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How to Arrange Flowers

The Significance of Flowers

Roses can have different meanings.

Flowers can say love, console in sorrow, congratulate in achievement, and celebrate friendship. Flower messages have varied tremendously through the ages. The same flower has meant different things at different times and in different places.

The Chinese and Japanese have a long established language of flowers. Flowers helped the people of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome express their feelings. In the West, Charles XII introduced the language of flowers when he returned from exile in Turkey in 1714.


The use of flower talk was promoted by Lady Mary Worley Montague whose husband was appointed Ambassador to Constantinople in 1710. (This is the same Lady Mary who was responsible for introducing the smallpox vaccination.)

By 1884, when Kate Greenaway illustrated a language of flowers for children, so many different dictionaries were in print that it was almost necessary to send one along with the nosegay or tussy-mussy to make sure the message was clear.

Even today, it is safer to send along your own written translation when sending a floral message to avoid misunderstandings. The following dictionary is compiled from a selection of ancient and modern sources.

Flower Dictionary


ALLIUM: Strength and courage (garlic is even stronger)

ANTHURIUM: Let's be sweethearts

ASTER: Elegance and daintiness; jealousy; I will consider your offer

BABY'S BREATH: Innocence; a delicate touch

BACHELOR BUTTON: Hope in love; celibacy

BANKSIA: Down under; absence makes the heart grow fonder

BELLS OF IRELAND: Improve with age; send money (shell out the green)

BIRD OF PARADISE: Magnificence; regal splendor; good fortune

CALLA LILY: Magnificent beauty

CARNATION: Red -- admiration; alas for my poor heart. White -- good luck; pure and ardent love. Yellow -- rejection and disdain. Striped --refusal. Pink -- mother's love

DAISY: Innocence; gentleness; purity in thought; loyal love; I partake your sentiments

DELPHINIUM: Fun; I had a good time; big-hearted

EREMURUS: Fortitude in adversity; endurance; constancy

EUPHORBIA: Strength of character; persistence

FEVERFEW: Innocence; speedy recovery

FREESIA: Elegance; I appreciate your thoughtfulness

GARDENIA: I love you in secret; good luck

GINGER: Strength and vigor

GLADIOLUS: You pierce my heart; admiration; consolation in sorrow

IRIS: Message and promise; faith and hope; wisdom and power; my compliments; good luck

IXIA: Bright and cheerful; you have beautiful eyes

LILY OF THE VALLEY: Return of happiness; purity and humility; let's make up

MUMS: Cheerfulness and optimism; long life and happiness; scholarship; rest and ease. Red -- I love you. White -- it's the truth

ORCHIDS: Magnificent; you are beautiful; I await your favors; fecundity; long life; good luck

PEONY: Good health; gay life and prosperity; love and friendship; happy marriage; bashfulness; power

ROSE: Love; silence (in ancient times, anything said under a rose -- sub rosa -- was to be kept secret); dinner time. Red -- love and desire; good luck; may you be pleased. Pink -- unconscious beauty. Yellow -- jealousy. White -- happy love; secrecy and silence; good luck

SNAPDRAGON: Desperation

STATICE: Constancy; always yours; social prominence; success

STEPHANOTIS: Fit for a crown; something special

STOCK: Bonds of affection

SWEET PEA: Departure; goodbye

SWEET WILLIAM: Gallantry; fineness and perfection; a smile

YARROW: Time will ease your sorrow

Foliage Dictionary


BROOM: Ardor; humility

CAMELLIA: I shall love you always; good luck; unpretending excellence

CROTON: Congratulations

HUCKLEBERRY: Simple pleasures; come to dinner


LYCOPODIUM: Long life; eternal youth; good luck

MYRTLE: Love; mirth; joy; happy marriage

PITTOSPORUM: Generosity; happiness and prosperity

PODOCARPUS: Constancy; sorrow

SALAL: Zest; discretion; married love

TI: Bundle; gift

Inspired by cut flowers? To learn more about gardening, see: