The Language of Flowers

Although the use of flowers to convey messages has been recognised for centuries and known to have been used in Persia and the Middle East, it was not until the Victorian era that the language of flowers became significant in the UK.  The language of flowers is also called floriography and during Victorian times, flowers and plants began to hold special meanings. It quickly became an increasingly popular way for people to send subtle messages to each other, especially when some conversations were restricted. Flowers allowed secretive messages to be sent. Many topics were deemed taboo or too rude to be discussed openly, so exchanging flowers became an alternative way to get your point across.   

Learning the special symbolism of flowers became a popular pastime for some during the 1800s. There was even a dictionary created that explained the messages of each flower. Though the messages are often positive, the same flower can end up having the opposite meaning depending on how the flower is arranged or even delivered. For example, if the flowers were given upside down, then the idea being conveyed was the opposite than the traditional meaning. If the flowers are tied to the left, the flowers’ meaning is applied to the giver. If it’s tied to the right, the sentiment refers to the recipient.   

The symbolic language of flowers can be seen in a lot of William Shakespeare’s work. Myths, folklore, sonnets and plays dating back to ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all show some element of flower and plant symbolism.   

So, what does each flower symbolise? Here we discuss the meanings behind some of the Nation’s most well-loved flowers and plants.  

Anemone- Forsaken, sickness. It can indicate fading hope. However, on a positive note, it can also symbolise anticipation   

Aster- a symbol of love, patience, elegance and daintiness  

Begonia- beware, dark thoughts  

Bluebell- Humility, constancy   

Camelia- Pink- Longing for you   

Camelia- Red- You're a flame in my heart  

Camelia- White- you're adorable   

Carnation Red- alas my poor heart, my heart aches   

Carnation White- Innocence, pure love, women’s good luck gift   

Carnation Pink- I'll never forget you  

Carnation Striped- Refusal   

Carnation Yellow- Patience in adversity   

Chrysanthemum Red- I love you, fidelity, optimism, joy, long life  

Chrysanthemum White- truth and loyal love  

Chrysanthemum Yellow- Slighted love  

Clematis- Mental Beauty  

Crocus- youthful gladness  

Cyclamen- Resignation, diffidence   

Daffodil- Regard, Unequalled love  

Dahlia- Good Taste  

Daisy- Innocence, hope  

Forget me Knot- True Love, memories, do not forget me   

Gardenia- secret love  

Geranium- Remembrance  

Hibiscus- Delicate Beauty   

Honeysuckle- bonds of love  

Hyacinth Blue- playfulness and sport  

Hyacinths- constancy   

Hyacinth purple- Sorrow   

Hyacinth pink or red- Play   

Hyacinth White- loveliness   

Hyacinth Yellow- Jealousy   

Iris- eloquence   

Iris, purple- wisdom and compliments  

Iris, blue- faith and hope  

Iris, yellow- passion  

Iris, white- purity   

Ivy- friendship, fidelity, marriage   

Jasmine, white- sweet love, amiability  

Jasmine, yellow- grace and elegance  

Lavender- distrust  

Lilac- the joy of youth  

Lily-white- modesty and virginity   

Lily Orange- passion  

Lily Yellow- gaiety  

Marigold- a love of nature  

Orchid- exotic beauty   

Peony- bashfulness and compassion, happy life  

Pansy- Thoughts  

Poppy, Red- consolation  

Rhododendron- danger, beware  

Rose, Red- I love you  

Rose, Dark Crimson- Mourning   

Rose, Pink- happiness  

Rose, white- I'm worthy of you  

Rose, yellow- jealousy, infidelity   

Sunflower- adoration  

Sweet Pea- delicate pleasures  

Tulip, Red- passion, declaration of love  

Tulip, Yellow- sunshine  

Violet- loyalty, devotion, modesty  

Willow- sadness  

Although we do not follow the language of flowers as much in modern times as they did during the Victorian age, it is interesting to know the meanings behind each flower. Some meanings are still strong to this day and it is nice to know that when you buy family members and loved one’s flowers or plants as a gift, you know the significant meaning behind them.   

So, when you are choosing some flowers in the future, you may be intrigued and tempted to take some time to discover it’s meaning.   

If you need any help with bulbs and gardening advice, then please contact us. Boston Bulbs Wholesale is a privately owned business with over 35 years’ experience of importing only the finest quality horticultural products through Europe and from farms and growers over the UK. Whether you’re a landscaper, nursery, local authority, wholesale, retailer, private business or individual gardener, give us a call on 01775 769 333 or visit for help with flower bulbs, grass seed and more.    

Share this post