As the season of spring has arrived, and flowers are beginning to bloom and make their reappearance on campus. Flowers can do more than look pretty or attract bugs; they can also serve as a method of communication. Floriography, or the language of flowers, is an interpretation of a flower’s meaning based on the type of flower or its color.
Floriography has been practiced in different cultures throughout history, and the symbolism behind certain flowers can be found in mythology, literature, and legends. In the Victorian era, flower arrangements could be used to communicate secret messages between the sender and receiver, and were also used to demonstrate sympathy, gratitude, and celebration, confess love, or even send a subtle threat.
Interpretations of a flower’s meaning can vary based on factors such as culture or time period. The guide below is a simple introduction to common modern interpretations of floriography:
Red flowers can symbolize love, affection, passion, courage, or respect. A red poppy signifies consolation or remembrance in the West, but in Eastern cultures it can also mean love and success. A red tulip symbolizes a declaration of love, and a red salvia can mean “forever mine.” (The Farmer’s Almanac)
Pink flowers can symbolize innocence, joy, trust, good fortune, good health, happiness, or playfulness. A pink camellia flower can mean admiration or affection for a person, as well as longing or missing someone. Pink carnations signify gratitude or appreciation and are often used in Mother’s Day bouquets. (The Farmer’s Almanac)
Yellow flowers can symbolize joy, friendship, or happiness, but also jealousy or infidelity. A yellow rose is the most common flower symbol of friendship, while a yellow hyacinth can mean jealousy. In the Victorian era, a yellow carnation could reflect feelings of disdain, disappointment, or rejection. A yellow acacia flower can also signify secret or concealed love, as well as true friendship, and a yellow chrysanthemum may signal slighted love. Yellow irises can represent passion, and a yellow poppy signifies wealth or success. (Bloom and Wild)
White flowers can symbolize purity, humility, and innocence, but in Asian countries white flowers carry meanings of death or mourning. A white jasmine can represent love, purity, or modesty. White chrysanthemums can signify truth, loyalty, and devoted love, and a white hyacinth may mean prayers for someone or loveliness. White hydrangeas can signify purity, but also are often associated with pride or boastfulness. (The Farmer’s Almanac)
A lavender rose can symbolize love at first sight. Purple flowers can also have more gloomy meanings, as a purple hyacinth signifies sorrow, and lavender flowers, which often represent calmness, serenity, and purity, can also symbolize distrust or caution. Purple carnations can symbolize impulsiveness or unpredictability. (Bloom and Wild)
Blue roses signify mystery and the impossible, and can also mean that you think someone is extraordinary or unique. Blue hydrangeas signify an apology or deep understanding for another person. A blue hyacinth can symbolize sincerity or faithfulness, blue morning glory flowers can mean trust or respect for someone, and a blue iris may mean hope or faith. Blue violets can represent love, affection, intuition, faith, or trustworthiness. (Bloom and Wild)
Orange flowers often represent excitement or liveliness. An orange rose means fascination, and an orange blossom signifies eternal love or marriage. An orange lily may represent confidence, pride, or even disdain or hatred. (The Gardening Channel)
This guide can serve as a simple introduction to the wide range of meanings assigned to flowers based on color and type. If you’re interested in more sources concerning the different interpretations of the language of flowers, websites such as The Gardening Channel, Bloom and Wild, and the Farmer’s Almanac include detailed explanations of certain flowers and plants, as well as their unique meanings. With spring comes the blooming of many beautiful flowers, which also brings plenty of opportunities to express your feelings or send messages to others using the language of flowers.
(Copyright Evelyn Sharma 2021)