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Marietta Daisies Garden Club

Flower Meanings: The Language of Flowers

What Does Each Flower Symbolize?

Almanac


There is a language, little known,

Lovers claim it as their own.

Its symbols smile upon the land,

Wrought by nature’s wondrous hand;

And in their silent beauty speak,

Of life and joy, to those who seek

For Love Divine and sunny hours

In the language of the flowers.


The Language of Flowers, London, 1875






Know the language of flowers!

Which flowers represent love, hope, healing, loss, and good luck?

Whether you are picking out a flowers for a holiday gift, a wedding bouquet, or even a garden, reference the language of flowers where each flower has hidden meanings.

The History of Flower Meanings

The language of flowers has been recognized for centuries in many countries throughout Europe and Asia. They even play a large role in William Shakespeare’s works.

Mythologies, folklore, sonnets, and plays of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Chinese are peppered with flower and plant symbolism—and for good reason.

Whether you’re giving flowers to a mother for Mother’s Day or a friend on their birthday or a beloved on Valentine’s Day, nearly every sentiment imaginable can be expressed with flowers. The orange blossom, for instance, means chastity, purity, and loveliness, while the red chrysanthemum means “I love you.”

Flowery Language of the Victorian Era

Learning the special symbolism of flowers became a popular pastime during the 1800s. Nearly all Victorian homes had, alongside the Bible, guidebooks for deciphering the “language,” although definitions shifted depending on the source.

Following the protocol of Victorian-era etiquette, flowers were primarily used to deliver messages that couldn’t be spoken aloud. In a sort of silent dialogue, flowers could be used to answer “yes” or “no” questions. A “yes” answer came in the form of flowers handed over with the right hand; if the left hand was used, the answer was “no.”

Plants could also express aversive feelings, such as the “conceit” of pomegranate or the “bitterness” of aloe. Similarly, if given a rose declaring “devotion” or an apple blossom showing “preference,” one might return to the suitor a yellow carnation to express “disdain.”


How flowers were presented and in what condition were important. If the flowers were given upside down, then the idea being conveyed was the opposite of what was traditionally meant. How the ribbon was tied said something, too: Tied to the left, the flowers’ symbolism applied to the giver, whereas tied to the right, the sentiment was in reference to the recipient. And, of course, a wilted bouquet delivered an obvious message!

More examples of plants and their associated human qualities during the Victorian era include bluebells and kindness, peonies and bashfulness, rosemary and remembrance, and tulips and passion.

The meanings and traditions associated with flowers have certainly changed over time, and different cultures assign varying ideas to the same species, but the fascination with “perfumed words” persists just the same.

Flower Meanings by Color

Flowers provided an incredibly nuanced form of communication. Some plants, including roses, poppies, and lilies, could express a wide range of emotions based on their color alone.


Take, for instance, all of the different meanings attributed to variously colored carnations: Pink meant “I’ll never forget you”; red said “my heart aches for you”; purple conveyed capriciousness; white was for the “the sweet and lovely”;

and yellow expressed romantic rejection.

Likewise, a white violet meant “innocence,” while a purple violet said that the bouquet giver’s “thoughts were occupied with love.”

A red rose was used to openly express feelings of love, while a red tulip was a confession of love. The calla lily was interpreted to mean “magnificent beauty,” and a clover said “think of me.”

Unsurprisingly, the color of the rose plays a huge role. Red roses symbolize love and desire, but roses come in a variety of colors and each has their own meaning.


  • White rose: purity, innocence, reverence, a new beginning, a fresh start.

  • Red rose: love, I love you

  • Deep, dark crimson rose: mourning

  • Pink rose: grace, happiness, gentleness

  • Yellow rose: jealousy, infidelity

  • Orange rose: desire and enthusiasm

  • Lavender rose: love at first sight

  • Coral rose: friendship, modesty, sympathy

What Wedding Flowers Mean?

One tradition is to select the flowers of a wedding bouquet based on plant symbolism.

As an example, look to the royal flower bouquet in the wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, to Kate Middleton (now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge). Her all-white bouquet had lily-of-the-valley (representing trustworthiness, purity), sweet William (gallantry), hyacinth (loveliness), myrtle (love in marriage), and ivy (continuity).

Altogether, these flowers’ meanings reveal the hope of a loving, everlasting marriage.

The groom, too, wears a flower that appears in the bridal bouquet in his button-hole.

This stems from the Medieval tradition of wearing his Lady’s colors, as a declaration of his love.

One fun modern idea is to give each bridesmaid a bouquet featuring a signature flower whose meaning suits her personality.


What Does Each Flower Mean?

See the list below for meanings of herbs, flowers, and other plants.

(Please note: The chart below reflects mainly Victorian flower language.)




