Giving flowers to someone you care about is easy, relatively inexpensive and might just be one of the most universally appreciated gestures. We assign our own meaning to the bouquets we give. The plant or color we choose often has to do with a special memory or event, for example.
But more than 200 years ago in the Victorian era, flowers themselves were symbols. People gave a certain flower to convey a specific sentiment or message. What that was depended on the flower, petal color and number of blooms. Floriography, the language of flowers, was well-understood during this time. If you're curious about the hidden meaning behind some of the most popular flowers we love today, let this list be your guide.
It's likely you'll smell this flower before you spot it. Intoxicatingly sweet, gardenias are beloved for both their exquisite fragrance and beauty. Grown on 4- to 6-foot evergreen shrubs, the gardenia's waxy white or creamy yellow petals pop against deep green leaves with a glossy, leathery texture.
This flower came to the United States more than 200 years ago and now thrives in the South, where it's humid and warm. Gardenia is associated with beauty, love and purity, making it a favorite for wedding ceremonies. Find gardenias clustered together in bouquets or arranged individually on a boutonnière or floating in a bowl.
Daffodils seem to embody happiness with their cheery faces and trumpet-like middle cup. We often think of daffodils as yellow, but they come in other colors, too, like green, pink and orange. In fact, there are more than 40 species.
Daffodils symbolize regard and different shades of affection, ranging from "the sun is always shining when I'm with you" to unequalled love. These hardy bulbs sprout up and bloom during rainy spring months. They have no scent and are inexpensive, making them relatively easy on people with allergies and on your wallet! Bundle them together in a bouquet or display them in ceramic pot.
You can thank someone for understanding in a bunch of ways. Write a note. Hug it out. Verbally share your gratitude. Or you can give a hydrangea, a wildflower that grows in sizable heads on bushes sometimes exceeding 6 feet tall.
Hydrangeas come in blush tones: white, pink, bluish purple and bright blue. The level of acid in the soil can dramatically affect the flower's color. In general, low-acid environments yield bluer flowers, and higher counts produce pinker flowers. Some see the hydrangea as a powerful metaphor for life: We can change what we manifest in our outer world by first changing the soil of our inner world, like thoughts and beliefs.
An elongated grouping of bell-shaped flowers grows at the tip of a sturdy stock: This is the powerfully fragrant hyacinth.
The hidden meaning of the hyacinth traces back to Greek mythology. According to the tale, the sun god, Apollo, loved a Spartan named Hyacinthus. The two were playing discus when it struck and killed Hyacinthus. From the bloodstained ground where he died, a beautiful flower rose. Apollo named it hyacinth in honor of his friend.
This flower's meaning varies according to its color:
- white - loveliness, I'll pray for you
- red or pink - playfulness
- yellow - jealousy
- purple - I'm sorry, please forgive me
- blue - constant affection
This is the flower of riches and honor. Peonies are large, showy flowers with ruffled petals and a light fragrance. They have a particularly feminine charm, and they come in a palette of colors, ranging from white and pink to crimson to inky purples.
There are about 33 peony species, and all have eye-catching foliage. With their plush, full blooms, peonies symbolize prosperity and romance. When a bride carries peonies, she signals that good fortune and a happy marriage are on the horizon. On the other end of the spectrum, peonies can signify shame.
Peonies are in season in late spring and can be found as single or double blooms on bushes.
These delicate, fluttery flowers look like miniature butterflies, and they come in a rainbow of colors. Sweet peas grow on fragile vines in the late spring and early summer. Some varieties climb walls or trellises, while others remain close to the ground, and most emit a mild fragrance. They're recommended for casual or country garden settings or in vases.
Sweet peas can communicate goodbye, departure or gratitude for a lovely time. Ultimately, they signify pleasure. So, it seems fitting the flower originated in Italy, a place perhaps best known for its celebration of pleasure in all forms, from food to the raw beauty of the country's landscape.
Don't let their size fool you! Although they're small, lemon blossoms radiate a bright, intense aroma.
