Traditional Flower Meanings

If you’re thinking about ordering a bouquet of flowers as a gift for a loved one, you can make it even more special by choosing flowers that have a relevant meaning. Ever productive guest writer Floral De-Signs explains what flowers mean.

Attaching meanings to certain flowers is believed to have developed in Turkey during the seventeenth century, but it became an extremely popular practice in the UK during the reign of Queen Victoria and was known as “florography”. The Victorians produced many flower dictionaries giving meanings for different types of flowers.

There isn’t a universally agreed set of meanings for different flowers today, but here are some examples of flowers and the meanings commonly attached to them.

Whether you are looking for a gift for a particular occasion or just want to treat someone you love, sending someone a bouquet of flowers is sure to brighten up their day. Ordering flowers with an appropriate meaning will add an extra something special to your gift.


Roses are frequently associated with love and are popular flowers to give to loved ones on Valentine’s Day, although they are perfect for any occasion. However, roses are available in a range of colours and each of these is associated with a different meaning. Whilst red roses are traditional symbols of love and therefore traditional valentines flowers, deep crimson roses are often associated with mourning. Light pink roses are usually associated with perfect happiness, whereas dark pink roses mean “thank you”. A yellow rose can represent friendship, whilst an orange rose is a symbol of fascination.
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White roses traditionally represent innocence and purity, but presenting your loved one with a bouquet that consists of red and white roses traditionally means that you are sending a message that the two of you are united.

Mixed roses traditionally mean “You’re everything to me”, making a bouquet of mixed roses the perfect gift for a parent, child or partner.

Now there are reports of blue roses – we have still yet to find any verifyable meaning of blue roses – perhaps they are for smurf lovers



As with roses, tulips come in a wide range of colours. Traditionally tulips represent love and passion, with red tulips representing a declaration of love, white tulips representing that the bouquet giver is worthy of the recipient and yellow tulips meaning either that there is sunshine in the recipient’s smile or that the person giving the flowers is hopelessly in love with the person receiving them, depending upon the source used.

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The lily is another popular choice of flower and, as with flowers such as roses and tulips, a lily’s meaning depends upon its colour. White lilies traditionally represent sweetness, innocence and purity, so they are perfectly suited for inclusion in a bouquet to celebrate the birth of a new baby, whilst yellow lilies send the message that you are “walking on air”. Tiger lilies traditionally represent prosperity.

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The popular bush blooms in May and June – an opportunity to remember to link to the ever popular how to make elderflower champagne page.

A popular belief held in some cultures – Elderflowers ward off evil influences and give protection from witches. If an elder tree was cut down, a spirit known as the Elder Mother would be released and take her revenge. The tree could only safely be chopped when singing a chant to the Elder Mother


The general meaning for carnations is devoted love, particularly in respect of a woman, so a bouquet of carnations is a great gift to buy your mother on Mother’s Day, on her birthday or just as a treat. Different coloured carnations also have their own meanings. Pink carnations say that you will never forget the recipient, whereas red carnations can either represent admiration or send the message “My heart aches for you”. White carnations represent sweetness, innocence and pure love.


Peonies are available in several shades, including pink, peach and white, but whichever colour you choose, peonies traditionally represent prosperity, luxury and a happy marriage, making them the perfect choice for a wedding or anniversary gift.