White Water Lily Meaning and Symbolism

Water lilies come in many colors, but white is one of the most abundant one. So what is the white water lily meaning?

Water lilies, especially the white variety, represent peace, unity, innocence, and purity. It can also convey other meanings due to their significance in different cultures, such as rebirth, mental clarity, and hope.

If you want to find out more about these beautiful flowers and what they symbolize, this guide will provide you with everything you need to know!

About Water Lily Flowers

Water lily flowers come from a unique plant family, and many of the plant’s special meanings are derived from its characteristics and origin. So, let’s start by having a brief look at the flower’s origin and etymology.

Description and Colors

Water lilies are rhizomatous aquatic herbs that belong to the “Nymphaeaceae” family. This family includes anywhere between 40 to 70 different species of the plant. Some of these species are actually hybrids and variants developed by humans.

In addition to white, water lilies come in a wide variety of shades and vibrant hues, such as red, blue, purple, pink, orange, and yellow.

However, white is one of the most popular and abundant colors in water lilies, as it’s a part of many bicolor species.

Additionally, there are some species of pure white lilies, such as White Water Lilies (Nymphaea alba) and Fragrant Water Lilies (Nymphaea odorata).

The star-shaped flowers usually sit on top of large rounded green leaves or float directly on the surface of freshwater ponds and streams.

The plant prefers water bodies with muddy grounds because it allows the root systems to dig deep into the soil to find nutrition.


Different species of water lilies are native to various parts of the globe. This abundance allowed the flower to hold special significance among different cultures, which has a major impact on the flower’s meanings today.

The majority of water lilies are originally from temperate and tropical areas where the temperature is relatively high and the sunlight is plentiful.

Popular white water lily species are native to eastern North America where temperatures are slightly lower. For that reason, white water lilies also go by the common name “American water lilies”.

Related: Blue Water Lily Meaning

Etymology and Nomenclature

Despite the name, lilies and water lilies aren’t from the same family. Lilies belong to the Liliaceae family and grow in the soil while water lilies belong to the Nymphaeaceae family.

Several reasons were proposed as to why they’re called water lilies. For instance, some think that they’re called water lilies due to the resemblance between the two flowers (both have star-shaped petals).

Others say that the name comes from Latin origins where the word Lilia translates to “pure and pale”.

This ties back to the family name (Nymphaeaceae), which is derived from Greek Mythology’s nymphs.

Like water lilies, these creatures lived in streams and ponds and took the shape of pale young women.

White Water Lily

What Do White Water Lilies Symbolize?

Water lilies have a variety of symbolic and spiritual meanings. Some of them are based on the flower’s characteristics while others are based on its color. Let’s have a brief overview of each of these meanings.

1. Peace and Mental Clarity

White water lilies are one of the most popular symbols of unity and peace for a wide range of reasons.

For starters, water lilies prefer calm water with little to no turbulence to avoid damaging their delicate flowers. For that reason, water lilies generally represent tranquility and peace of mind.

Also, the white color has always been associated with purity and clarity, which makes white lilies the best possible representation of this meaning.

2. Unity

This meaning is a lot older than you think! Before the establishment of the Ancient Egyptian empire, Egypt was split into two kingdoms. The Northern kingdom (represented by papyrus flowers) and the Southern kingdom (represented by the water lily).

For that reason, many companies today use white lilies while decorating to convey the meanings of cooperation and unity between co-workers.

3. Innocence and Chastity

Another meaning that is often associated with white color is innocence. Surprisingly, this meaning is also associated with water lilies, regardless of their color.

However, the stunning white color of water lilies makes them stand out among all other colors when it comes to representing these meanings.

Combined with the serenity of the surrounding water, the flower spreads perfect vibes of purity and innocence.

4. Rebirth and Resurrection

Water lilies are day bloomers. This means that they’ll open on the break of dawn and remain open until the night comes. This unique blooming pattern represents renewal, rebirth, and starting new adventures.

