Flower Power: Interpreting the Meaning of Flowers

Flowers have been a popular gift for centuries, used to convey emotions and sentiments. The meaning of flowers in gift giving varies depending on the type of flower, its color, and the occasion.

In addition to their symbolic meanings, flowers also have the power to evoke emotions and memories. The scent of flowers can transport you back to a specific moment in time, and the sight of a particular flower can bring back happy memories.

Flowers are a beautiful way to express your emotions and sentiments. Whether you choose to give a single flower or a bouquet, the recipient is sure to appreciate the thought and effort that went into the gift.

Floriography and the Language of Flowers

Floriography, also known as the language of flowers, is a coded communication system where each flower and color holds symbolic meaning. It is a practice that dates back thousands of years and has been associated with a deeper meaning beyond just being a plant. In this section, we will explore the history of the language of flowers, its significance in Victorian-era England, and its use in international flower language.

Flower Fairies: The Meaning of Flowers

Floriography: An Illustrated Guide to the Victorian Language of Flowers (Volume 1) (Hidden Languages)

Victorian-era England

During the Victorian Era, the language of flowers was developed, which assigned different meanings to different flowers. During this period, flowers were used to convey messages that could not be spoken aloud due to social constraints.

Roses, in particular, were used extensively and had different meanings depending on their color. For example, a red rose symbolized love and passion, while yellow roses represented friendship, and pink roses gratitude. Other flowers such as violets, daisies, and lilies also had their own unique meanings.

Today, the language of flowers is still used, and many people choose to give flowers based on their symbolic meanings.

In addition to the meanings of individual flowers, the arrangement of flowers also had significance. A bouquet of flowers arranged in a certain way could convey a specific message. For example, a bouquet of red and white roses together symbolized unity and harmony.

International flower language

The language of flowers is not unique to Victorian-era England but has been used in various cultures throughout history. In Japan, for example, flowers have been used to convey messages since the 8th century. The language of flowers is also prevalent in Turkey, where the French and English discovered it during the 1700s. From this discovery, the language of flowers has continued into modern floral traditions worldwide.

Different flowers have different meanings, from the type and color to the way they’re arranged, and they can be used to express and communicate different emotions. Understanding the language of flowers can make giving and receiving flowers more significant. It is a way to convey a message without uttering a word.

Flower meanings by color

Vase of yellow daisies and purple violets.
The flower itself, as well as its color can have their own special meanings.

Flowers are a universal symbol of beauty, love, and affection. They are also used to convey different emotions and messages. Flower meanings vary according to their color, species, and cultural context. In this section, we’ll explore the meanings of flowers by color.

Red flowers: passion and love

Red flowers are often associated with passion and love. They are a popular choice for Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, and romantic occasions. Red roses, for example, are a classic symbol of love and desire. They convey a message of deep affection and commitment. Other red flowers, such as carnations, tulips, and poppies, also symbolize love, passion, and desire.

White flowers: purity and innocence

White flowers are often associated with purity, innocence, and spirituality. They are a popular choice for weddings, baptisms, and religious ceremonies. White roses, for example, symbolize purity, innocence, and new beginnings. They are often used in bridal bouquets and wedding decorations. Other white flowers, such as lilies, daisies, and orchids, also symbolize purity, innocence, and spirituality.

Blue flowers: tranquility and trust

Blue flowers are often associated with tranquility, calmness, and trust. They are a popular choice for soothing and relaxing environments. Blue flowers, such as bluebells, hydrangeas, and forget-me-nots, convey a message of peace, harmony, and trust. They are often used in spa decorations, meditation rooms, and healing environments.

Black flowers: dark and mysterious

Black flowers are often associated with darkness, mystery, and elegance. They are a popular choice for dramatic and sophisticated environments. Black flowers, such as black roses, black dahlias, and black calla lilies, convey a message of mystery, elegance, and sophistication. They are often used in Gothic and Halloween decorations.

Yellow flowers: joy and friendship

Yellow flowers are often associated with joy, happiness, and friendship. They are a popular choice for cheerful and uplifting environments. Yellow flowers, such as sunflowers, daffodils, and tulips, convey a message of happiness, joy, and friendship. They are often used in birthday decorations, get-well-soon gifts, and thank-you notes.

In conclusion, flower meanings vary according to their color, species, and cultural context. Each flower has a unique message and symbolism that can convey different emotions and messages. By understanding the meanings of flowers, you can choose the right flowers for the right occasion and convey the right message.

