The Symbolic Meaning of Flowers

Written by darlene zagata
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The Symbolic Meaning of Flowers
Bouquet of flowers (Jupiterimages/ Images)

People throughout various cultures and lands have been drawn to the beauty and fragrance of flowers. From ancient times until today, flowers have been used for adornment and to express intimate feelings. Flowers speak in ways that touch the human heart. In fact, flowers have a language of their own.

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Flowers have been of special interest even in ancient times. They were thought to have healing properties and could affect the emotions. Certain flowers, such as the lotus, were considered sacred. The violet was the sacred flower of the Greek god, Ares. Flowers featured prominently in myth and legend. It is believed that the Greeks were the first to develop the language of flowers, assigning special meanings to the various flowers. Flowers were even associated with certain people and events in Biblical times. The lily, which represents chastity, is associated with the virgin Mary, as is the rose.

The Symbolic Meaning of Flowers
Lotus flower (Jupiterimages/ Images)


Flowers are often associated with spring and rebirth. They represent renewal, youth and beauty. Flowers are also symbolic of the eternal cycle of life and death. Flowers are associated with numerous occasions and events. Flowers are given on birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. They are used to celebrate joyous occasions such as weddings and also to express sympathy during sad events such as funerals. The use of flowers in events such as these signify the symbolism of flowers in the cycle of life and death.

The Symbolic Meaning of Flowers
Wedding bouquet (Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)


The symbolism of flowers is often determined both by colour and type. When sending flowers based on symbolism, it is often easiest to choose them by colour, since the list of symbolic meanings for each different type of flower can be somewhat lengthy. Generally, white is symbolic of purity and innocence. Red represents passion and love. Pink also symbolises love as well as happiness, beauty and friendship. Yellow is associated with purity, truth and intellect whereas orange is symbolic of warmth, creativity and growth. Green also represents growth as well as hope, renewal and fertility. Blue is a symbol of peace, tranquillity and healing while purple represents devotion, faith, nobility and spirituality.

The Symbolic Meaning of Flowers
Different colours have different meanings. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)


Certain flowers, such as roses, are well known for their symbolic meaning. People often give roses to express feelings of love. Flowers that have well known symbolism are often used in gift giving, get well wishes and a variety of other situations. These flowers include roses, carnations, daisies, forget-me-nots, tulips, lilacs, lillies, marigolds, orchids, zinnias and sunflowers among others. The red rose is best known for representing love, while the other colours have various symbolic meanings. Like roses, the symbolism of tulips and carnations are most often determined by their colour.

The Symbolic Meaning of Flowers
Red roses (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)


Here is a listing of the most common symbolism associated with the most commonly used flowers:

Blue violet symbolises faithfulness Daisy symbolises beauty and innocence Apple blossom symbolises hope and good fortune Bluebell symbolises constancy Ivy symbolises eternal fidelity Mimosa symbolises secret love Magnolia symbolises perseverance Lily symbolises majesty Lily of the Valley symbolises the return of happiness Cala Lily symbolises splendid beauty Bellflower symbolises gratitude Forget-Me-Not symbolises true love and remembrance Marigold symbolises affection Orange blossom symbolises marriage Myrtle symbolises love and remembrance Baby's Breath symbolises innocence and a pure heart Gardenia symbolises loveliness and untold love Holly symbolises domestic happiness Orchid symbolised beauty Sunflower symbolises pure love Zinnia symbolises affection and remembrance Iris symbolises hope, faith, wisdom and friendship Lilac symbolises love particularly first love White lilac symbolises youthful innocence Orchid symbolises rare beauty Honeysuckle symbolises happiness Peony symbolises happy marriage and compassion

The Symbolic Meaning of Flowers
Orchids symbolise rare beauty (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)


Here are some meanings for certain flowers based on colour:

Red rose is a symbol of love and passion White rose is a symbol of purity and innocence Pink rose is a symbol of love and happiness Yellow rose is a symbol of infidelity Red tulip is a symbol of perfect love White tulip is a symbol of forgiveness Yellow tulip is a symbol of cheerful thoughts Purple tulip is a symbol of royalty Red carnation symbolises deep love and affection White carnation symbolises pure love and good fortune Pink carnation symbolises a mother's undying love Pink hyacinth symbolises playfulness Purple hyacinth symbolises sorrow Red hyacinth symbolises love and happiness White hyacinth symbolises loveliness and sorrow Yellow hyacinth symbolises jealousy

The Symbolic Meaning of Flowers
Yellow tulips symbolise cheerful thoughts. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)


People often choose flowers based on their appearance, while remaining oblivious to their symbolic meaning. While it is perfectly fine to pick flowers on their visual appeal and/or fragrant aroma it can be helpful to become familiar with their symbolic meaning so that the language of flowers can be considered when choosing particular flowers. Knowing the symbolic meaning of a loved one's favourite flower can make it even more special for both of you.

The Symbolic Meaning of Flowers
Know the meaning of the flowers you give. (Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

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