Who knew flowers had so many different meanings? Can they not just be pretty and smell sweet? I mean some of them even taste good… BUT THEN AGAIN SOME OF THEM WILL KILL YOU OR YOUR CAT! You better learn about your plants and be Smart! Pay attention in school! And watch your children, when they are playing! Honestly I saw children playing and climbing an Osage Orange tree. They were playing with the fruit from the tree, going to eat it.
Now these same children run around with plastic bows and arrows, and toy guns shooting nerf guns, playing with toy chainsaws pretending to cut down giant white oak trees. But the seldom pick up their trash. They do not recycle there are no recycling bins available outside their apartment building. They would not have the slightest idea that the Osage orange tree is a Historical tree used for fence rows, and actually making real bows, because no one is teaching important facts and history about plants and trees and flowers that if they put these things in their mouths it will make them sick.
The History of Flower Meanings
The symbolic language of flowers has been recognized for centuries in many countries throughout Europe and Asia. They even play a large role in William Shakespeare’s works. Mythologies, folklore, sonnets, and plays of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Chinese are peppered with flower and plant symbolism—and for good reason. Nearly every sentiment imaginable can be expressed with flowers. The orange blossom, for instance, means chastity, purity, and loveliness, while the red chrysanthemum means “I love you.”
Flowery Language of the Victorian Era
Learning the special symbolism of flowers became a popular pastime during the 1800s. Nearly all Victorian homes had, alongside the Bible, guidebooks for deciphering the “language,” although definitions shifted depending the source.
In the Victorian era, flowers were primarily used to deliver messages that couldn’t be spoken aloud. In a sort of silent dialogue, flowers could be used to answer “yes” or “no” questions. A “yes” answer came in the form of flowers handed over with the right hand; if the left hand was used, the answer was “no.”
How flowers were presented and in what condition were important. If the flowers were given upside down, then the idea being conveyed was the opposite of what was traditionally meant. How the ribbon was tied said something, too: Tied to the left, the flowers’ symbolism applied to the giver, whereas tied to the right, the sentiment was in reference to the recipient. And, of course, a wilted bouquet delivered an obvious message!
Plants could also express aversive feelings, such as the “conceit” of pomegranate or the “bitterness” of aloe. Similarly, if given a rose declaring “devotion” or an apple blossom showing “preference,” one might return to the suitor a yellow carnation to express “disdain.”
More examples of plants and their associated human qualities during the Victorian era include bluebells and kindness, peonies and bashfulness, rosemary and remembrance, and tulips and passion. The meanings and traditions associated with flowers have certainly changed over time, and different cultures assign varying ideas to the same species, but the fascination with “perfumed words” persists just the same.
See our list below for symbolic meanings of herbs, flowers, and other plants. (Please note: There are many meanings for flowers over the centuries; our chart below reflects mainly Victorian symbolism.)
Click on linked plant names for a photo and growing guide.Symbolic Meanings of Herbs, Flowers and Other PlantsAbatinaFicklenessAcanthusThe fine art, artificeAloeAffection, also griefAmaryllisPrideAnemoneForsaken, sicknessAngelicaInspirationApple blossomPreferenceArborvitaeUnchanging friendshipAsterSymbol of Love, DaintinessBachelor’s buttonSingle blessednessSweet BasilGood wishesBay treeGloryBegoniaBeware, dark thoughtsBelledonnaSilenceBittersweetTruthBlack-eyed SusanJusticeBluebellHumility, constancyBorageBluntness, directnessButterfly weedLet me goCamellia, pinkLonging For YouCamellia, redYou’re a Flame in My HeartCamellia, whiteYou’re