History helps explain how this unassuming, white flower only the size of a thumbnail has come to take on special symbolic meaning. Lemon trees were imported to the Eastern Mediterranean before the rise of the Roman Empire. Because they simultaneously flowered and bore fruit, lemon trees came to signify both the Virgin Mary and the goddess Venus. Lemon blossoms and branches alike have been used in marriage ceremonies since then to represent chastity and love. Their hidden meaning is a promise to be true, or fidelity in love.
A traditional wedding flower, lily of the valley symbolizes happiness. These dainty, bell-shaped florets with their leafy shoots can communicate a range of messages and themes under the umbrella of happiness: sweetness, humility, tears of the Virgin Mary, and more specifically, "you've made my life complete."
Lily of the valley has a soft fragrance but isn't overpowering. This woodland plant grows wild in cool regions in the North Hemisphere. Find it in season during the spring and summer. It's a perennial -- grow it indoors or outside. Mix it with other flowers in an arrangement, or gather a bundle of lily of the valley for a bouquet.
It's hard to imagine ever tiring of any flower -- especially stock. These stiff, columnar flowers give off a sharp perfume that just may make you sigh with pleasure.
Delicious both to the eyes and nose, stock comes in shades of white, red or purple. This flower connotes lasting beauty. Give it to convey bonds of affection and promptness or to say "you'll always be beautiful to me." Stock grows approximately 12 to 30 inches tall and is often used as filler in informal arrangements to add structure and cohesion. Also, its rigid shape makes it a great candidate for lining in rows in a formal flower bed.
Almost everyone knows a red rose conveys feelings of romantic love. But other colors of roses express different points on the love spectrum. Dark crimson means mourning. Pink means perfect happiness. White says "I am worthy of you" and "you're heavenly," or it can symbolize innocence and purity. Yellow roses are pretty, but they don't carry a positive meaning. They illustrate jealousy or a decrease in love. Did you know a thornless rose indicates love at first sight while tea roses convey "you'll always remember"?
Clearly, not all roses are equal in tone or message. The next time you consider giving roses to someone, it may be worth first making sure the hidden meaning matches your intent … just in case your special someone "speaks" fluent floriography!
A new website is designed to bring farmers and heirloom seeds together. HowStuffWorks takes a look at why seed saving is more important than ever.
- About Flowers: Flower Meanings and Meanings of Flowers. (April 18, 2011).http://www.aboutflowers.com/flower-a-plant-information-and-photos/meanings-of-flowers.html
- AgriLIFE Extension at Texas A&M System, Aggie Horticulture: The Language of Flowers. (April 19, 2011).http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/publications/flowers/flowers.html
- American Daffodil Society. System of Daffodil Classifications. (April 19, 2011).http://www.daffodilusa.org/daffodils/classdefs.html
- Changing the Color of Hydrangeas. (April 18, 2011).http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/colorchange.html
- Easy to Grow Bulbs. Lily of the Valley Growing Information. (April 18, 2011).http://www.easytogrowbulbs.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&ID=73
- HowStuffWorks.com. Annual Stock Flower. (April 18, 2011).https://home.howstuffworks.com/annual-stock-flowers.htm
- Myth Encyclopedia. Flowers in Mythology. (April 18, 2011).http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Fi-Go/Flowers-in-Mythology.html
- Southern Living. A Brief History of the Gardenia. (April 18, 2011).http://www.southernliving.com/home-garden/gardens/southern-gardening-gardenia-history-00400000064968/
- Teleflora. The meaning and symbolism of hyacinth. (April 19, 2011).http://www.teleflora.com/about-flowers/hyacinth.asp
- The Knot Wedding Flowers: Symbolic Meanings. (April 19, 2011).http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-planning/wedding-flowers/articles/symbolic-wedding-flower-meanings.aspx
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Veterinary Medicine Library. Hydrangea. (April 18, 2011).http://www.library.illinois.edu/vex/toxic/hydrga/hydrga0.htm
- Victorian Bazaar. Language of Flowers. (April 18, 2011).http://www.victorianbazaar.com/meanings.html