Closeup of assorted flowers.
Flowers have many meanings that can vary across cultures and countries.

If you’re looking to give flowers as a gift, it’s important to know what they symbolize. Different flowers have different meanings, and knowing the meaning behind the flowers you choose can help you express your feelings more effectively. Here are some popular flowers and their meanings:

Roses: love and affection

Roses are one of the most popular flowers in the world, and for good reason. They are often associated with love and affection, making them a popular choice for romantic occasions like Valentine’s Day and anniversaries. However, roses can also symbolize other things depending on their color. For example, red roses symbolize love and passion, while yellow roses symbolize friendship and joy.

Man presenting a floral bouquet to his girlfriend.
Man presenting a floral bouquet to his girlfriend.

Lilies: purity and renewal

Lilies are known for their elegant beauty and sweet fragrance. They are often associated with purity and renewal, making them a popular choice for weddings and other special occasions. White lilies, in particular, are often used to symbolize purity and innocence.

Daisies: innocence and new beginnings

Daisies are simple yet beautiful flowers that are often associated with innocence and new beginnings. They are a popular choice for baby showers and other events that celebrate new life. Daisies can also symbolize loyalty and love, making them a great choice for romantic occasions.

Woman receiving a gift of flowers from a delivery person at her door.
Everyone loves to receive a gift of flowers!

Sunflowers: adoration and loyalty

Sunflowers are known for their bright, cheerful appearance and are often associated with adoration and loyalty. They are a popular choice for birthdays and other celebrations, as well as for expressing gratitude and appreciation. Sunflowers can also symbolize strength and resilience, making them a great choice for someone going through a difficult time.

Overall, the meaning behind flowers can vary depending on the culture and context in which they are given. However, by understanding the basic meanings behind some of the most popular flowers, you can choose the perfect bouquet to express your feelings and make a lasting impression.

Kids holding up sunflowers in a sunflower field.
Sunflowers radiate happy and friendly vibes!

Lesser known flower meanings

Here is a collection of flower meanings that are less requested. They are all beautiful flowers, maybe yours is on the list?

Allium Flower

Alstroemeria flowers

Alyssum Flower

Begonia Flower

Bird of Paradise

Bluebell flowers

Cotton flowers

Cosmos Flowers

Cyclamen flower

Flower Agate

Holly flower

Frangipani flower

Jonquil flower

Periwinkle flower

Petunia flower

Plumeria flower

Poppy flower

Protea flower

Flower meanings in different cultures

Flowers have been used as a form of communication since ancient times. They are often given as gifts to express emotions and convey messages. However, the meanings of flowers vary across different cultures. In this section, we will explore the flower meanings in different cultures.

Eastern interpretations

In Eastern cultures, flowers hold a significant place in their traditions and customs. For instance, the cherry blossom flower is a symbol of beauty, love, and the transience of life in Japanese culture. It is also a symbol of the Samurai in Japan. The lotus flower, on the other hand, is considered a sacred flower in many Eastern cultures, including Hinduism and Buddhism. It represents purity, enlightenment, and rebirth.

In Chinese culture, the peony flower is a symbol of wealth, prosperity, and honor. It is often given as a gift to express good fortune and luck. The chrysanthemum flower is another popular flower in Chinese culture, and it is a symbol of longevity and good luck.

Two Asian daughters presenting their mother a gift with peony flowers.
A gift of peony flowers.

Western perspectives

In Western cultures, the meanings of flowers vary depending on the type of flower. For instance, the red rose is a symbol of love and passion, while the white rose symbolizes purity and innocence. The yellow rose, on the other hand, is a symbol of friendship and joy.

The daisy flower is a symbol of innocence and purity in Western cultures. It is often given as a gift to express loyalty and love. The sunflower is another popular flower in Western cultures, and it is a symbol of happiness, loyalty, and longevity.

In conclusion, flowers have different meanings in different cultures. Understanding the meanings of flowers is important when giving or receiving them as gifts.

Special occasions and flower gifting

Flowers have been used for centuries to convey emotions and messages. They are the perfect gift for any occasion, whether it’s a celebration or a time of sorrow. Here are some of the most common special occasions and the flowers that are associated with them.

