From expressing love to appreciation or sorrow, all flowers have hidden meanings dating back centuries. So if you’re thinking of gifting flowers
, why not go that extra mile and make sure that your blooms are expressing your true feelings, and not leading them astray!
The petals on each of the flowers below will guide you as to which flowers you should give to express particular emotions. Pay careful attention to the colour of the petals too – these match the colour of the flower and its meaning. For example, a red rose represents love, but a yellow rose expresses friendship:
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Flowers That Mean Love
When the Ancient Greeks spoke of love they recognised the existence of six different varieties; deep friendship, playful love, love for everyone, longstanding love, self-love, and passionate love. Whilst we all know that red roses symbolise love, did you know that different flowers actually express different types of love?
These flowers all express love, but in different ways:
Acacia (Yellow) – Secret Love
The Acacia can range from barely-there pale yellow to vibrant gold, but be careful if you see them being exchanged – they symbolise secret love or infidelity!
Primrose (Yellow) – Young Love
This delicate yellow flower symbolises young love and essentially means “I can’t live without you.”
Tulips (Yellow) – Hopeless Love
Over the years the meaning of the yellow tulip has evolved. Originally they represented hopeless love, but over the years their meaning has shifted to express cheerful thoughts.
Chrysanthemum (Red) – I Love
Receiving a red chrysanthemum from someone is a symbol of love and their affection for you. They make a gorgeous alternative to roses for that special someone in your life.
Honeysuckle (Red) – Bonds of Love
Depending on the variety of honeysuckle, the flowers can bloom white and yellow, pink or red. The red variety represents the bonds of love, and is a wonderfully fragrant way to express your feelings towards your spouse. Be warned if you own cats though, the wood contains nepetalactone which is the active ingredient in catnip!
Melianthus (Red) – Sweet Love
The melianthus is a glorious flower which blooms rapidly and produces bright red clusters of flowers. It’s named from the Greek word “meli” which means honey, and “anthos” which means flower hence the flowers themselves representing sweet love.
Rose (Red) – Love
The ultimate expression of love; red roses are synonymous with romance and love but did you know that the number you give can also change the meaning? A single red rose shows love, a dozen expresses gratitude, twenty-five means congratulations and fifty represents unconditional love!
Catchfly (Red) – Youthful Love
This bright and beautiful flower symbolises the head-over-heels love of your youth.
Myrtle (Pink) – Love
In Greek mythology the Myrtle plant is sacred to Demeter, Aphrodite and Venus so it comes as no surprise that it represents love and is even the Hebrew symbol for marriage!
Bridal Rose (Pale Pink/White) – Happy Love
With a name like the bridal rose, it’s no surprise that it represent happy love! Very pale pink or white in colour, this rose is the bride on her wedding day – pure and revealing everlasting love.
Forget-Me-Not (Blue) – True Love
These stunning blue flowers live up to their name perfectly – expressing love and fond memories towards the recipient.
Lilac (Purple) – First Feelings of Love
If you just feel yourself starting to fall for someone special then the perfect way to express those early feelings is with a beautiful bouquet of lovely lilacs.
Flowers That Mean Friendship
If you want to express feelings of fondness towards a friend you’d be forgiven for thinking that the yellow rose is the only way to do this. It’s the most popular flower for expressing friendship and warm feelings but there are plenty of other beautiful blooms that will do the job too:
Acacia (Yellow) – Friendship
Whilst the Acacia can symbolise secret love, the Victorians also believed that they could signify friendship and elegance too.
Rose (Yellow) – Friendship
Probably the most widely recognised gesture of friendship, the yellow rose is delicate and expresses the warmest feelings towards your nearest and dearest. If you’re thinking of getting a friend birthday flowers
, yellow roses are a wonderful idea.
Periwinkle (Blue) – Early Friendship
The delicate lavender-blue periwinkle is a great way to show affection towards a new friend. Try taking a bunch to a dinner party with a new acquaintance to really cement your friendship.
Ivy (Green) – Friendship
As ivy is an evergreen plant, it comes as no surprise that it represents strong affectionate attachment towards the recipient. Try weaving a strand or two in to your next bunch of yellow roses for a beautiful contrast.
Australian Rose (Red) – Thinking of Absent Friends
The red rose crops up again to show that you’re thinking of absent friends
Globe Amaranth (Purple) – Unchanging Friendship
The globe amaranth is a truly striking flower with its vivid purple cluster of petals. Its name is derived from the Greek word which means “unfading”. It’s often given as a single flower by itself to express unfading affection. When given as a garland or crown they represent wishes of good fortune.
Iris (Purple) – Meaningful Friendship
The ever-elegant iris is a truly beautiful flower and the purple iris is symbolic of wisdom and compliments – perfect for gifting to your nearest friends.
Oak-Leaved Geranium (Purple) – True Friendship
The oak-leaf geranium is a truly gorgeous flower. Save it for your very closest friends to show them just how much they mean to you.
Flowers That Mean Beauty
Part of the joy of giving and receiving flowers is their beauty; the vibrant colours, unique shapes and delicate scents can light up a room instantly. Whilst all flowers are beautiful, there are some which can help you express your admiration of beauty more than other.
Whether you’re hinting that your feelings are more than platonic or simply want to shower someone with affection, these blooms will help you express your attraction:
Calla Lily (White) – Magnificent Beauty
The combination of delicate ivory white petals and lush green foliage makes the calla lily a beauty in its own right, but giving one also means you admire the magnificent beauty of the recipient.
American Cowslip (Pink) – Divine Beauty
The American cowslip with its pretty pinky purple petals symbolises divine beauty – so give a bunch of flowers containing a few of these to someone who you simply adore!
French Honeysuckle (Pink) – Rustic Beauty
French honeysuckle blooms gorgeous pink flowers which you could just picture creeping up the side of a gorgeous stone cottage. Perfect for showing someone you think their beauty is timeless.
Hibiscus (Mallow – Pink) – Delicate Beauty
This flower just reminds us of holidays in sunnier climes. The beautiful big petals and bright stamen make these a real delight to receive, especially as they mean that the giver admires your delicate beauty.
Orchid (Pink) – Beauty
Is there anything more beautiful than a delicate pink orchid? Perfect in every way the pink orchid symbolises innocence, femininity and grace.
Clematis (Purple) – Mental Beauty
Clematis is considered to be a flower which represents ingenuity as it climbs cleverly around trellises and walls. If you happen to be so lucky to meet someone with a truly beautiful mind, express your admiration with a gorgeous array of vibrant clematis.
Rosebud (Red) – Beauty and Youth
Delicate rosebuds signify beauty and youth and a heart filled with innocent love. If you’re the recipient of a rosebud or two then you may find yourself in the presence of a very smitten admirer.
Rose (Burgundy) – Unconscious Beauty
A deeper red than that of the rose which symbolises love, a burgundy rose symbolises natural beauty which is unadorned.
Gilliflower (Red) – Lasting Beauty
The gillyflower is a member of the Dianthus family which symbolises lasting beauty – how romantic!
Glory Flower (Red) – Glorious Beauty
It should come as no surprise that a flower named glory expresses feelings of glorious beauty!
Flowers That Mean Sympathy
When friends, family, or loved ones are going through a difficult time showing your support can make a world of difference. These flowers represent different variations of sympathy, expressing love, empathy and thoughtfulness at a time when it’s most needed:
Aloe Flower (Red) – Grief/Affection
The flower of the aloe plant is a bright and beautiful bloom that sticks out in one or two fronds from the healing aloe stalks. As aloe can survive where other plants can’t, it’s considered as a healing plant able to dispel discomfort.
Adonis (Red) – Sorrowful Remembrance
The Adonis or anemone flower was said to have been created by Venus after her love, Adonis, was killed by the wild boar. It’s since come to represent the goddess’ short-lived lover, and can be given as an expression of loved ones being taken too soon.
Balm (Pink) – Sympathy
The balm flower expresses sympathy towards the receiver and is a simple but thoughtful way of saying “we’re thinking of you
White Clover (White) – Think of Me
We’re not talking about the four-leafed kind! The white clover is native to Europe and was originally introduced as a pasture crop. Today it symbolises "think of me" as well as "I promise".
Asphodel (White) – My Regrets Follow You to the Grave
The asphodel is a flower which also goes by the name “flower of the dead”. It’s ability to also grow in almost inhospitable conditions and as food for Greek gods and heroes means it has a two-fold association with death by resisting death itself, and acting as nourishment and a way to honour the dead.
Hyacinth (Purple) – Sorrow
The purple hyacinth has a very interesting story behind its meaning. Greek mythology suggests that the hyacinth flower is really a young Greek youth called Hyacinth who both Apollo and Zephyr loved. When Zephyr learned that Hyacinth loved Apollo more he took revenge by creating a large gust of wind when the three were playing a game of discus. The discus returned and hit Hyacinth on the head, ending his life. Apollo’s tears turned Hyacinth’s blood purple, hence the purple hyacinth symbolises sorrow.
Marigold (Yellow) – Grief
Despite its sunny disposition, the Marigold actually expresses grief, cruelty and even jealousy!
Flowers That Mean Thank You
Flowers are frequently used to convey special messages. Showing your appreciation or gratitude with an armful of beautiful flowers is a sure-fire way to delight your hardworking employee, helpful friend or supportive loved one:
Agrimony (Yellow) – Thankfulness/Gratitude
If you’re looking to express your thankfulness and gratitude
, look no further than the golden hues of the agrimony flower.
Canterbury Bells (Bellflower) (White) – Acknowledgement
Canterbury Bells symbolise gratitude, faith and constancy, so are the perfect thank-you for someone who has been there for you through good times and bad.
Peppermint (Green) – Warmth of Feelings
Peppermint blooms the most gorgeous pink and white candy-striped flowers that you’ve ever seen! Pick up a sprig on a country walk and give to someone you care for to show the warmth of your feelings towards.
Salvia (Blue) – I Think of You
The salvia flower has a truly unique shape to it. Whilst they come in a range of colours, the blue variety expresses that you are thinking of the recipient, perfect for if you’re going to be away for a few days but want your loved ones to know that they’re looking after your heart whilst you’re away.
The Language of Flowers, Michael Joseph Ltd, 1968