Flowers in China are appreciated for more than just their outer beauty. They are used for many purposes such as medicine and food, and often have a deep cultural meaning. Many flowers blooming in western gardens have been cultivated in China for hundreds of years. If you are planting a garden with a Chinese theme, several flowers will give your garden a touch of Chinese tradition.
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One of the most treasured flowers of China, the plum blossom is often depicted in traditional Chinese paintings. The plum blossom, or “prunus mume,” is native to China and has been cultivated there for at least 1500 years. The flower blooms annually, and its petals range from white to red in color or often a mix of both, producing pink blossoms. The plum blossom grows on a tree that can grow up to 20 feet high.
The lotus flower, or Chinese water lily, is a water plant native to China. The roots grow in the mud at the bottom, while the long stem allows the flower to float on the water’s surface. The lotus’ petals are usually white or pink and have pointed edges. Lotus flowers produce large green seed pods, which are often dried and used for decorative purposes. The seeds in the pod are edible. The porous root of the lotus is commonly used in Chinese cuisine and medicine. In Chinese culture, the lotus represents virtue and purity.
The chrysanthemum was first cultivated in ancient China and is an important flower in Chinese culture. It represents nobility and has been celebrated in poems. Every autumn, the chrysanthemum is represented in art and celebratory items during the Double Ninth Festival. Chrysanthemums are also used in Chinese tea, cuisine and medicine. The flower comes in a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes, but the Chinese variety is usually pale to canary yellow with many long, thin petals. The chrysanthemum is featured on one side of the one yuan coin.
Cape jasmine, or “zhi zi” in Mandarin, is a very fragrant type of gardenia native to China. Zhi zi is a white flower with similar petals and shape to the common rose. Like many flowers, cape jasmine is used in Chinese medicine. Its medicinal properties can help relieve a variety of intestinal and liver conditions. Because of its pleasant, vanilla-like fragrance, the cape jasmine is often used to flavor desserts and beverages.