In the world of tattoos, florals are always in style.
Flower tattoos are a beautiful way to mix the bold attitude of a tattoo with the delicate feminine qualities of a flower.
Sometimes floral designs will be chosen as “filler” in larger pieces, to make the negative space around the main design more luscious and ornate.
One flower that has been fully embraced by the tattoo community is the peony.
Peony flowers have large, flamboyant blooms that are sure to catch your eye in any garden.
They are a popular choice for tattoos either on their own or as a complement to a larger design, particularly in Japanese tattoos.
Many cultures lay claim to this gorgeous blossom.
As a result, the peony has many meanings, in some cases even to a contradictory degree.
So why are peonies so popular in tattoos?
What does a peony tattoo mean, and should you get one?
Let’s take a deep dive into the delicate petals of the peony flower and explore the wisdom this perennial has to offer.
Peony Legends & Symbolism
Being such a large distinctive flower, people have naturally invented all kinds of romantic origin stories for the peony.
Perhaps that’s why peony tattoos are such an enduring design.
Greek Myths Around Peony Flowers
Two Greek myths offer theories as to how we came to know our friend the peony flower.
The Myth of Paeon
Paeon was a young upstart herbologist studying under the god of medicine, Aesculapius.
While Aesculapius was excellent at this job, he was also a touch on the sensitive side.
Paeon had a theory about the healing properties of the peony flower root, specifically for easing the pain of childbirth.
It worked quite well and, seeing this, Aesculapius became consumed with jealousy.
He was worried that his student would usurp him and vowed to kill Paeon.
To save Paeon from his teacher’s jealousy and vindictive spirit, Zeus (Zeus tattoo) turned Paeon into a peony flower.
The Myth of Paeonia
In another “people turning into flowers because of jealousy” story, Paeonia is a beautiful nymph.
One day she catches the attention of Apollo and the two begin to flirt.
Aphrodite sees this and, being the goddess of love and beauty herself, is spiteful of Paeonia.
When the nymph sees Aphrodite she gets embarrassed of her flirting and blushes.
In that moment, the jealous goddess turns the nymph into a peony- which is what gives the flower its pink and red hues.
Curiously, peony roots actually do have medicinal benefits outside of Mount Olympus.
Peony extract is commonly used as a relaxant, especially for muscle cramps. Because of this, many people see the peony as a symbol of strength and healing.
During the Victorian age, however, the “jealous Aphrodite” myth became the prevalent association with peonies in the UK. During this time the flowers were thought to be bad luck, and people were encouraged to avoid them.
Chinese Mythology With Peonies
Peonies are native to China.
Part of the reason they’re so widespread now is because of the noble associations they have in the East.
The Chinese city of Luoyang is known for producing the most beautiful peonies in the world, and the Chinese word peony even translates to “most beautiful.”
It is also known as “The Queen of Flowers” because of an ancient Chinese legend.
The Empress Legend
The story goes that an impatient Empress was enjoying the early spring breeze from her garden and was delighted to smell jasmine, but sad that the other flowers had not bloomed yet.
She ordered that the flowers bloom early so she could enjoy them, and all but the peony obeyed.
Taken aback by the flower’s insolence, the angry Empress banished the flower to the coldest corner of the Empire.
The peony was unphased, however, and survived the cold temperatures.
The Empress was impressed at the plant’s fortitude and brought it back to her garden, calling the peony the queen of all flowers.
There is a hint of truth to this myth.
Peonies look delicate but they are a hearty flower with strong roots that thrive underground in the winter, coming back in the spring year after year with gorgeous blossoms.
Some peony bushes even outlive the average human!
A peony tattoo could be a symbol of tenacity, and sticking up for yourself. You are entitled to bloom in your own time.
The Immortal Peony Legend
Another Chinese legend tells of Gejin, a peony spirit who came to earth because she had fallen in love with a mortal.
The two were married and had two children together.
They lived happily for a few years, but the spirit started to realize her husband was catching onto the fact that she and their children were not mortal like him.
Worried that her husband would be angry when he figured this out, Gejin left behind two impressive tree peonies.
These peonies are called Gejin’s Purple and Gejin’s white, and are a popular variety of peony in China.
Peonies are instrumental in decorating for Chinese New Year festivities, and symbolize abundance, honor and prosperity.
Japanese Meaning of Peony Tattoos
Because peonies (Botan in Japanese) were grown in the Imperial Gardens of China, they earned a reputation as the “King of Flowers” in Japan.
In Japanese artwork, they are often used to symbolize a daring, masculine personality.
Because of their popularity in woodblock prints from the Edo period, they have become ubiquitous with Japanese tattoos.
Peony Tattoos Meanings
Because there are so many meanings across so many cultures, a peony tattoo’s meaning is up to you.
In a Japanese peony tattoo they would represent nobility and bravery.
In a watercolor peony tattoo, the choice is yours- which legend do you like?
Dragon & Peony Tattoos
Snake & Peony Tattoos
Hummingbird & Peony Tattoos
Rose & Peony Tattoos
Peony Tattoo Designs
Black And Grey Peony Tattoos
Black-work Peony Tattoos
Illustrative Peony Tattoos
Watercolor Peony Tattoos
Single Needle Tattoos
Japanese Peony Tattoos
Graphic Peony Tattoos
Realistic Peony Tattoos
Peony Tattoo Ideas
Peonies are strong, long-lasting flowers with healing powers and delicate pastel blossoms.
The delicate strength of this flower makes them impossible to forget.
Why not immortalize this beautiful bloom in a tattoo?
If you’re stuck for ideas, check out our garden of peony tattoos for some inspiration.
Small Peony Tattoos
Simple Peony Tattoos
Bracelet Peony Tattoo
Under-boob Peony Tattoos
Large Peony Tattoos
Shoulder Blade Tattoos
Peony Tattoo Artists
For more floral tattoos, go to:
Peony Tattoo FAQ
Peonies are strong, long-lasting flowers with healing powers and delicate pastel blossoms. In a Japanese peony tattoo they would represent nobility and bravery.