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Valerian belongs to the herb family Caprifoliaceae and the genus Valeriana. This herbaceous plant is perennial and is native to Europe and Asia. The root of the Valerian plant is often reported to have a sedative or anti-anxiety effect. This part of the plant is sometimes used to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Read the following guide on the valerian flower to know more about valerian flower meaning and its different characteristics.


The name Valerian owes its roots to two possible sources. One source was the Latin personal name “Valerius” or “Valeria”. The word later changed to “valeriane” due to Old French influence. The resultant English word was “valerian” which came to be used as the name of the plant. Another possible source is the Latin word “valere” (which means – to be strong, healthy).

Common names

This plant can also be identified by a few other common names, as follows:

  • Garden valerian (Valeriana Officinalis),
  • Garden heliotrope (however, this does not relate it to Heliotropium),
  • Setwall, and
  • All-heal (however, this name is sometimes also used for plants in the Stachys genus).

It is worth noting that the Red Valerian is also sometimes referred to as “valerian”. This plant is also grown in gardens. However, the plant is a completely different species (scientific name: Centranthus Ruber). It is from the same family, however, the two variants are not very closely related.

Botanical characteristics

The valerian plant has a diverse morphology and displays various features. The root comprises a hardy rhizome with multiple secondary roots and runners. Around the second year of growth, the plant develops a round and hollow stem. It grows up to a height between 80 and 120 cm. The plant has several branches originating at the top of the stem. The leaves have a pale green color on the upper surface. However, the color is considerably darker underneath the leaf.

Valerian’s stems bear several branches with small flowers of white and pale pink color. The blooming period of the valerian flowers extends from May to August.

The typical faint smell of the valerian plant can only be detected when the roots and stem of the plant are fresh. Its intensity somewhat increases once the plant has dried considerably. Interestingly, the odor of the dry plant strongly attracts cats and has a very intoxicating effect on them.

How to grow and care for Valerian plant?

Before moving on to valerian flower meaning and symbolism, it is important to know more about the plant’s characteristics. The garden valerian plant is a hardy species that can survive in varying temperatures and environmental conditions. However, there are some basic requirements which you would need to fulfill. These are as follows:

  1. Valerian plants can easily cope with full sunlight. However, placing them in a position with partial afternoon sunlight helps the plants thrive easily.
  2. The plants can easily grow in most soil types and textures. The most suitable soil type is sandy loam. However, valerian plants can grow in any soil with good drainage. If you have only clay soil available, adding compost is advisable as the soil may not have sufficient drainage.
  3. It is important to note that the Valerian plant needs a consistent amount of water (though in little quantities) to thrive.
  4. As the Valerian plant is hardy and perennial, it can survive during harsh winter months. These plants die or dry up during the winter months, and new plants emerge in spring.
  5. It is advisable to use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, to prevent the roots of your valerian plants from growing out excessively.
  6. The Valerian plant is prone to re-seed and spread if not controlled successfully. You should trim some flowers and branches to prevent the plants from becoming invasive weeds.

What does the valerian flower symbolize?

The valerian flower meaning has historically been interpreted as a symbol of strength and vitality. This likely comes from the Latin sources of the plant’s name. The flowers have a mix of white and pale pink colors. In flower bouquets, valerian flowers symbolize friendship (pink) and loyalty (white). The valerian flower also symbolizes mindfulness and cognizance.

People in Ancient Egypt honored the valerian flower as their favorite animal – the cat – was attracted to these flowers. Also, in Medieval Europe, groomsmen in Sweden used to have valerian flowers attached to their dresses. This practice was done before the wedding, to “ward off the envy of elves” and ensure that the wedding is conducted with ease.

You may also be aware of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Interestingly, in some versions of the story, the Piper uses valerian flowers as bait to lure the rats out.

What do the various colors of the valerian flower mean?

The valerian flower does not display a large variety of colors. Apart from the usual white and pink colors, the red Valerian is another well-known variant. The valerian flower meaning of each of these colors is as follows.

White Valerian

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The white-colored Valerian flower symbolizes loyalty and faith. It is used in bouquets as well.

Pink Valerian

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The pink Valerian flower is a symbol of friendship, mutual appreciation, and support.

Red Valerian

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Red Valerian or Centranthus Ruber is a distant relative of the true valerian (or Valeriana Officinalis). This flower is also known by its common names such as “Scarlet Lightning” or “Jupiter’s-Beard”. The red variant of the Valerian symbolizes health and wellness. It is because the flower is often used for its medicinal properties. The root of the Red Valerian plant is used as a sedative to treat sleep disorders such as insomnia. As a result, it promotes the good health and well-being of the patient. There are no details about any side effects of red Valerian flowers. However, extreme caution should be exercised while allowing children near these flowers.

The best time to gift someone Valerian flowers

Based on the description and valerian flower meaning, the flower can be gifted for household decoration. You may also gift pink Valerian flowers to a good friend with whom you share a close relationship.