Saintpaulia), which is a favorite houseplant thanks to its velvety leaves and vibrant blooms. The name violet comes from the Old French word violete, named after the flower’s delicate, sweet scent.
Lilacs are prized for their extremely fragrant blossoms that emerge in spring. Most lilac varieties produce flowers in shades of light purple, mauve, or lilac (which is how the flower got its name). The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) can fill the air with its sweet perfume when its abundant blooms open. There are also many hybrid lilac cultivars in deeper purple hues. Grow lilacs in full sun and provide ample space for these multi-stemmed shrubs.
The name says it all with lavender (Lavandula), whose purple flowers are the very essence of the color. There are over 40 species of lavender, with English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) being one of the most popular garden varieties. Lavender is highly aromatic, and the flowers and leaves are used dried or fresh to make perfume, soaps, sachets, and more. The herb also produces calming, stress-relieving effects. Lavender brings its familiar coloring and scent to any garden bed or container where it’s planted.
Verbena is a prolific flowering plant that does well in containers or garden beds. Varieties like purple verbena (Verbena Canadensis) and purple cascade verbena (Verbena Hybrida) bloom constantly with clusters of tiny five-petaled flowers. Their long flowering period and tendency to spread makes verbena a great option for adding splashes of purple throughout the garden. The name verbena comes from the Celtic word ferfaen, meaning “to drive away stones.”
A favorite for porches and flower beds, petunias come in a huge range of colors including various purple shades. Purple petunias like ‘Purple Wave’ (Petunia x atkinsiana) and ‘Purple Pirouette’ (Petunia Hybrida) add eye-catching color to gardens and planters with abundant flowers and a spread of growth. The name petunia originated in South America where the plant is native and comes from the Tupi word petun that means “tobacco,” since the flower resembled the related tobacco plant.
Irises are a diverse and popular perennial known for their wide range of colors. Many irises produce purple blooms, like the tall bearded iris (Iris germanica) and the Siberian iris (Iris siberica). Irises get their name from Greek mythology, when the goddess Iris turned into a rainbow to deliver messages between heaven and earth. Today, the three upright petals of irises are said to symbolize faith, wisdom, and valor.
Alliums are a large group of flowering bulbs that includes ornamental onions, garlic, and other plants. The globe allium (Allium globosum) produces stunning spherical purple flowerheads atop tall stems. Meanwhile, the purple sensation allium (Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’) opens large, star-shaped amethyst blooms. Alliums are named after the ancient Greek word for garlic, allion. Their globes of small flowers make a big impact in gardens.
Hyacinths are highly fragrant spring bulbs that flower in March and April. Hyacinths come in purple varieties like the common hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis) which bears grapelike clusters of flowers along short, sturdy stems. Meanwhile, purple delight hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Purple Delight’) has a sweet lilac coloring. According to Greek myth, hyacinths sprouted from the blood of Hyacinthus, a young man accidentally killed by Apollo. Hyacinths draw their name from this tale.
In Greek mythology, anemones sprang from the tears of Aphrodite as she mourned the death of Adonis. Today, these spring-blooming perennials bring joy to gardens with flowers in shades of deep purple. The European wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) carpets wooded areas in early spring before the trees leaf out. Japanese anemones like ‘Prince Henry’ (Anemone x hybrida ‘Prince Henry’) produce single, cup-shaped purple blossoms from late summer to fall.
A cottage garden classic, phlox produces clusters of five-petaled flowers on upright plants. Popular purple phlox varieties include “purple beauty” (Phlox paniculata ‘Purple Beauty’), which has rich royal purple blooms, and “purple flame” (Phlox paniculata ‘Purple Flame’) which lives up to its name with intense purple coloring. Phlox plants are named after Phlox, the ancient Greek goddess of abundance.
Cheerful pansies have been cultivated since the early 1800s and come in many color combinations, including rich purple. Purple pansies like ‘Matrix Purple Blotch’ (Viola cornuta ‘Matrix Purple Blotch’) have velvety-soft, purple and yellow blooms. In Old French, pansy meant “thought” or “remembrance”, referring to the pansy’s use as a symbol of introspection.
