Flower Meanings: The Language of Flowers

Learn the Symbolism of Flowers, Herbs, and Other Plants

Pink Roses
Pixabay

Do you know the Language of Flowers? Many flowers, herbs, trees, and other plants traditionally symbolize feelings, moods, or ideas, and as our list below shows, each flower has its own particular meaning. 

Flower meanings have fascinated people for centuries, and they even play a large role in William Shakespeare’s works. Bouquets make great gifts, and it is important to know what your bouquet symbolizes. Many people also want to dress up their gardens with flower symbols that represent them. Roses tend to have special meanings, as do flowers used in weddings. Another important area of flower symbolism is the meaning of birth month flowers.

Jump to the full list of flower meanings by clicking here!

History of Flower Meanings

The symbolic language of flowers has been recognized for centuries in many countries throughout Europe and Asia. Mythologies, folklore, sonnets, and plays of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Chinese are peppered with flower and plant symbolism—and for good reason. 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.”

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. Religious, literary, folkloric, and botanical publications were all used to inform meanings.

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.

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.

Pink carnations

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.”

In a sort of silent dialogue, flowers could be used to answer “yes” or “no” questions, too. 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.”

Apple blossom

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!

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.

Rose Meanings

Red roses symbolize love and desire, but roses come in a variety of colors and each has their own meaning. For example, the white rose’s meaning is purity and innocence.

  • 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: joy, friendship, the promise of a new beginning
  • Orange rose: desire and enthusiasm
  • Lavender rose: love at first sight
  • Coral rose: friendship, modesty, sympathy

Special Meaning of Wedding Flowers: Flowers of Love

Flowers have always been a big feature at weddings, too. As an example, look to the royal flower bouquet in the wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, to Kate Middleton (now Catherine, Ducchess of Cambridge). Her flowers had very special meaning.

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 idea is to have a garden gathering and have each person bring a flower that has meaning to them. Or, paint tiles on a kitchen island with a flower that represents each of your loved ones.

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

wedding-flower-meanings.jpg

Meanings of Herbs, Flowers, and Other Plants

Please tell us which flowers have meaning to you! If we are missing one of your favorites, please tell us which one and its meaning.

Wishing to grow a flower that has meaning to you or a loved one? Click on linked plant names for detailed planting and growing guides.

Symbolic Meanings of Herbs, Flowers and Other Plants
Aloe Healing, protection, affection
Amaryllis Pride
Anemone Forsaken
Angelica Inspiration
Apple blossom Preference
Arborvitae Unchanging friendship
Aster Symbol of Love, Daintiness
Bachelor’s button Single blessedness
Basil Good wishes
Bay Glory
Begonia Beware
Bittersweet Truth
Black-eyed Susan Justice
Bluebell Humility, kindness
Candytuft Indifference
Carnation Women, Love

– Red carnation

My Heart Aches, admiration
– White carnation Innocence, pure love, women’s good luck gift
– Pink carnation I’ll never forget you
– Yellow carnation Disdain, disappointment, rejection
Chamomile Patience
Chives Usefulness
Chrysanthemum Cheerfulness
Clover, white Think of me
Coreopsis Always cheerful
Coriander Hidden worth
Crocus, spring Youthful gladness
Cumin Fidelity
Cyclamen Resignation and good-bye
Daffodil Regard
Daisy Innocence, hope
Dill Powerful against evil
Edelweiss Courage, devotion
Fennel Flattery
Fern Sincerity, humility; also, magic and bonds of love
Forget-me-not True love memories
Gardenia Secret love
Geranium, oak-leaved True friendship
Gladiolus Remembrance
Goldenrod Encouragement, good fortune
Heliotrope Eternal love
Holly Hope
Hollyhock Ambition
Honeysuckle Bonds of love
Horehound Health
Hyacinth Games and sport, playfulness, rashness
– Blue Hyacinth Constancy of love
– Purple Hyacinth Sorrow, forgiveness, regret
– Yellow Hyacinth Jealousy
– White Hyacinth Loveliness, prayers for someone
Hydrangea Gratitude for being understood; frigidity and heartlessness
Hyssop Sacrifice, cleanliness
Iris A message
Ivy Friendship, continuity
Jasmine, white Sweet love
Lady’s-mantle Comforting
Lavender Devotion, virtue
Lemon balm Sympathy
Lilac Joy of youth
Lily, calla Beauty
Lily, day Chinese emblem for mother
Lily-of-the-valley Sweetness, purity
Lotus Flower Purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration, and rebirth
Magnolia Love of nature
Marigold  Despair, grief, jealousy
Marjoram Joy and happiness
Mint Virtue
Morning glory Affection
Myrtle Good luck and love in a marriage
Nasturtium Patriotism
Oak Strength
Oregano Substance
Pansy Thoughts
Parsley Festivity
Peony Bashful, happy life
Pine Humility
Poppy, red Consolation
Rhododendron Danger, flee
Rose, red Love, I love you.
Rose, dark crimson Mourning
Rose, pink Happiness
Rose, white Purity, heavenly, I’m worthy of you
Rose, yellow Jealousy, decrease of love
Rosemary Remembrance
Rue Grace, clear vision
Sage Wisdom, immortality
Salvia, blue I think of you
Salvia, red Forever mine
Savory Spice, interest
Sorrel Affection
Southernwood Constancy, jest
Sunflower Adoration
Sweet pea Pleasures
Sweet William Gallantry
Sweet woodruff Humility
Tansy Hostile thoughts
Tarragon Lasting interest
Thyme Courage, strength
Tulip, red Passion, declaration of love
Tulip, yellow Sunshine in your smile
Valerian Readiness
Violet Loyalty, devotion, faithfulness, modesty
Wallflower Faithfulness in adversity
Willow Sadness
Yarrow Everlasting love
Zinnia Thoughts of absent friends

Do you have a favorite flower meaning? Or do you know of any meanings we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Focus, healing

Hello. I’m getting a tattoo on my forearm to represent strength and focus as I cope with a debilitating and very painful nerve condition. I’m combining the scripture chapter and verse, along with a dragonfly. Can you suggest a small flower I might add?

flower meaning strength

“Thyme” has the perfect meaning (see above) if you are up for adding a pretty herb. But the lovely edelweiss that grows in the mountains also represents courage. All the best on coping with your condition. 

Flower meaning love and sorrow.

Hello my biotic friend! I just wanted to tell you about the Oleander.

Flower for the loss of a loved one

Hello,

The anniversary of my sibling's death is coming up. I plan on getting a tattoo in memory of him. Which flower would best represent healing, admiration and love?

Thank you for the help.

love

The red rose is the classic symbol of love and admiration. The red tulip is a declaration of love.  But there are other flowers that symbolize love on the above list. The acorn symbolizes immortal love. Heliotrope also means undying love and honeysuckle represents the bonds of love.

 

Flower missing

Hi
I want to remind u my favourite flower Gerbera and want to know its meaning. Any Help possible regarding??

Gerbera Daisies

Gerbera are daisies (gerbera daisies). See above!

Moon Flowers

Is there any flower that symbolizes the moon? I need it for a story I'm writing.

Moonflower

Have you considered the Moonflower? This is a beautiful twining vine with white flowers that are rounded in shape like the Moon and they are night bloomers! 

The Latin name is “Ipomoea alba” and they are sometimes called the tropical white morning-glory .

 

Fate

I need a pretty flower/plant that symbolizes fate or destiny for a story. Any help?

What does the red ginger symbolize?

When is it appropriate to offer red ginger flowers.

Red Ginger Flowers

We love red ginger! Many of our flower means are from Victorian times so we can’t speak to its symbolism from that perspective. Ginger often symbolizes true love and affairs of the heart. And red ginger commonly symbolizes fiery passion and strength. You could consider red ginger in place of a red rose for someone you feel passionate about!

IN NEED OF SUGGESTIONS

I have this project that I need to get done by the end of the week but for me to move forward with it, I need to choose a flower or plant that symbolizes concern (for the well-being of others, or just concern in general) and I'm not entirely sure if a plant like that exists? Suggestions would be great.

Flowers that convey/mean courage

Nicole- try Eidelweiss- means courage and devotion

Ancient uses of flowers

Flowers according to their properties can be used for various kind of uses. Some flowers are used for God ,some to express love, some to express gratitude ,etc.
Article you have shared is really nice and helpful .
There are some ancient uses of flowers , not everyone is aware about it.
The definitive guide is written by premium online florist FlowersNFruits .
You can check the blog link on FlowersNFruits.

Readiness??

What other flowers and plants represent readiness

meaning of azelias

what is the meaning of pink azelias

Protection, Safety, and White Heathers

Hello!

I was actually curious if you all had an idea whether white heather flowers represent protection. I don't see them on the list, but I had found that on some other sources and wanted to cross-reference :) I'm working on designing an enamel pin for folks in the place I work for to wear when they are responsible to maintaining a safe space for everyone.

I saw aloe and possibly buckwheat as other options? Are there others that represent safety and protection?

Thank you!

language of flowers for protection

Hi, Lauren. You are correct! White heather symbolizes protection as well as good luck. Euphorbia also means protection.

Tattoo for son and myself

Hello :). I am contemplating a tattoo represntative of my son and I. We are both fighting illnesses, and I would love something that is symbolic of healing. Any thoughts appreciated! Thank you!

language of flowers for health

Hello, Anne. A bouquet of carnations in mixed colors signifies health and energy. Other flowers that mean health are cardinal flower and peony. Please accept our well wishes for you and your son. Stay positive.

Blue Rose meaning

The flower language for a blue rose is impossible, unattainable. It makes me so sad.

Ray, eh?

Ray, eh?

Promotion

My daughter got a promotion; i'd like to send either flowers or a small plant for her desk; symbolizing prosperity, congratulations, encouragement. Any suggestions?

An alstroemeria plant/

An alstroemeria plant/ bouquet is very lovely. They symbolize prosperity and success in a new venture. I believe what u say ur looking for.

Sisterly love

Hi ! My sister and I would like to get matching tattoos to symbolize the relationship we have. We are very complementary and need each other, what kind of flower/ leaf could represent it best ? We thought of roses but perhaps it's not really fitting.
Thanks !

Suggestion

What a great idea for you and your sister! Going off this, I would suggest violets and lavender surrounded by ivy.

Advice

Hello! I loved reading about this and always found flowers and their meaning fascinating. I was hoping I could get your advice on what kind of flowers would be best as an end of year gift for my daughters teachers? I'm planning on giving them potted not as a cut bouquet so I'd like to get it right :) She's in Pre-K if that makes a difference lol

meaning of flowers gift for teacher

Hi, Amber. What a lovely idea for your child’s teacher. We have a few suggestions for you: basil (for good wishes), bluebell (for kindness), chamomile (for patience, which we are certain she has seeing she is a pre-k teacher!), fern (for sincerity, which you are in your wishes), or sage (for wisdom).

outdoor arrangement

hi there!
i would like to do an outdoor small garden for my father for fathersday. My son and i will be moving soon far away and i would like to mix and match flowers and plants that represent family. i like the idea of pink carnation, white clover, zinnia but i feel lost to which will grow best outside and together. Any help would be greatly appreciated! tia

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