February Birth Flowers: Primrose and Violet | What Do They Mean? | The Old Farmer's Almanac

February Birth Flowers: Violets and Primroses

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There are two birth flowers in February!

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With Valentine’s Day in February, it may come as a surprise that the red rose is not the birth flower. Think about the tiny flowers that brighten the winter months. Learn all about violets and primroses from their meaning to growing tips for the garden.

What Are the February Birth Flowers?

The February birth month flowers are violets and primroses

Not many flowers bloom in February (certainly not traditional roses, which are at their best in June).

However, the tiny woodland plants of February appear as purple, colorful slippers on the landscape. Wild violets show off their purple-blue petals and heart-shaped leaves in the coldest months! Primroses, a small perennial woodland plant, also bloom in wintertime.

The Violet

The violet is one of the earliest blooming plants in the spring. Violets typically have heart-shaped leaves and asymmetrical flowers that vary in color. Many are violet, as their name suggests, while others are blue, yellow, white, and cream. Some are even bicolored, often blue and yellow.

Native to Europe and Asia, the violet is indigenous to temperate regions in the Northern Hemisphere. Violets (Viola) are a genus of the Violaceae family. There are more than 400 species of violets in the genus.

Violet Meanings and Symbolism

The violet has been thought to symbolize modesty, faithfulness, everlasting love, innocence, and remembrance.

In the Victorian age, a gift of violets was a declaration always to be true. It still serves as a reminder of loyalty, thoughtfulness, and dependability. Give a violet to someone to let them know you’ll always be there for them!

In Christianity, the violet flower symbolizes the Virgin Mary’s humility. It is believed that the flowers blossomed when the angel Gabriel told Mary that Jesus would be her baby.

In religious art, violets are often portrayed as a symbol of modesty and humbleness.

In Renaissance-era paintings, the Virgin Mary is often seen with baby Jesus in her arms with purple flowers, a symbolic reference to her modesty.

When presented as a flower, each color has its own meaning: yellow symbolizes high worth, white is for innocence and purity, purple means truth and loyalty, and blue is for faithfulness and devotion. 

The Violet in History

The common name “Violet” is derived from the Latin viola, which means “violet flower” or “violet color.”

The Ancient Greeks considered the violet a symbol of fertility and love, using it in love potions.

Greeks and Romans used the flower for things like herbal remedies, wine, funeral decorations, and sweetening food. Persians used violets as a calming agent against anger and headaches.

In the Middle Ages, Monks were said to have called them the “Herb of the Trinity” because of their three primary colors—purple, yellow, and green.

In Victorian times, the violet was symbolic of humility and fortune. Some believed that carrying violets might keep evil spirits at bay, while another tradition said that wearing violets on your head would alleviate inebriation.

The violet is the state flower of New Jersey, Rhode Island, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Most violets are edible and have certain medicinal properties, increasing their use. Violets contain salicylic acid, which is a chief ingredient in aspirin. Certain forms of violets, therefore, were used as pain relievers.

Violets in the Garden

Violets grow well in the front of borders, in garden beds, and in containers. Depending on where you live, you’re most likely to see wild violets pop up in your garden, but they can also be planted or started from seed.

Many violets are best grown in a woodland-type setting using rich, organic soils. While violets are tough in terms of their cold tolerance, they are neither drought-tolerant nor heat-tolerant. 

Make sure violets have consistent moisture, especially in warmer months. When growing in containers, choose a well-drained potting mix. Using a slow-release fertilizer will help encourage continuous blooms.

Although violets tolerate various light conditions, most will grow best in full sun to partial shade. In warmer climates, plant violets in areas that receive afternoon shade to help keep plants cool in the summer months.

The best time to plant violets is early spring. Use mulch liberally to help keep roots cooler for a longer period of time. Violets only need a moderate amount of water, so aim for consistent moisture, but avoid over-watering.

Violets are also host plants for the mining bee—a specialist pollinator common to the Eastern U.S. that only visits violets—and attract various pollinators, including bees and hummingbirds. 

The Primrose

With European origins, the primrose is part of the Primula genus, which contains more than 500 species, although it is not a member of the rose family. It is, however, one of the first blooming flowers in the spring.

Primrose Meanings and Symbolism

The ancient Celts were thought to believe that large patches of primrose flowers were a gateway to the fairy realm.

It was once believed that if you ate a primrose, you would see a fairy.

An ancient belief centered around the ability of a primrose to ward off evil spirits. It is also thought to provide protection, safety, and love.

In some cultures, it was thought that a primrose symbolized a woman, with each petal representing a different stage of a woman’s life.

In the Victorian era, a gift of primroses meant young love, while in the language of flowers, it says, “I can’t live without you.”

Primrose has meaning in Norse mythology as a symbol for the goddess of love, Freya.

It was once believed that rubbing primroses on the udder of a milking cow would increase milk production and protect butter from being stolen.

The Primrose in History

The genus name, Primula, is derived from the Latin word primus, meaning first, in reference to its early spring appearance.

In their native Europe, primrose has been long associated with its medicinal and culinary uses. In folk medicine, it was used to treat headaches, cramps, spasms, rheumatism, and gout.

In Irish folklore, a primrose leaf rubbed on a tooth for two minutes would relieve a toothache. 

Although primrose is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, it is edible for humans. The leaves and flowers can be eaten cooked or raw or used as an herb or garnish.

Primrose can also be used to make wine and syrup.

April 19th is Primrose Day in England to honor the country’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Each year, visitors to Westminster Abbey lay the flowers at his statue.

Shakespeare’s writing included a number of references to the primrose. In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” he wrote of young lovers meeting “on primrose beds.” In Hamlet, Shakespeare coined “the primrose path of dalliance,” describing an easy path that leads to destruction. 

Primrose in the Garden

The primrose is ideal for front borders, garden beds, and edging for paths and walkways. It is also a great addition to shade and rock gardens.

It is one of the earliest blooming flowers in the spring, and its flowers may appear white, yellow, pink, red, or violet. One consistent thing is the center of a primrose bloom is almost always yellow.

The primrose is intolerant of full sun. It prefers cool and shaded areas with fast-draining, moist soil and an abundance of organic matter. They thrive with morning sun and shade from the hot afternoon sun. 

These perennials are relatively easy to maintain indoors in the winter, meaning they’re ready to transplant outdoors after the last hard frost.

Primrose foliage forms a rosette that grows close to the ground, so be sure not to bury the crown, or it will rot. They have shallow roots, so abrupt temperature changes can harm them. It is best to mulch to even out the temperature and retain moisture, but be sure not to place mulch on top of the crown.

Primroses do not like to be dry, but be sure not to overwater. An even watering is best.

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About The Author

Tim Goodwin

Tim Goodwin, the associate editor for The Old Farmer's Almanac, has been reading North America's oldest continuously published periodical since he was a young child, growing up just a short drive from the OFA office. Read More from Tim Goodwin

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