Dating back to ancient civilisations, different flowers have symbolised different human emotions and sentiment. Every flower has a different meaning and in some cases, multiple meanings. There are also cultural differences to consider in floriography (the language of flowers) and therefore, a particular flower may have a different meaning depending upon where you are in the world.
In western cultures a general consensus has emerged over time about the meanings of the most common blooms sold by florists. While flowers are most often gifted to women in western cultures, there are flowers for everyone. Most online florists also stock a range of plants, gift baskets and hampers which are designed specifically to appeal to men.
Saying ‘I Love You’
In western cultures the red rose is the symbol of romantic love but there is more than one way to say ‘I love you’ with flowers. Other flowers that are expressions of love include:
- Jasmine: sweet love
- Lily of the Valley: sweetness, returning happiness, trust
- Violets: loyalty, devotion, faithfulness
- Red Tulips: declaration of love
- Lilac: first love
- Myrtle: true love, marriage
- Honeysuckle: bonds of love
- Red Carnation: romantic love
- Daisy: faithfulness
Pink roses are a popular choice for mother’s day because they symbolise gratitude. Pink lilies, orchids, tulips and carnations are also popular choices but they have to be pink as different colours have different meanings. For example, white lilies symbolise purity and are closely associated with funerals.
Orchids, which symbolise strength, are a popular choice but typically, an orchid plant (instead of a floral arrangement) is given on Fathers Day. Blue hydrangeas are also a good choice however, more often than not, a plant instead of flowers is given to dads on their special day.
Before I started the research for this article I had no idea that everyone of us has a birth flower based on the month in which we were born. Now I know this, I can’t think of a better way to say ‘happy birthday’ than to give a loved one a gift which includes their birth flower. The birth flowers for each of the months of the year are as follows:
- January: Carnation
- February: Iris, Violet
- March: Daffodil
- April: Daisy, Peonies
- May: Lily, Lily of the Valley
- June: Rose
- July: Delphinium
- August: Dahlia, Gladiolus
- September: Aster, Forget-me-not
- October: Calendula (aka Marigold)
- November: Chrysanthemum
- December: Poinsettia, Holly
It’s Hard to Say ‘I’m Sorry’
In some cases ‘sorry’ really is the hardest word to say but giving one of these flowers may smooth things over: daisies, pink roses, sunflowers, oriental lilies and violets. Symbolising new beginnings, the daffodil is the perfect choice for expressing your desire for reconciliation with a lover or a friend. But be aware that legend has it that daffodils should always be given in a bunch as giving just a single daffodil will bring misfortune.
Sympathy on the Loss of a Loved OneAs the flower most often associated with funerals, the white lily symbolises purity and virtue, and according to Interflora it is the fourth most popular flower in the world. Another popular flower for funerals is the White orchid as it symbolises elegance, beauty and humility. Another option is statice as in the language of flowers, statice, which is often used in dried flower arrangements, symbolises remembrance. Although white flowers are the most commonly chosen to express sympathy on the death of a loved one, soft pastel pinks and blues are also appropriate.
Get Well Soon
Whether someone is sick in hospital or recovering at home, a gift of flowers can really lift their spirits as it lets them know how much you’re thinking and hoping for a speedy recovery. An arrangement which includes sunflowers, which symbolises warmth, happiness and longevity, is a good choice for someone who is ill. Heather symbolises admiration and good luck and is believed to have protective powers. The plant aloe symbolises protection, as well as healing.