Bellflowers produce abundant, bell-shaped purple blooms on easy-to-grow perennial plants. The Serbian bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana) trails gracefully with lavender-blue flowers. Meanwhile, the clustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata) opens dense clusters of violet bells. Campanula is Latin for “little bell.” The nodding, bell-like shape of the flowers gives bellflowers their common name.
Salvia produces long lasting flowers on tall spikes from late spring to fall. Purple varieties of salvia include ‘Lyrical Purple’ (Salvia x sylvestris ‘Lyrical Purple’) with deep purple blooms and ‘Royal Bumble’ (Salvia guaranitica ‘Royal Bumble’) which has rich indigo flowers. Salvia gets its name from the Latin word salvere meaning “to heal” or “feel well and healthy,” referring to the plant’s medicinal properties.
A tender perennial in many zones, plumbago produces abundant sky blue or purple flowers. Purple varieties like ‘Imperial Blue’ (Plumbago auriculata ‘Imperial Blue’) open vibrant purple-blue blooms on vining stems ideal for trellises, pots, and hanging baskets. The common name plumbago comes from the plant’s resemblance to lead ore, called plumbum in Latin.
Clematis are prized flowering vines that produce abundant blooms in rich colors. Purple clematis cultivars like ‘Ernest Markham’ (Clematis ‘Ernest Markham’) and ‘Rebecca’ (Clematis ‘Rebecca’) flower vigorously in the garden with saturated purple petals. The name clematis comes from Ancient Greek and means “vine branch”, referring to the flexibility of the vines.
Coneflowers are hardy perennials with daisy-like flowers. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) has down-facing petals in shades of pinkish-purple surrounding a prominent central cone. Newer hybrids like ‘Fatal Attraction’ and ‘Double Scoop Cranberry’ offer deeper purple shades. Echinacea comes from the Greek word echinos meaning “hedgehog”, referring to the spiny central cone.
Hardy, late-season asters are stars of the fall garden. The New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) produces vibrant purple daisy-like blooms on tall plants. Other purple asters, like the aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) offer light lavender flowers. The name aster comes from the Ancient Greek word for “star” and refers to the star-shaped flowers.
Orchids are exotic blooms that come in every color. Stunning purple orchids include Phalaenopsis hybrids in rich purple tones, and moth orchids (Phalaenopsis amabilis) with delicate lavender petals. The name orchid is derived from the Greek word orchis meaning “testicle”, referring to the shape of the root tubers.
|Flower Name||Scientific Name||Origin of Name|
|Violet||Viola sororia||From the Old French word violete, named after the flower’s scent|
|Lilac||Syringa vulgaris||Named after the light purple color of the blossoms|
|Lavender||Lavandula angustifolia||Named after the distinctive color and scent|
|Verbena||Verbena canadensis||From the Celtic word ferfaen meaning “to drive away stones”|
|Petunia||Petunia x atkinsiana||From the Tupi word petun meaning “tobacco”|
|Iris||Iris germanica||Named after the Greek goddess Iris|
|Allium||Allium globosum||From the Greek word for garlic, allion|
|Hyacinth||Hyacinthus orientalis||Named after Hyacinthus from Greek myth|
|Anemone||Anemone nemorosa||Named after the Greek goddess Aphrodite’s myth|
|Phlox||Phlox paniculata||Named after Phlox, the Greek goddess|
|Pansy||Viola cornuta||From the French word pensée meaning “thought”|
|Bellflower||Campanula poscharskyana||Named for the bell-like shape of the flowers|
|Salvia||Salvia x sylvestris||From the Latin word salvere meaning “to heal”|
|Plumbago||Plumbago auriculata||Named for its resemblance to lead ore (plumbum)|
|Clematis||Clematis ‘Ernest Markham’||From Greek meaning “vine branch”|
|Coneflower||Echinacea purpurea||From the Greek echinos meaning “hedgehog”|
|Aster||Symphyotrichum novae-angliae||From the Greek word for “star”|
|Orchid||Phalaenopsis amabilis||From the Greek orchis meaning “testicle”|
Purple flowers come in an amazing diversity of shapes, sizes, and colors. Each beautiful purple bloom has a unique name and origin story behind it. From the sweet violet to the exotic orchid, purple flowers hold a special place in gardens thanks to their rich jewel tones and elegant appearance. Learning the names and backgrounds of purple flowers gives new appreciation for these botanical wonders.