AdroableCandytuftIndifferenceCarnationWomen, Love– Red carnationAlas for my poor heart, my heart aches– White carnationInnocence, pure love, women’s good luck gift– Pink carnationI’ll never forget you– StripedRefusal– Yellow carnationDisdain, disappointment, rejectionChamomilePatience in adversityChivesUsefulnessChrysanthemum, redI love youChrysanthemum, yellowSlighted loveChrysanthemum, whiteTruthClematisMental beautyClematis, evergreenPovertyClover, whiteThink of meColumbineFoolishness, follyColumbine, purpleResolutionColumbine, redAnxious, tremblingCoreopsisAlways cheerfulCorianderHidden worth/meritCrab blossomIll natureCrocus, springYouthful gladnessCyclamenResignation, diffidenceDaffodilRegard, Unequalled LoveDahlia, singleGood tasteDaisyInnocence, hopeDillPowerful against evilEdelweissCourage, devotionFennelFlatteryFernSincerity, humility; also, magic and bonds of loveForget-me-notTrue love memories, do not forget meGardeniaSecret loveGeranium, oak-leavedTrue friendshipGladiolusRemembranceGoldenrodEncouragement, good fortuneHeliotropeEternal love, devotionHibiscusDelicate beautyHollyForesightHollyhockAmbitionHoneysuckleBonds of loveHyacinthSport, game, play– Blue HyacinthConstancy– Purple HyacinthSorrow– Yellow HyacinthJealousy– White HyacinthLoveliness, prayers for someoneHydrangeaGratitude for being understood; frigidity and heartlessnessHyssopSacrifice, cleanlinessIrisA messageIvyFriendship, fidelity, marriageJasmine, whiteSweet love, amiabilityJasmine, yellowGrace and eleganceLady’s SlipperCapricious beautyLarkspurLightness, levityLavenderDistrust Lemon balmSympathyLilacJoy of youthLily, callaBeautyLily, dayChinese emblem for motherLily-of-the-valleySweetness, purity, pure loveLotus FlowerPurity, enlightenment, self-regeneration, and rebirthMagnoliaLove of natureMarigold Despair, grief, jealousyMarjoramJoy and happinessMintVirtueMorning gloryAffectionMyrtleGood luck and love in a marriageNasturtiumPatriotismOakStrengthOreganoSubstancePansyThoughtsParsleyFestivityPeonyBashful, happy lifePineHumilityPoppy, redConsolationRhododendronDanger, bewareRose, redLove, I love you.Rose, dark crimsonMourningRose, pinkHappinessRose, whiteI’m worthy of youRose, yellowJealousy, decrease of love, infidelityRosemaryRemembranceRueGrace, clear visionSageWisdom, immortalitySalvia, blueI think of youSalvia, redForever mineSavorySpice, interestSnapdragonDeception,
FLOWER MEANINGS: THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERSgraciousnessSorrelAffectionSouthernwoodConstancy, jestSpearmintWarmth of sentimentSpeedwellFeminine fidelitySunflower, dwarfAdorationSunflower, tallHaughtinessSweet peaDelicate pleasuresSweet WilliamGallantrySweet woodruffHumilityTansyHostile thoughts, declaring warTarragonLasting interestThymeCourage, strengthTulip, redPassion, declaration of loveTulip, yellowSunshine in your smileValerianReadinessVioletLoyalty, devotion, faithfulness, modestyWallflowerFaithfulness in adversityWillowSadnessYarrowEverlasting loveZinniaThoughts of absent friends
Flower Meanings by Color
Take, for instance, all of the different meanings attributed to variously colored carnations: Pink meant “I’ll never forget you”; red said “my heart aches for you”; purple conveyed capriciousness; white was for the “the sweet and lovely”; and yellow expressed romantic rejection.
Likewise, a white violet meant “innocence,” while a purple violet said that the bouquet giver’s “thoughts were occupied with love.” A red rose was used to openly express feelings of love, while a red tulip was a confession of love. The calla lily was interpreted to mean “magnificent beauty,” and a clover said “think of me.”
Unsurprisingly, the color of the rose plays a huge role. Red roses symbolize love and desire, but roses come in a variety of colors and each has their own meaning.
- White rose: purity, innocence, reverence, a new beginning, a fresh start.
- Red rose: love, I love you
- Deep, dark crimson rose: mourning
- Pink rose: grace, happiness, gentleness
- Yellow rose: jealousy, infidelity
- Orange rose: desire and enthusiasm
- Lavender rose: love at first sight
- Coral rose: friendship, modesty, sympathy