History of Flower Meanings
If you asked anyone right now what roses symbolize, it seems like common knowledge that the answer is love. However, have you ever wondered how roses came to symbolize love or why do people place meanings on flowers in the first place?
Floriography (the language of flowers), has been practiced for centuries throughout various cultures across Europe, Asia and Africa. Many sources say it first popularised in Turkey and then soared during the Victorian Era (1837-1901). During this era of restricted conversations, flowers and plants were used to convey secret messages. Doesn’t this cryptological way of communication feel somewhat romantic?
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A Victorian floriography dictionary. Image from A Digital Botanic Garden
As the list of meanings became more extensive, floriography dictionaries were also published to become guides for people to refer to. Oftentimes, the definitions are derived from the appearance or behaviours of the flowers themselves. A great example would be the mimosa plant - a plant sensitive to touch or surrounding movements, which symbolizes chastity. Let’s decipher the secret messages of some of The Floral Atelier’s flowers!
Starting off with the most famous flower of all, the rose symbolises many things and often by colours. However, any rose would be commonly associated with love, faithfulness, timelessness, beauty, devotion and passion among other meanings.
Special occasions to gift Roses:
- Romantic occasions such as Valentine’s, Birthdays and Anniversaries
Truthfully, every occasion is suitable for gifting roses. Just be cautious with sending red roses to avoid unnecessary awkwardness with your recipient!
Roses come in a multitude of different colours, but one colour that roses do not naturally grow in, is black. Even the darkest of roses called “The Black Rose of Turkey” is simply a very dark shade of crimson.
Hydrangeas represent a variety of meanings - Heartfelt and honest emotions, gratitude and thanksgiving, grace and beauty, and abundance and prosperity.
- Special occasions to gift Hydrangeas:
- Unifying ceremonies such as weddings, engagements and anniversaries
- Forgiveness and Reconciliation
Different PH values of the soil will produce different coloured hydrangeas. Grounds with different PH levels can also produce multi-coloured hydrangeas within the same stem.
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General meanings of carnations include love, fascination and distinction. Carnations are also commonly associated with a Mother’s Love, making them the popular go-to flowers during Mother’s Day.
Special occasions to gift Carnations:
- Mother’s Day
- Graduation and other celebrations related to academic achievements
During the Victorian era, carnations were used as a secret reply for a suitor or admirer. A solid coloured carnation meant “Yes”, a striped carnation meant “I’m sorry, but I can’t be with you” while a yellow carnation meant “No.”
While Tulips are not the fanciest of flowers, the simplicity and grace of the flower has given it symbolisms associated with enduring love (between partners or family), passionate love, royalty, charity, abundance, prosperity and indulgence,
Special occasions to gift Tulips:
- Anniversaries and celebrations of loved ones
- Cherished friends and colleagues
Tulips were so popular and highly-prized in the Netherlands that it sent the markets soaring and then crashing dramatically during the 17th century. This phenomenon was known as the “Tulip Mania”.
An iconic flower with major cultural significance in some countries, Peonies represent honour, wealth and riches, romance, beauty and bashfulness.
Special occasions to gift Peonies:
- Romantic pink peonies are ideal for weddings
- Red peonies on the other hand are symbolic of wealth and honour, making them suitable for congratulatory and celebratory occasions
Red Peonies are the prized national flower of China and dubbed as the “King of Flowers” in Japanese culture.
Representing radiant charm and attractiveness, Ranunculus are flowers typically associated with Spring.
Special occasions to gift Ranunculus:
- Pursuing an attractive and charming person
- Congratulatory and celebratory events
The name Ranunculus came from the combination of two Latin words - rana which means frog and unculus which means little. It is believed that it was named so because it grew naturally along streams with little frogs during spring.
Phalaenopsis are a breed of orchids that are relatively easy to grow and are therefore popular houseplants. They symbolize fertility, beauty, refinement, thoughtfulness and charm.
Special occasions to gift Phalaenopsis:
- Mothers and newly weds
Orchids are known to be allergen-free, making them a suitable flower to give to friends and family that may love flowers but are allergic to them.
A commonly found but eye-catching flower that is able to stand out even amongst other exotic flowers, the Eustoma is often associated with happiness, appreciation, contentment and peace, long and happy life, sweetness and kindness.
Special occasions to gift Eustomas:
- Joyous occasions and celebrations
- Gifting someone who just landed a promotion or new job
An identity crisis! Eustomas are often mistaken as roses, tulips or peonies. You may distinguish Eustomas from these flowers through their multiple blooms per stem.
An iconic flower named after its physical similarity to the Sun, a sunflower harbours meanings of adoration, admiration, positivity, strength, vibrancy and happiness.
Special occasions to gift Sunflowers:
- If someone needs some cheering up
- Patients who could use some encouragement
Sunflowers are multi-purpose flowers, their seeds can be used as healthy snacks, produce oil, feed birds, absorb toxins and even made into sunflower seed butter that has more minerals and less saturated fats than peanut butter. Delicious and pretty!
Calla Lilies represent magnificent and overwhelming beauty, resurrection and rebirth, faith and purity.
Special occasions to gift Calla Lilies:
- Welcoming the birth of a baby
- Celebrating successes at work
Calla Lilies are highly poisonous cats and dogs. Pet owners should be careful not to leave these flowers accessible to your pets at home!
You may have noticed that we left out roses from our list and you are right! Roses come in many different colours and species, and each colour and species have different symbolisms, hence they deserve an entire post on their own. If you are interested to find the different meanings behind the myriad of roses, click here to read about it!
While this list is not exhaustive, it is also important to note that the meanings of flowers differ across geographies and histories. Choose your flowers according to what you choose to believe in and what your recipient likes. Who says you have to buy flowers because of its meaning? You don’t need a reason to buy beautiful flowers as long as they make you happy.
Which ones were your favourite?
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