Garden Better: Rose Guide

meaning of flowers


Picture-perfect flowers are a great way to decorate, to celebrate, and to add fragrance and vitality to any environs. But did you know that the meaning of flowers lies far beneath the surface? In a deeply rooted tradition called the language of flowers or the meaning of flowers, flowers have symbolic meanings attached to them. Looking for a meaningful gift? Need a symbolic emblem? Dig around for the meanings of your favorite flowers and send meaningful flowers as the perfect way to express your sentiments and to convey a personal message!

Stemming from Victorian times, the practice of assigning meanings to flowers is officially known as floriography. Unofficially, the origins of the meaning of flowers goes back even further to early Roman and Greek traditions that used flowers to heal diseases and to provide protection from bad luck and evil spirits. Flowers have held symbolic, religious meanings in many cultures, and girls have customarily been named after meaningful flowers. Some flowers have held time-honored meanings for centuries. For example, everyone connects the red rose with true love. The Victorians, however, made the meaning of flowers into a fine art as communicating with flowers became the height of fashion under Queen Victoria. Guided by nineteenth century publications of dozens of dictionaries explaining "floriography", the meaning of flowers, people would send each other carefully chosen flower bouquets to represent their feelings, and lovers used the meaning of flowers to express their romantic sentiments.

Thoughts, feelings, and wishes were meaningfully assigned to hundreds of plants and flowers. The result was a kind of secret floral code through which poetic lovers could communicate in a prim Victorian society. Through different flowers that conveyed different meanings, romantics and friends could express themselves without the fear of being overheard. Flowers could even be symbolically arranged to communicate a bunch of different feelings such as love, attraction, admiration or… disdain. In fact, the meaning of inverted flowers represented the opposite of the usual meaning of a flower. So, if you received an upside-down red rose, it meant the love affair was over!

Over time, some flowers have acquired multiple and even contradictory meanings, and some individual meanings of flowers have changed or evolved. The modern approach to the meaning of flowers, however, calls for a loose interpretation of flower meanings and a willingness to have fun. Many people assign their own personal meanings to flowers, selecting a flower or color that reminds them of a special event or moment in their lives, or that reflects the personality, gender or theme of the intended recipient or venue. Today, when it comes to giving someone flowers, there are no ground rules. You can freely make one or several meaningful flowers the stars of your bouquet, or ask a florist to help you customize your arrangement of flowers for an array with a meaningful, personal touch!

The vast assortment of flowers and their traditional meanings can express myriads of sentiments for hundreds of occasions. Celebrate an anniversary by giving the lucky couple a bouquet of red and white roses, symbolizing "love" and "unity," respectively, mixed with hydrangea and lavender, both of which mean "devotion." Or, thank a friend with a clutch of bellflower, expressing "gratitude," surrounded by daisy fleabane and parsley, which both mean "thank you".

Besides the meanings associated with different flower types, the meaning of flowers is also conveyed through flower color. The following is the green rule of thumb in regard to choosing the right colored flowers to portray the desired sentiment (these traditional color meanings are associated with roses but may also be applied to any flower type):

Red roses mean romantic love.

Purple roses mean love at first sight.

Coral and orange roses mean desire, fascination, and enthusiasm.

Yellow roses mean joy, friendship and freedom.

Pink roses mean gratitude and appreciation.

Light pink roses mean admiration and sympathy.

Lavender means enchantment.

Peach means either sympathy or gratitude.

White roses mean reverence, purity, innocence and humility.

Here is a budding list of the meanings of many types of flowers and their colors:


Pink - I'll never forget you

Purple - Whimsical, changeable

Red - My heart aches for you, Admiration

White - Innocence, Pure love

Yellow - Rejection, Disdain

Solid Color - Yes

Striped - No


Red - I love you

White - Truth

Yellow - Slighted love


Blue - Constancy

Purple - I'm sorry, Please forgive me

Red or Pink - Play

White - Loveliness, I'll pray for you

Yellow - Jealousy


Calla - Beauty

Day - Coquetry

Eucharis - Maidenly charms

Orange - Hatred

Tiger - Wealth, Pride

White - Virginity, Purity

Yellow - False and Gay


Red - Believe me

Pink - Declaration of love

Yellow - Hopeless love

Variegated - Beautiful eyes

Alstroemeria - Devotion; Aster - Love; Azalea - Abundance; Amaryllis - Pride; Apple Blossom - Hope, good fortune; Baby's breath - Pure heart; Bachelor Button - Delicacy; Bamboo - Strength, Loyalty; Bellflower - Gratitude; Bluebells - Constancy; Daffodil - Respect, Unrequited love; Daisy - Innocence, Purity, Faith; Fern - Fascination and sincerity; Flowering Almond - Hope; Forget-me-not - True love and remembrance; Gardenia - Secret Love; Gladiolus - Love at first sight; Hibiscus - Delicate beauty; Honeysuckle - Devoted affection, generosity; Hyacinth - Loveliness; Hydrangea - Boastfulness; Iris - Warmth of affection, faith, hope, wisdom and valor; Ivy - Eternal fidelity; Jasmine - Amiability; Larkspur - Laughter; Lemon Blossom - Fidelity in love; Lilac - First Love; Lavender - Devotion; Magnolia - Perseverance; Marigold - Affection; Mimosa - Secret love; Myrtle - Love and remembrance; Orange Blossoms - Purity or fertility; Orchid - Rare beauty; Peach Blossom - Captive; Peony - Bashfulness; Poinsettia - Be of good cheer; Snapdragon - No, Deception; Statice - Lasting beauty; Sunflower - Loyalty; Violet - Modesty, affection, faithfulness; Zinnia - Thoughts of absent friends.

The meaning of flowers has also flourished to include flowers associated with each month of the year. Similar to the concept of birthstones, here is a list of "birthday-flowers" to add meaning to your special day of the year!

January: Carnations, Snowdrops

February: Violets, Primrose

March: Daffodils, Jonquil

April: Sweet Pea, Daisy

May: Lily of the Valley, Hawthorn

June: Rose, Honeysuckle

July: Larkspur, Water Lily

August: Gladiolas, Poppy

September: Aster, Morning Glory

October: Calendula, Cosmos

November: Chrysanthemum

December: Narcissus, Holly, Poinsettia

Finally, here is a fabulous idea for flower meaning fun: Using your new knowledge of flower meanings, and your creative, flowering imagination, have some fun among friends, family or loved ones by having a conversation with flowers...using the meaning of flowers! Bunch some meaningful flowers into a bouquet, present it to the lucky (or not so lucky) recipient, and let them interpret what you mean by the flowers you picked!

Whatever you feel, whatever you think, you can say it all with the meaning of flowers!

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