Everything about the lily: its origins, symbolism and care instructions. Suitable for almost any occasion! Read everything there is to know about lilies.

Characteristics of the lily

Few people do not know them; the popular Indian water lilies in the Efteling theme park. However, water lilies are only one of the many varieties of lilies out there. Lilies are relative large, quite heavy-scented flowers. 

In the Netherlands, the Asiatic lily is the most common but these other varieties exist as well:

  • The oriental lily - this variety has large, fragrant flowers
  • The trumpet lily - as the name would suggest, these have trumpet-shaped blooms
  • The turban lily - this variety has petals that are folded back
  • The tiger lily - this variety has drooping, speckled blooms

The many symbolic meanings of the lily

The lily has countless meanings, including immaculacy, transience, purity, innocence, virginity and peace, but also the more sinister meaning of death. 

Purity and virginity

The white lily is a common Christian symbol. It signifies virginity and purity, and as such, is also known as the ‘Madonna Lily’. It is often pictured in combination with the Virgin Mary. This is also why white lilies are often featured in bridal decorations. 


In addition to these beautiful meanings, the lily also often features in funerals because it also symbolises transience and death. It is an excellent mourning flower.


The history of the lily


Lilies occur naturally in Asia, Europe and America, and do well both at sea level and at slightly higher altitudes. Their origins can be traced back to the king of Clovis (465 – 511). He is said to have been given a lily by the Virgin Mary and the oil with which he was blessed is said to have dropped down from heaven. From then on, lilies have symbolised power derived from God in France. 

This is also the origin of the famous Fleur-de-lis, a symbol that features on countless French flags. In fact, the French national flag bore a golden lily for a long time. It was only taken off after the July Revolution against Charles X in 1830. As with any myth, there is a certain amount of ambiguity. The stylised Fleur-de-lis could just as easily have been based on the iris, which is known as ‘lis’ too, same as the lily.