I buy a lot of flowers. Quite simply, they make me happy. The meaning of flowers can range from ‘hello’ to ‘goodbye’, from ‘I love you’ to ‘I’m sorry’ and so much more. Having lived in many countries, I’ve discovered that gifting flowers is a language of its own.
The secret meaning of flowers
There is even a term for communicating via flowers – floriography. In Victorian England, coded personal messages were sent via floral arrangements, expressing feelings which could not be spoken aloud in such a conservative society.
Nowadays the meaning of flowers depends more on which country you’re based.
A flower dictionary
With friends from all over the world, I’ve often wondered what different flowers symbolise. So for this post, I’m teaming up with The Flower Shops for a guide to the meaning of flowers.
The Flower Shops is a family run business connecting high quality, independent florists across the UK. Instead of relying on a central courier, The Flower Shops provides a platform for small and local flower shops in the UK. So, if you fancy supporting local business and need same day flowers here in the UK, be sure to check out The Flower Shops.
With their help, here’s a round up of some of the most popular flowers and their meanings…
The meaning of flowers
- Yellow Rose. The yellow rose tends to stand for friendship and caring. So, husbands and boyfriends, if you want to make a romantic gesture it might be best to avoid yellow roses. This is especially true in Russia, where yellow flowers are symbolic of a break up. Oops.
- White Rose. Across the globe white roses tend to represent purity, innocence and youthfulness. Used in bridal bouquets in many countries including the UK, they are associated with young love, new beginnings and faithfulness. The white rose is also symbolic of the region of the UK where I’m from, Yorkshire. White roses were emblems of the House of York in the 15th century War of the Roses. Whether I’m in a florists in the UK or abroad, white roses remind me of my home town.
- Pink Rose. Pink roses and pink flowers in general are symbols of motherhood and youth. Rose buds meanwhile are often linked with new births or new beginnings. For this reason, in the UK they’re a common addition to floral gifts for new mums.
- Red Rose. In most countries the red rose symbolizes love and romance. Some claim that dark red roses represent humility or hidden beauty, while brighter, orange tones of red roses stand for passion and excitement. However this isn’t necessarily true in Latvia and Hungary, where red roses are often gifted at funerals. Meanwhile in the Catalonia region of Spain, they’re gifted on 23 April. This day is Saint George’s day (Diade de Sant Jordi). Legend has it that Saint George saved a princess from a dragon and from the dragon’s blood grew a red flower. So on this date men traditionally gift a flower to their own princess. (Catalan husband – if you’re reading this, please take note).
- Lilies. Dating back to ancient Greek times, lilies are associated with rebirth and motherhood. Today in many parts of the world they symbolise purity, commitment and a rejuvenation of the soul. Unsurprisingly they’re often gifted at funerals. In China though the word for the lily flower has a different meaning – it symbolises 100 years of love or unity, so they’re often seen at weddings.
- Orchids. The orchid flower has many different meanings worldwide, but they are often associated with love, luxury, beauty and perfection. In ancient Greece, orchids were symbols of fertility. Some believed that if the father of an unborn child ate orchid tubers, the baby would be a boy. White orchids are also used to express regret, as the meaning of orchid flowers is also sincerity and love. In China meanwhile, orchids represent wealth and good fortune, making them a popular gift during Chinese New Year.
- Irises. Irises are linked with wisdom and hope. Blue and purple toned irises imply royalty, nobility and prestige, while for some yellow irises traditionally symbolise passion. Some also tie the iris flower to courage and admiration, so they’re a popular addition in bouquets given to friends.
- Chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemums have a broad array of meanings around the world. A white chrysanthemum is generally seen as a symbol of love, loyalty and devotion. For this reason, white chrysanthemums are widely used as a funeral gift, particularly in Asia and parts of Brazil. However in Japan, the chrysanthemum is the symbol of the Emperor and is used on coins, passports and official documents. In Japan white chrysanthemums are traditionally reserved for mourning, and red chrysanthemums are linked to romance. The Japanese even hold a National Chrysanthemum Day, also known as the Festival of Happiness.
- Lisianthus. The lisianthus flower can be tricky to grow from seed, but once germinated it blooms into a sturdy plant with beautiful flowers. The symbolism of the lisianthus flower is the joining of two people for a lifelong bond and gratitude. So they’re a great gift for new parents in many parts of the world.
- Freesias. The meanings of freesia flowers include: friendship, trust and innocence. Purple freesias are linked to the nobility, while pink freesias symbolize motherly love. In general pink flowers represent youth, innocence and joy. So pink freesias make a wonderful addition to any bouquet for new mums, while purple toned freesias might be more suited to a friend or someone you admire.
- Sunflowers. According to Greek myth, the nymph Clytie was devoted to the sun god Apollo, but when Apollo fell out with her, he transformed her into a sunflower. Yet Clytie’s love for Apollo was so strong that she continued to watch her love, following him as the sun rises and sets in the sky. Following the rays of the sun, sunflowers have come to symbolize adoration, loyalty and longevity. The sunflower is also associated with good luck and happiness. In China, they’re often gifted at the founding of a new business or upon graduation.
- Eucalyptus. The eucalyptus plant has a purifying effect, and today is cultivated for its medicinal properties. The leaf is often associated with new beginnings, and the burying of negative energy. A sacred tree within traditional aboriginal culture, the eucalyptus can be viewed as a token of strength, healing and protection. For this reason, eucalyptus is sometimes gifted within bouquets to say sorry or express regret.
- Alstroemeria. The alstroemeria flower is linked to meanings of friendship, love, strength and devotion. A popular choice gifted among friends, they imply mutual support in times of hardship. Native to South America, they’re also known as the lily of the Incas. The alstroemeria flower is made up of six petals each with its own symbolism – understanding, humour, patience, empathy, commitment and respect. They were a common gift among friends in my former home of Chile.
- Carnations. Carnations have many different meanings across the world. In Russia they are generally reserved for funerals only, whereas in China they’re often seen at weddings. In the Netherlands Prince Bernhard wore a white carnation during World War II and in a gesture of defiance the Dutch population followed suit. So in Holland today white carnations are worn to remember fallen veterans and the resistance. Meanwhile in the US, in 1908 a woman called Anna Jarvis sent 500 white carnations to a church in West Virginia to be distributed among mothers. The tradition stood and today many Americans send white carnations to their parents as a gesture of thanks.
Flower Shop Ideas
Did you know?
In many cultures, including Russia and many parts of Asia it’s typical to send an even number of flowers on the occasion of a death only. For all other events, it’s an odd number. And don’t gift a cactus to an unmarried girl in Russia or if you believe in the superstition she will never marry.
The Flower Shops is a network of high quality, independent florists in the UK and which deliver the same day. To buy a locally made bouquet, visit theflowershops.co.uk