Weddings: unity and celebration

Weddings are a time of celebration and unity. Flowers play an important role in the wedding ceremony, from the bride’s bouquet to the centerpieces on the reception tables. The most popular wedding flowers include roses, lilies, and peonies.

Roses symbolize love and passion, making them the perfect choice for a wedding. Lilies represent purity and innocence, while peonies symbolize prosperity and good fortune.

Beautifully decorated place settings at a wedding with many vases of flowers.
Beautifully decorated place settings at a wedding with many vases of flowers.

Funerals: remembrance and sympathy

Funerals are a time of remembrance and sympathy. Flowers are often sent to express condolences and pay tribute to the deceased. The most common funeral flowers include lilies, roses, and carnations.

Flowers for funerals often carry symbolic meanings of sympathy, remembrance, and honor. Often, flowers express the deepest of sympathy when words are not enough. In the case of the death of Princess Diana, thousands of mourners added their flower tributes at Kensington Palace in London, England.

These photographs were taken at dusk and are of flowers and tributes left at Kensington Palace soon after the death of Princess Diana on 31 Aug 1997. Credit: Maxwell Hamilton.

Some common flowers and their meanings for funerals include:

  1. Lilies: Symbolize innocence, purity, and the restoration of the soul of the deceased to a peaceful state.
  2. Roses: Represent love, respect, and eternal devotion, with different colors conveying specific sentiments (e.g., red for love, white for purity, and pink for admiration).
  3. Chrysanthemums: Signify truth and sympathy, and are often used in funeral floral arrangements in many cultures.
  4. Carnations: Convey admiration, love, and remembrance, with pink and white carnations being particularly popular for funerals. Carnations are often used to represent a mother’s love and are a popular choice for funeral arrangements.
  5. Gladioli: Symbolize strength, moral integrity, and sincerity, serving as a tribute to the character of the departed.
  6. Orchids: Represent everlasting love, beauty, and strength, offering a message of comfort and sympathy.

In addition, mourners can include funeral flower card messages to bouquets and arrangments. It is one more way to express a brief message of love and support to the family of the deceased. Ultimately, the choice of flowers for a funeral can be deeply personal and may vary based on cultural traditions, the preferences of the deceased, and the individual meanings that the flowers hold for the bereaved.

Birthdays: personal significance

Birthdays are a time of personal significance, and flowers can be used to express love, appreciation, and congratulations. The most popular birthday flowers include roses, daisies, and carnations.

According to the Gardenia website, we can thank the Romans for coming up with “birth month flowers.” They believed that certain flowers brought luck and protection during the month they bloomed.

Pick your month out on the chart below, compliments of the Farmer’s Almanac.

Carnation and Snowdrop
Larkspur and Water Lily
Violet and Primrose
Gladiolus and Poppy
Daffodil and Jonquil
Aster and Morning Glory
Daisy and Sweet Pea
Marigold and Cosmos
Lily of the Valley and Hawthorn
Rose and Honeysuckle
Narcissus and Holly
Birth Month Flowers – Farmer’s Almanac

Creating personal meaning with flowers

Flowers have been used for centuries to convey emotions and messages. Each flower has its own unique meaning, but you can also create your own personal meaning with flowers. Here are some ways to use flowers to express your own unique message.

Crafting unique bouquets

When selecting flowers for a bouquet, consider the recipient’s personality and the message you want to convey. You can combine different flowers to create a unique bouquet that has personal meaning. For example, if you want to express gratitude, you can combine pink roses, which symbolize appreciation, with yellow tulips, which represent cheerful thoughts.

Mike Gaffney is a genious flower bouquet designer and gives popular workshops on flower designing.

Another way to create a unique bouquet is to incorporate flowers that have personal meaning. For example, if you have fond memories of a summer vacation, you can include flowers that remind you of that trip. If you have a favorite flower, you can include it in the bouquet to make it even more personal.

Here are some examples of different flower bouquet meanings and when they might be given:

  1. Red Roses: Symbolize love and passion, often given on romantic occasions such as anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, or to express deep affection.
  2. Sunflowers: Represent adoration, loyalty, and longevity, making them a great choice for expressing admiration or to brighten someone’s day.
  3. Lilies: Symbolize purity and renewal, often given to convey sympathy, support, or to celebrate significant life events such as weddings or births.
  4. Daisies: Convey innocence, purity, and new beginnings, making them suitable for occasions like graduations, new ventures, or to express pure friendship.
  5. Orchids: Symbolize beauty, refinement, and thoughtfulness, making them a thoughtful gift for expressing admiration or appreciation.