Meanings of Herbs, Flowers and Other Plants

Abatina

Fickleness

Acanthus

The fine art, Artifice

Aloe

Affection, also Grief

Amaryllis

Pride

Anemone

Forsaken

Angelica

Inspiration

Apple blossom

Preference

Arborvitae

Unchanging friendship

Aster

Symbol of love, Daintiness

Baby’s breath

Everlasting Love

Bachelor’s button

Single blessedness

Basil

Good wishes

Bay tree

Glory

Begonia

Beware

Belledonna

Silence

Bittersweet

Truth

Black-eyed Susan

Justice

Bluebell

Humility

Borage

Bluntness, Directness

Butterfly weed

Let me go

Calla lily

Beauty

Camellia, pink

Longing for you

Camellia, red

You’re a flame in my heart

Camellia, white

You’re adorable

Candytuft

Indifference

Carnation

Fascination, Female love, Mother’s love

– Red carnation

Alas for my poor heart, My heart aches, Deep love

– White carnation

Innocence, pure love, sweet love

– Pink carnation

I’ll never forget you

– Striped

Refusal

– Yellow carnation

Disdain, Disappointment, Rejection

Chamomile

Patience in adversity

Chives

Usefulness

Chrysanthemum, red

I love you

Chrysanthemum, yellow

Slighted love

Chrysanthemum, white

Truth

Clematis

Mental beauty

Clematis, evergreen

Poverty

Clover, white

Think of me

Columbine

Foolishness, Folly

- Columbine, purple

Resolution

- Columbine, red

Anxious, Trembling

Coreopsis

Always cheerful

Coriander

Hidden worth/merit

Crab blossom

Ill nature

Crocus, spring

Cheerfulness, Youthful gladness

Cyclamen

Resignation, Diffidence, Goodbye

Daffodil

Regard, Unequalled love

Dahlia, single

Good taste

Daisy

Innocence, Loyal love, I’ll never tell

Daylily

Chinese emblem for mother

Dill

Powerful against evil

Edelweiss

Courage, Devotion

Fennel

Flattery

Fern

Magic, Fascination, Secret bonds of love

Forget-me-not

True love memories, Do not forget me

Gardenia

You’re lovely, Secret love

Geranium

Folly, Stupidity

Gladiolus

Flower of the Gladiators, Integrity, Strength, Victory

Goldenrod

Encouragement, Good fortune

Heliotrope

Eternal love, Devotion

Hibiscus

Delicate beauty

Holly

Defense, Domestic happiness

Hollyhock

Ambition

Honeysuckle

Bonds of love

Hyacinth

Sport, Game, Play

– Blue Hyacinth

Constancy

– Purple Hyacinth

Sorrow

– Yellow Hyacinth

Jealousy

– White Hyacinth

Loveliness, Prayers for someone

Hydrangea

Gratitude for being understood, Frigidity and heartlessness

Hyssop

Sacrifice, Cleanliness

Iris

Faith, trust, Wisdom, Hope, Valor

Ivy

Affection, Friendship, Fidelity

Jasmine, white

Sweet love, Amiability

Jasmine, yellow

Grace; Elegance

Lady’s Slipper

Capricious beauty

Larkspur

Open heart, Levity, Lightness, Fickleness (pink or simple varieties).

Lavender

Distrust 

Lemon balm

Sympathy

Lilac

Joy of youth

Lily (white)

Virginity, Purity, Heavenly

Lily (yellow)

Happy, Gay, Walking on air

Lily (orange)

Hatred 

Lily, tiger 

Wealth, Pride 

Lily-of-the-valley

Sweetness, Tears of the Virgin Mary, Humility

Lotus Flower

Purity, Enlightenment, Self-regeneration, and Rebirth

Magnolia

Nobility, Love of nature

Marigold 

Grief, Jealousy

Marjoram

Joy, Happiness

Mint

Virtue

Morning glory

Affection

Myrtle

Good luck, Love in a marriage

Nasturtium

Patriotism, Conquest, Victory in Battle

Oak

Strength

Oregano

Substance

Pansy

Thoughts

Parsley

Festivity

Peony

Bashful, Happy life, Shame

Pine

Humility, Piety

Poppy

Consolation

Rhododendron

Danger, beware

Rose, red

Love, I love you

Rose, dark crimson

Mourning

Rose, pink

Happiness

Rose, white

Innocence, Heavenly, I’m worthy of you

Rose, yellow

Jealousy, Decrease of love, Infidelity

Rosemary

Remembrance

Rue

Grace, Clear vision

Sage

Wisdom, Immortality

Salvia, blue

I think of you

Salvia, red

Forever mine

Savory

Spice, Interest

Snapdragon

Deception, Graciousness

Sorrel

Affection

Southernwood

Constancy, Jest

Spearmint

Warmth of sentiment

Speedwell

Feminine fidelity

Sunflower, dwarf

Adoration

Sunflower, tall

Haughtiness

Sweet pea

Blissful pleasures, Goodbye, Thank you for a lovely time

Sweet William

Gallantry

Sweet woodruff

Humility

Tansy

Hostile thoughts, Declaring war

Tarragon

Lasting interest

Thyme

Courage, strength

Tulip, red

Passion, Declaration of love

Tulip, yellow

Sunshine in your smile

Valerian

Readiness

Violet

Watchfulness, Modesty, Faithfulness

Willow

Sadness

Yarrow

Everlasting love

Zinnia

Thoughts of absent friends, Lasting affection


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