Plum Blossom Symbolism and Bloom Time

Plum blossom tree Prunus Mume in full bloom

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Plum blossom is one of the first fruit trees to bloom at the end of winter, usually in February in Asia. It's considered a flower that symbolizes hope after enduring a long, cold season. In traditional Chinese medicine, the element connected to winter is water, and the water element is related to darkness, silence, and cold. When plum blossoms arrive, they are a symbol of spring and new beginnings. 

The Chinese practice of feng shui was created to make balance with earth's elements in living and working spaces. Symbols in nature, specifically plum blossoms, are especially significant in China, where feng shui was developed. Plum blossoms are also symbolic in other East Asian cultures, including Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

What Is Ume or Umeboshi?

Prunus mume is a Chinese tree species often called Chinese plum, Japanese plum, or Japanese apricot and is the same plant that yields plum blossoms and ume fruits. Ume is related to plums and apricots, tasting like sour apricots. Ume is commonly used in East Asian cuisine. In Japan, umeboshi means dried, pickled ume, which is brined and fermented, tasting sour and salty.

Close up of pale pink plum blossom.

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Bloom Time

Plum blossoms are usually called winter flowers since they can start as early as December in some places. During late winter in many parts of Asia, you can see clusters of these pink or white blossoms adorning the branches of plum trees. They typically begin blooming in late January and can continue up through March. However, their main time to shine in most regions is in February.

Plum Blossom Symbolism and Meaning in Feng Shui

Plum blossoms are soft, delicate flowers with five petals, considered noble in Asian culture. It’s also one of the four auspicious flowers in Asian culture that relate to the four seasons. Plum blossom is the emblem of winter, while spring is associated with peony, summer with lotus, and autumn with chrysanthemum. 

This symbolic and elegant flower is often offered at Buddhist temples along with other symbolic flowers. It’s also connected to longevity because the blooms last long on the tree, remaining in bloom for a month. Plum blossoms are often found as an offering and decoration around Lunar New Year to symbolize the welcoming of spring. They offer a sense of fruition and opportunity for new beginnings since these flowers later produce fruit. Plum blossoms typically have five petals, which in Chinese culture represent the five clans of China.

In feng shui, five is also an auspicious number because it represents the five elements. The five elements are fire, earth, metal, water, and wood, representing the different energies that make up the world around us. The five elements system is a foundational wisdom that informs feng shui, and looking at how each element shows up in someone’s life and home can give us insight and help us create more balance.  

The plum blossom also represents endurance and hope but teaches the impermanence of all things eventually fading. Plum blossom is also a popular motif related to beauty and happiness.

Chinese traditional ink painting, red plum blossom on white background.

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white plum blossoms, close up

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Plum vs. Cherry Blossom

In Asian culture, plum and cherry blossoms symbolize spring, but since plums bloom the earliest, they herald the arrival of spring, usually at the end of winter. Some plum and cherry trees may bloom simultaneously due to late-blooming plum varieties. Here's how to tell them apart:

Characteristics of Plum Blossoms

  • Scent: Strong sweet-smelling, "flowery" fragrance
  • Petals: Petals are more rounded and circular; no split at the end of the petal
  • Flower color: Pink blossoms (usually with purple leaves) and white blossoms (usually with green leaves)
  • Trunk bark: Dark bark with no horizontal lines
  • Buds: Round buds; one blossom comes from each bud
  • Leaves: Only plum has purple leaves but can also have green leaves; leaves emerge during flowering; unroll from a cigar shape
  • Tree shape: Round or oval

Characteristics of Cherry Blossoms

  • Scent: Barely noticeable scent (except for some rare cultivars)
  • Petals: Petals are oval-shaped; distinctive split at the end of the petal
  • Flower color: Dark pink, light pink, white, or yellowish
  • Trunk bark: Light gray colored; horizontal line or lenticels
  • Buds: Oval-shaped buds; more than one blossom coming out of each bud
  • Leaves: Green or copper leaves; most leaves come after flowering; leaves unfold like a billfold
  • Tree shape: Umbrella shape; the top is wider than the bottom
Plum Blossom (left) vs. Cherry Blossom (right)
Plum Blossom (left) vs. Cherry Blossom (right)

L: satoru takahashi / Getty Images, R: Jacky Parker Photography / Getty Images

How to Use Plum Blossom in Your Home

In feng shui, most practitioners suggest you use intuition or "go with your gut or heart" when deciding where to place things in your home. However, feng shui also provides helpful suggestions for item placement in your home or workspace.

Fresh Plum Blossom Flower Arrangements

Western floral arrangements are made primarily with aesthetics in mind. In contrast, in Asian flower arranging, plum blossoms are often included with other seasonal flowers in the winter to show a balance with nature and connect to the past, present, and future. You may have some buds just starting to open, fully open blooms, and some beginning to wilt. 

When plum blossoms are in season in late winter and early spring, plum blossoms are good to include in flower arrangements. If you're unsure where to place the flowers, fresh-cut flowers are always a great addition to an entryway or dining table. 

Artwork With Plum Blossom Imagery

You can also bring plum blossom imagery into your home as artwork. You may want to choose the room where you will place this artwork based on your intention.

For example, if you put plum blossom artwork in your meditation area, it can assist you in contemplating impermanence and beauty. If you’d like to welcome more hope and new beginnings, try placing this artwork at the entry of your home. You can also put plum blossom art in your bathroom—the water in this room will feed the wood element of the plum blossom and support purity, a long life, and good health. 

Plum Blossom for a Qi Boost

If someone needs a boost in qi (life force energy) or feels down, you may want to bring in plum blossom imagery. Plum blossom has that connection to hope and new beginnings after experiencing a long, dark winter, and its upright branches can help to create an uplifting mood. 

Draw Plum Blossom

Another way to engage with the symbolism of plum blossom is to draw it. This allows you to study and admire its beauty and get to know this flower more deeply. If plum blossoms bloom near you, try going outside with a sketchbook and drawing what you see. You can hang the finished piece in your home after you are done.