These are just a few examples, and there are many other flowers with their own unique meanings that can be given for various occasions and sentiments.

Pressed flower meaning

Pressed flowers can hold various symbolic meanings depending on the type of flower and the context in which they are used. Generally, pressed flowers are associated with sentiments such as nostalgia, remembrance, and preservation.

They can also represent the fleeting nature of beauty and the passage of time. Additionally, pressed flowers are often cherished as keepsakes and can serve as a reminder of special moments or relationships. The specific meaning of pressed flowers can also be influenced by cultural or personal associations.

Pressed flower kits are sold to make your own pressed flowers. They consist of heavy cardboard or pieces of wood that are screwed down, with the flower inbetween. Or go the traditional route and place a flower between parchment between the pages of a heavy book.

A pressed flower can be a lovely remembrance of a day out in nature spent with a loved one.

Dried flower meaning

Dried flowers can hold a variety of symbolic meanings depending on the specific type of flower and the cultural context. In general, dried flowers are often associated with sentiments such as nostalgia, remembrance, and enduring beauty.

They can symbolize the preservation of memories, the passage of time, and the appreciation of fleeting moments. Dried flowers are also commonly used in crafts and decor to evoke a sense of rustic charm and natural beauty. Additionally, the specific meaning of dried flowers can be influenced by personal or cultural associations with particular flowers or traditions.

Dried flowers are popular for craft projects such as resin crafts, soap and candlemaking, and beauty products. They can also be incorporated into jewelry for a very personalized gift that matches the birthday flower of the recipient.

Flower tattoos meaning

Just like flowers, flower tattoos carry meaning. Refer to this article, or books about flower meanings to guide you as you choose your specialized tattoo. They may also express personal meaning to you that represents your personality or a significant event in your life.

For example, a sunflower tattoo can symbolize happiness and positivity, while a lotus flower tattoo can represent spiritual growth and enlightenment.

Woman with original design of Arum Lilly tattoo on upper back.
Woman with original design of Arum Lilly tattoo on upper back.

You can also combine different flowers to create a unique tattoo that has personal meaning. Such is the case with the popular “half butterfly/half tattoo” design. The “no rain, no flowers” is a thought-probing play on words (another popular flower-tattoo theme). It simply means that the unpleasant things in life are necessary to bring about something much better.

This design looks like a real butterfly on one half of the body, and a stylized butterfly consisting of floral design on the other half. Depending on the interpretation, the butterfly represents transformation, growth, and beauty, while the flower can symbolize life, renewal, and the fleeting nature of existence. Together, the tattoo may signify a metamorphosis or a significant change in one’s life, the beauty of impermanence, or a blend of natural elements.

Considering a flower bouquet tattoo? A flower bouquet can hold various meanings depending on the types of flowers included. For example, roses often symbolize love and passion, while lilies can represent purity and renewal. Additionally, the color of the flowers can also convey different emotions and sentiments. Overall, flower bouquet tattoos are often associated with beauty, femininity, and the celebration of life.

Henna flower tattoos

Henna flower tattoos, often seen in traditional Mehndi designs, can hold various symbolic meanings. Flowers, in general, are associated with beauty, femininity, and fleeting moments. In the context of henna tattoos, the flower designs may symbolize joy, happiness, and celebration, especially as they are commonly applied during weddings, festivals, and other joyous occasions.

Additionally, specific flowers used in henna designs, such as lotus, roses, or jasmine, may carry their own cultural or personal significance. Overall, henna flower tattoos are often seen as decorative expressions of positivity, beauty, and auspiciousness.

Ultimately, the meaning of any tattoo is subjective and may hold different significance for different individuals.

The gift wrap up

Flowers, in all their forms, make lovely gifts. Couple that by selecting the flower based on meaning, and you have a spectacular gift to give to a loved one.

Closeup of woman smelling a flower.
Make your gift of flowers even more special by selecting them based on the message you want them to represent.
Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee brings over 30 years of gift giving experience to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, workplace and faith events. Every life moment is cause for celebration or those times in life when we need the "the gift of support". Her mission: Let's all be better in appreciating one another, put an end to meaningless gifts that clutter our lives, and give from a place of love and kindness. This midwest mom (and grandma) offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!