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

February Birth Flowers

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The Violet and the Primrose

Tim Goodwin
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With Valentine’s Day at the forefront of everyone’s mind in February, it may come as a surprise that the red rose is not February’s birth month flower. Instead, those born in the second month of the year are linked to the violet and primrose. Whether they’re your “birth” flowers or not, learn more about the history, meaning, and symbolism of the violet and primrose!

What Are the February Birth Flowers?

The February birth month flowers are the violet and the primrose

Not many flowers bloom in February (certainly not traditional roses, which are at their best in June). However, the tiny woodland plants of February brighten the landscape like purple, colorful slippers. 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, remembrance.

In the Victorian age, a gift of violets was a declaration to always 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, 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.

Both Greeks and Romans used the flower for things like herbal remedies, wine, funeral decorations, and to sweeten 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 which have increased 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 and in garden beds, as well as 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 forms of 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 a variety of 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 a variety of 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 if you ate a primrose, you would then 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.

Rubbing primroses on the udder of a milking cow, it was once believed, 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 have been long associated for 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 known as 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 in white, yellow, pink, red, or violet. One thing that is consistent 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 that they’re ready to transplant outdoors after the last hard frost.

Primrose foliage forms a rosette that grow close to the ground, so be sure not to bury the crown or they 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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2023 Almanac Club