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Language of Flowers

The language of flowers, sometimes called floriography, was a Victorian-era means of communication in which various flowers and floral arrangements were used to send coded messages, allowing individuals to express feelings which otherwise could not be spoken. This language was most commonly communicated through Tussie-Mussies, an art which has a following today.

The nuances of the language are now mostly forgotten, but red roses still imply passionate, romantic love pink roses a lesser affection; white roses suggest virtue and chastity and yellow roses still stand for friendship or devotion. Also commonly known meanings are sunflowers, which can indicate either haughtiness or respect – they were the favorite flower of St. Julie Billiart for this reason. Gerbera (Daisy) means innocence or purity. The iris, being named for the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology, still represents a message being sent. A pansy signifies thought, a daffodil regard, and a string of ivy fidelity.



Though most popular in the Victorian period, the symbolic use of flowers dates back to antiquity. In Medieval and Renaissance culture flowers were often given moral meanings. This is most apparent in art in which saints are often depicted with flowers, symbolic of their virtues. Liana DeGirolami Cheney notes that “some of the Christian symbols for Virginity or Chastity are the white rose, the myrtle, a vessel or vase, the lily, and the unicorn”

The Turkish “Salem”, or language of objects, developed to communicate any message without the need to write.

There is also an independent Japanese flower language, called Hanakotoba.


Symbolic Meaning of Some Common Flowers

Flower Meaning
Acacia Secret, chaste love
Acanthus Art
Agrimony Thankfulness
Aloe Grief
Almond Promise
Alstromeia Wealth
Amaranth (Globe) Immortal love
Anemone Forsaken, sickness
Angrec Royalty
Apple-Blossom Preference
Arborvitae Everlasting friendship
Balm Social intercourse or sympathy
Balsamine Impatience
Bay Wreath Glory
Bee Orchid Industry
Bells of Ireland Luck
Bird’s Foot Trefoil Revenge
Box Constancy
Broom Humility
Bulrush Docility
Buttercup Riches
Cabbage Profit
Camelia Japonica Unpretending excellence
Campanula Gratitude
Carnation (Pink) A woman’s love
Carnation (White) Disdain
Carnation (Purple) Capriciousness, whimsical, changeable
Carnation (Red) My heart aches for you
Carnation (Yellow) You have disappointed me, rejection, disdain
Carnation (Striped) Refusal
Celadine Joys to come
Cherry Blossom A good education
Chestnut Do me justice
China Aster Love of variety
Chrysanthemum (Red) I love
Chrysanthemum (Yellow) Sighted love
Coreopsis Always cheerful
Cowslip Winning grace
Clover (Red) Industry
Clover (White) Promise
Coriander Lust
Daffodil Uncertainty, chivalry, respect, or unrequited love
Dahlia Elegance and dignity
Dandelion Coquetry
Eglantine Rose A wound to heal
Elderflower Compassion
Fennel Strength
Forget-Me-Not True love
Geranium Gentility
Gorse Love in all seasons
Grass Submission
Heliotrope Devotion
Hollyhock Ambition
Honeysuckle Devoted affection, bonds of love
Houseleek Domestic economy
Ivy Dependence
Jonquil Return my affection
Laurestine A token
Lavender Mistrust
Lemon-Blossom Discretion
Lettuce Cold-hearted
Lichen Solitude
Lilac (Purple) First emotion of love
Lilac (White) Youthful innocence
Lily (White) Purity
Lily (Scarlet) High-souled aspirations
Lime Blossom Fornication
Lobelia Malevolence
Lotus Eloquence
Love Lies Bleeding Hopelessness
Magnolia Love of nature
Mallow Consumed by love
Marigold Pain and grief
Mayflower Welcome
Mignonette Worth
Mint Suspicion
Morning Glory Love in vain
Mullein Good-nature
Nasturium Patriotism
Oak Leaf Strength
Oats Music
Olive Peace
Oxeye Daisy Patience
Pear Blossom Lasting friendship
Pitch Pine Blossom Philosophy
Poppy Dreams
Rose (Red) True love
Rose (Blue) Mystery
Rose (White) Silence or innocence, virtue, purity, secrecy, reverence, and humility
Rose (Black) Death, hatred, farewell, rejuvenation, rebirth
Rose (Yellow) Friendship or dying love
Rose (Pink) Grace
Rose (Dark Pink) Gratitude
Rose (Light Pink) Desire, passion, joy of life, youth, energy
Rose (Coral or Orange) Desire, passion
Rose (Lavender or Violet) Love at first sight
Rose (Red and White together) Unity
Rose (Red and Yellow together) Joy, happiness, excitement
Rose (Thornless) Love at first sight
Rosemary Remembrance
Rue Regret
Sensitive Plant Sensitivity
Snowdrop Consolation or hope
Star of Bethlehem Hope
Straw United
Sunflower Pure and lofty thoughts
Sweetbriar Simplicity
Thorn-Apple Disguise
Thistle Nobility
Thyme Thriftiness
Tulip-Tree Fame
Tulip (Red) Declaration of love
Tulip (Yellow) Hopeless love
Violet (Blue) Faithfulness
Violet (White) Modesty
Willow (Creeping) Love forsaken
Witch Hazel A spell
Wheat Wealth and prosperity

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