Rebirth and resurrection are major aspects of many religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, which is why these flowers are commonly found in their temples.

This meaning is associated with water lily flowers of all hues and shades but is particularly common among white ones.

5. Hope and Endurance

Water lilies grow in an unlikely environment. However, it’s a remarkably hardy plant that can endure these harsh conditions, whether it’s the water medium or the fish that feed on its leaves.

Not only that, but the flowers also manage to thrive and stay clean despite digging their roots deep into the dirty and muddy soil.

All these characteristics make water lilies a great symbol of hope, resilience, and endurance against hardships.

6. Sympathy and Condolences

White color flowers are the most common color used to signify remembrance, condolences, and showing sympathy.

White water lilies also represent purity and innocence, which makes it an appropriate choice to represent the loss of a young person or a child.

7. Apology and Paying Respect

This one is another meaning that also stems from sympathy and innocence. By sending a bouquet of white water lilies to someone you’ve wronged, it means that you hold a great deal of respect toward them and that you’re apologizing for your mistakes.

Read more: Bluebonnet Symbolism – 5 Meaningful Interpretations

What Do Other Colors of Water Lily Symbolize?

As previously established, water lilies come in a variety of other colors as well as color combinations with white.

Each one of these colors has its own interpretation, which can affect the general symbolism of the flower.

Here are some of the meanings of other colors and their impact on the water lily symbolism:

  • Red: Represents true love, romance, passion, unity, devotion, and courage
  • Purple: Represents royalty, wealth, respect uniqueness, elegance, and well-deserved success
  • Blue: Represents unity, spiritual awareness, intuition, and faith
  • Green: Represents personal growth and familiar connections.
  • Orange: Represents excitement/enthusiasm, power, and devotion
  • Yellow: Represents joy, happiness, springtime, and friendship. However, it can also mean caution and jealousy in some cultures.
  • Pink: Represents beauty, femininity, and peace
White Water Lily blooming

When Do White Water Lilies Bloom?

Different water lily species can have a unique blooming season. It can also vary depending on where they grow and the surrounding temperature.

Some white water lilies bloom in early spring, especially those planted in relatively warm and temperate regions.

However, the vast majority of white lilies will bloom in mid-summer (around July), especially if you’re growing them in a relatively cold area.

Lilies are day bloomers, so you can only watch them in bloom when there’s daylight. Also, each flower blooms for as little as 2 to 3 weeks and then sink to the bottom.

Are White Water Lilies Good Gifts?

Since white water lilies can convey several meanings, there are plenty of occasions when they would make an excellent gift.

For example, white water lilies are great ceremonial flowers that you can use in both weddings and graduations. You can also use these flowers at funerals because they represent sympathy and condolences.

Additionally, water lilies are the official birth flower of July. This means that you can use them as a great gift or decoration for anyone who was born in that month.

Essential White Water Lily Care Tips

Now that you know more about white water lily’s meanings and symbolism, here are some essential care tips to help you extend their blooming time and keep them bright and well-nourished.

  • Water lilies, especially white ones, need a lot of direct sunlight to stay healthy, so pick a suitable location where it can get at least 4 hours of sunlight per day.
  • Don’t keep water lilies in a pond, especially if it has fish. Water lilies can provide healthy nutrition to the soil but they multiply very quickly and can harm aquatic life in the pond. Instead, keep it in a container.
  • As a fast-grower, you only need a balanced 20-20-20 or a slow-release fertilizer for water lilies, but you’ll need to feed them regularly during the growth phase.

Wrap Up

With that said, our guide about the white water lily’s meaning and symbolism comes to an end. As you can see, white water lilies represent a lot of heartfelt meanings that make them perfect gifts for many occasions.

The flower is a perfect interpretation of peace and unity, but it can also represent rebirth, hope, sympathy, respect, and apology.

You can also use a bouquet of different water lily colors to convey the meanings of reunion and eternal friendship.