The Meaning Behind The Flowers You Send
Since time untold, a deeply ingrained element of our culture has been the giving of flowers. The history and meaning of these botanic gifts are both fascinating and informative.
A Brief History
Our modern traditions of expressing well-wishes, thoughts, and emotions through a floral presentation can be traced directly to Victorian England and the 19th century United States.
The Victorian Era was known for many new societal forces, including the rapid rise of the middle class. Respectability was the code of this newly burgeoning people group. Public expressions of emotion and sentiment were frowned upon. Restraining expressions of love and feelings, however, are like trying to completely stop a river - somehow, someway, in time the water will find its way. From this societal landscape, a silent and culturally acceptable form of expressing oneself was widely embraced - the art of Floriography! This art is also known as “The Language of Flowers.”
The significance and meaning of each flower and color varied in western culture during this period. Nearly every flower had several associations listed in the broad array of floral dictionaries which were common at the time. Out of this historical background, consensus meanings and messages for common blooms developed and continued to this day.
Meaning In Color
Color alone can speak either powerful or gentle messages through the language of flowers. The next time you send or view a floral display, consider the sentiment or emotion being expressed through color arrangement:
- White - White flowers can convey adoration, humility, pureness, innocence, virtue, and sympathy. Depending on which type are selected, a bouquet or spray of white flowers can be lively and brilliant or gentle and modest.
- Yellow - Yellow flowers symbolize the feelings they evoke - Joy and optimism! They bust with the happiness you feel on a warm sunny spring day after a season of cold and gloom. They symbolize the connection of friendship, and the confidence felt in achieving success.
- Pink - Combining the passion of red with the purity of white gives us pink, the color of tranquil sensitivity. Pink whispers tenderness, nurturing and femininity. Pink flowers are also symbols of grace and innocence.
- Lavender - Lavender represents the vigor of red combined with the calm of blue. They symbolize spirituality, sensitivity, compassion, and reflection.
- Green - Green flowers and plants represent the color of renewal and health. They have a compelling association with feelings of abundance while fostering a calm and secure atmosphere.
- Orange - The color of encouragement, orange is full of excitement and enthusiasm. It’s no wonder that orange flowers convey happiness and joy.
- Red - Red flowers are vibrant and passionate, demanding the viewers’ attention. Red is the color of love and romance while symbolizing courage, action, and an enthusiasm for life.
- Blue - Ah, blue. The color of serenity and trust. Blue flowers are a visual cue to slow down, relax, and let go of your stress. Blue is the shade of the sky and sea and invokes feelings of loyalty and integrity.
- Purple - Purple flowers are true to their “royal color” lineage by speaking dignity, admiration, and success.
Meaning in Flower Type
The time-honored language of flowers provides the giver a meaningful way to communicate their feelings in a visually beautiful way. Even if you have the opportunity to verbally convey your sentiments, the language of flowers adds greater depth to your communication. Let’s explore some of the traditional flower types used in life celebration ceremonies and their message:
- Lilies - As the most common flower associated with life celebration services, the lily symbolizes the innocence which has been restored to the soul of the departed. The white lily expresses majesty and purity, while the white stargazer lily specifically symbolizes sympathy.
- Gladioli - With a tall flower stem composed of multiple flowers which can measure up to four feet tall, gladioli are typically used in fan sprays, which are classic and elegant arrangements for traditional funeral services. The gladiolus embodies strength of character, sincerity, and moral integrity. They are available in a wide range of colors, including white, pink, red, purple, yellow, orange, salmon, and green.
- Carnations - Carnations are long lasting and fragrant, making them a popular choice for sympathy arrangements. The red carnation evokes admiration while a pink carnation stands for remembrance. White carnations stand for pure love and innocence.
- Chrysanthemums - Commonly known by their shorter name, mums are a great example of one flower conveying many sentiments based upon culture and location. In some European countries, such as France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary and Croatia, mums are symbolic of death and are only used for funerals or on graves. In China, Japan, and Korea, white chrysanthemums are symbolic of lamentation and grief. In the USA, they symbolize truth and are usually regarded as positive and cheerful. New Orleans is a notable USA exception; there mums are only used for All Saints Day celebrations, and they have become a symbol of the honored dead.
- Roses - As one of the most recognizable flowers, roses can be a beautiful part of an arrangement of life celebration flowers. White roses evoke reverence, humility, innocence, and youthfulness, while Red roses convey respect, love, and courage. Pink roses signify love, grace, appreciation, and gentility. Grief and sorrow are the feelings expressed by dark crimson roses. Friends of the deceased traditionally give yellow roses to symbolize their strong ties. When you include a single rose in a bouquet, it expresses enduring love for the deceased.
- Orchids - Orchids say, “I will always love you.” When giving orchids as a gesture of sympathy, it is essential to consider color. Pink and white are traditional colors of sympathy. Florists suggest varieties such as Phalaenopsis Orchid and Dendrobium Orchid as appropriate plants to denote sympathy.
- Tulips and Daffodils - Bright yellow spring tulips and daffodils are a symbol of renewal and fresh starts. For this reason, they are believed to bring encouragement and hope to a person who is grieving or unhappy, making them a great choice to send as a sympathy arrangement to the family home of the departed. Tulips represent elegance and grace. Yellow tulips represent cheerfulness, and White tulips represent forgiveness. Purple tulips represent royalty, and red tulips represent perfect love.
- Hyacinth - According to ancient legend, the origin of the hyacinth can be traced back to a young Greek boy named Hyakinthos. This highly fragrant bell-shaped flower symbolizes sport, play, and constancy. The blue hyacinth expresses sincerity.
- Hydrangea - In the Greek the origin of hydrangea means “water vessel,” which refers to the flowers need for plenty of water and its cup-shaped flower. Having an enduring grace and beauty, the hydrangea symbolizes heartfelt gratefulness and is often given as a gesture of saying “thank you” for the understanding of the recipient.
Floral Etiquette Basics
Keeping these basics in mind will help you to communicate your unique needs to your florist and ensure the arrangement which is sent is appropriate for the given setting.
- Funeral Flowers - Flowers sent for a celebration of life service serve as a tribute to the loved one who has passed. These floral arrangements are commonly large, formal, and appear best in a funeral home or at a graveside service. Funeral flowers are usually not sent to a particular loved one of the deceased, but instead, are intended as a way to pay respect to the deceased themselves.
- Sympathy Flowers - These flowers are traditionally used to convey love and condolences to a person who has recently suffered the loss of a family member, friend, acquaintance, or business associate. They should be sent directly to the recipient. Sympathy flowers are usually small to mid-sized arrangements which look good as centerpieces or on end tables. In place of cut flowers, live plants also are a great choice to communicate sympathy as they provide a lasting reminder of your thoughtfulness and serve as a remembrance in memory of the recipient’s loved one.
- Cultural and Religious Traditions - The customs and meanings of flowers vary between different regions, cultures, and religions. If you are unsure what is appropriate, request that your florist fill the order “according to local customs.” Also, communicate what sympathy or condolence you wish to convey, and the florist will select flowers or plants appropriately according to local floral tradition.
We hope this information has been interesting, informative, and will help you communicate your thoughts, emotions, and wishes through the art of “The Language of Flowers.”
From all of us at Green Hills Memorial Park