The Meaning of Flowers: “Say it With Flowers”

by / 3 Comments / 1274 View / February 14, 2008


Designer Shirley Bovshow reveals the "Secret Language of Flowers"

I was asked to speak about the Meaning of Flowers or "the language of flowers" on one of my NBC iVillage Live show appearances recently.

As I researched the subject, I was fascinated by the creativity and  depth of thought that went behind assigning a unique definition to each plant, but wondered how it fit into the context of our modern world.

Though the Victorians didn't originate the art of Floriography (the formal name of this practice), they were by far the culture whose communication between the sexes "bloomed" and benefitted the most with the help of this ancient secret romantic language.




Discretion was highly regarded making the language of flowers a fertile ground for lovers.

I can't even imagine what it was like when men and women needed flowers to speak for them!

In an age that esteems  transparency, is there anything that we can't say outright to the subject of our affection and passions?


Using floriography to get our romantic messages across today would seem like a taxing, time consuming chore to most people.

As a matter of fact, I've  noticed that any type of communication today seems to be abbreviated to save time.

Acronyms have taken over, especially in the internet world.

Something strike you as funny- "LOL," got an opinion you want to share- "IMHO."

Acronyms are the new written and verbal shorthand!


It doesn't stop there!


My bank is now called "Wa Mu," (Washington Mutual), I eat at "CPK" (California Pizza Kitchen") and I read lots of emails signed by "B" or "S" or whatever the first letter is in the writers name!

What's up?


Did someone forget to tell me that we have to conserve words as well as water?

Why are we in such a hurry that we can't enjoy the experience  of hearing or reading  complete words and sentences?



Sunflowers turn to face the sun throughout the day- that takes patience.


I digress.


I'm back to the subject of floriography and the "meaning of flowers."

Anybody reading this have time to check out some flower meanings?

If you're interested you must be a plant lover like me or have too much time on your hands- (LOL!)


Take a look the meaning of some popular flowers.




The Meaning of Flower Colors- (Roses and Carnations)


  • Red- passionate love,  (I love you)
  • Yellow- friendship-type of love, (send to new friend)
  • White- Spiritual love and purity (births, weddings, baptisms, religious ceremonies)
  • Dark Pink- says "Thank you"



  • Pink- represents a mother love or gratitude (send as thanks)

  • Red- admiration and deep love (romantic)
  • White- good luck, non-romantic love (also represents love for a Mother who has passed on- used on Mother's Day)
  • Yellow- disappointment, dejection (send to culprit)
  • Striped- regret or refusal (send when you can't make an event)


Flower Varieties by Occasion

  • Encouragement and Hope (new job, new home, or hard times)
  • Sunflowers- power, warmth, nourishment (send for new job/home)
  • Verbena- "pray for me," especially white
  • Cactus-endurance(send as an encouragement in hard times)
  • Aloe- grief- inside is full of water and healing balm-(mourning)


Celebrations-  (Rights of Passage)

  • White Daisy- innocence, purity (send for child's birth)
  • Ivy- fidelity- (weddings) "Have a long, unending marriage"
  • White-Spiritual love and purity (births, weddings, baptisms, religious ceremonies)


Romantic Messages

  • Gladiolas- love at first sight – "Give me a chance!"
  • Hibiscus- "Take advantage of this opportunity!" (flirting)
  • Scabiosa-  "Can't accept your love" also striped carnation
  • Dahlia-"I'm fickle or unstable"  (send to online suitor)


Friendship Messages

  • Zinnia- "Thinking of my faraway friends"  (send before reunions)
  • Rosemary- remembrance, commitment (send to husband/wife, buddies)
  • Gardenia- grace and hospitality (give to party host)
  • Tecomaria- generous and devoted affection


Warning Messages!

  • Oleander- "Beware"- proceed with caution- (warning to friends)
  • Begonia- "Beware" (send to friends embarking on risky endeavours)


You Made Me Angry Messages

  • Hydrangea- "You are heartless" or, "Thanks for understanding my mistake."
  • Marigold- Cruelty, grief, jealousy (send when you are angry)
  • Dead Flowers- (when there is no hope of reconciliation) also can send garlic and candytuft plants


 Sorry, My Bad Messages

  • Purple Hyacinth- "I'm sorry, please forgive me!"


*See more garden projects, "before and after" landscape photos and the latest in garden design with regular visits to Shirley Bovshow's EdenMaker's Blog!

3 Comment

  1. Hi Kate and Anna! Floriography certainly is an old practice and yes, confusing and contradictory according to different sources. I was just facinated by the fact that there was such an art of using flowers to send hidden messages. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. I really hadn’t thought about the meaning of flowers. I learned a lot from you today as usual. I did send Sunflowers to a friend while she was recouperating from an operation—I was wise and didn’t know it. I ran across a packet of sunflowers while cleaning this week—I’m so excited. They will be the first seeds I plant at my new house.
    Hugs to ya Shirley–you are the best!!!

  3. Last year I read several books on this subject and what struck me was how confusing some of them were. It would have been hard figuring out sometimes what someone was trying to say.

    Learning about how this practice was started was fascinating.

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