Throughout history, especially during the Victorian era, an almost secret language of flowers has been used to convey messages.
Many cultures around the world have used plants and flowers as symbols; they represented gods, spirits, important landmarks in life, religious occasions, and so on. During the years leading up to the Victorian era, they took on a different sort of symbolism.
They became almost a language unto themselves, allowing people – particularly young men and women, who the protocol at the time kept from expressing themselves openly – to communicate by sending either a single flower, or a carefully selected bouquet.
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Many online florists, such as FTD florists, allow you to order flowers individually to be made into a bouquet for a flower delivery; choosing flowers to convey a particular message adds a nicely personal touch.
As with many flowers, the overtone of azaleas has to do with love, but it is a message of fragile passion, temperance, and a subtle plea to take care of one’s self for the sender. They are also a symbol of womanhood in China.
Just looking at this tiny, delicate white flower and at its name gives a good hint as to its meaning. Although it is now commonly used as a ‘filler’ for bouquets and other arrangements, it has its meaning in and of itself. It symbolizes purity of heart and innocence.
There are several flowers who have an overall meaning, and then a separate meaning for individual colors; the carnation is one such. The overall meanings include fascination, distinction, impulsiveness, joy, and divine or devoted love. It is also the birth flower for January.
- Pink Carnation – symbolic of enduring love, particularly with a maternal overtone
- Purple Carnation – capriciousness, unpredictability
- Red Carnation – admiration, pride, fascination, and an aching heart
- White Carnation – these flowers have a twofold message. On the one hand, they symbolize innocence, sweetness, and purity. On the other hand, they represent pure or ardent love, and the strength and enduring qualities of love.
- Striped Carnation – refusal, but regretful, without bitterness
The birth flower of November, the chrysanthemum’s overall message is one of happiness, cheerfulness, joy, and optimism. Like carnations, there are subtler meanings to some of the colors.
- Red Chrysanthemum – a declaration of love, a simple statement of ‘I love’
- White Chrysanthemum – truth and loyal love
- Yellow Chrysanthemum – slighted love
These native flowers of the Mediterranean area, with their bowed heads, also hold physical hints as to their meaning. The symbolism of the cyclamen is resignation or farewell.
The birth flower of March, the daffodil has several possible meanings to choose from. Rebirth and new beginnings are perhaps the most obvious for this early-blooming flower. Also included are regard, chivalry, unrequited love, and eternal life. A single daffodil can also carry a message of misfortune.
Daisies signify purity, innocence, loyalty (especially in love), beauty, simplicity and patience. There are also overtones of love conquering all.
Named for their leaves which resemble swords, or “gladius” in Latin; one of its meanings is also based on this, telling the recipient that she pierces the heart like a sword. It also represents strength of character, preparedness, sincerity, and love at first sight.
In the language of flowers, hyacinths have a decidedly playful overtone. They represent games, playful joy, rashness, and sport. They can also show an apology, particularly purple hyacinths.
Irises have a very noble symbolism; they represent wisdom, faith, hope, valor, and valued friendship. They can also mean ‘my compliments’, or a promise in love.
Lilies can convey a whole host of messages, depending on their type and color. The overall message, however, is one of chastity, virtue, majesty, beauty, faith, wisdom, pride and chivalry.
Read also: Lily flower meaning
Orange blossoms have long been popular in wedding flower arrangements, and for good reason; the symbolism behind them are messages of purity, eternal love, innocence, marriage and fruitfulness.
One can hardly discuss flower meanings without a discussion of the many varied meanings in roses. As with several others, roses can mean a whole host of things depending on color and other factors. Although known for being a symbol of love, passion and perfection, many other overtones and meanings can be conveyed.
- Burgundy Rose – beauty within; hidden beauty
- Coral Rose – desire
- Lavender Rose – enchantment; love at first sight
- Rose Leaf – “you may hope”
- Moss Rose – confession of love
- Orange Rose – enthusiasm or fascination
- Peach Rose – admiration, appreciation, and gratitude; or modesty
- Pink Rose – happiness, thankfulness, appreciation, gladness, friendship, sympathy
- Red Rose – love, passion, beauty, remembrance, courage
- White Rose – purity, innocence, friendship, virtue
- Yellow Rose – joy, friendship; but also jealousy or slighted love
- Red and White Roses – unity
- Red and Yellow Roses – congratulations
- Yellow and Orange Roses – passion
- Thornless Rose – love at first sight
The primary messages of tulips are of fame and perfect love. As with other flowers, the colors each have their emphasis.
- Red Tulips – declaration of love, or a plea for the recipient to believe the sender
- Yellow Tulips – “there’s sunshine in your smile”; also hopeless love
- Cream Tulips – “I will love you forever”
- Variegated Tulips – says the recipient has beautiful eyes
Violets represent modesty, faithfulness, understated beauty, affection, “you’re in my thoughts”, innocence. they can also be a sort of plea, to take a chance on happiness.
Read also: Types of flowers