Flower Meanings and Symbolism

Roses tend to be widely accepted as tokens of love, but have you ever wondered where flower meanings come from? While the use of flowers as a symbol dates back to before the nineteenth century, floriography did not become formalized until the nineteenth century. Dictionnaire du langue des fleurs, the first written list on the language of flowers, was published in 1809 by Joseph Hammer-Purgstall.

Though floriography gained popularity in Europe, it was influenced by Ottoman Empire who used flowers to communicate messages they couldn’t express verbally. In reality, Hammer-Purgstall was assisted by Greek and Armenian women in learning the language of flowers and translating traditional Turkish proverbs into French. When Louise Cortambert published Le langage des Fleurs, a dictionary on the language of flowers, in 1819, flower symbolism became even more elaborate.

Flower symbolism arose at this period because it was the height of the Romantic era when nature was regarded as beautiful and people were highly influenced by their emotions. Floriography allowed a physical exchange of these feelings.

Rose definitions cover more than just love and romance, did you know? Or that the daisy is a sign of purity and innocence? We’ll look at what some of the most common flowers represent, their history, and how they’ve been used in art and literature in this series.

Aster Meaning 

The aster flower has many meanings, but it is most frequently associated with love, wisdom, and faith.

  • The aster is a Victorian symbol of daintiness, patience, and charm.
  • The aster is the month of September’s official birth flower.
  • The odor released by asters when burned is said to ward off serpents.

Bird of Paradise Meaning

The definitions of the bird of paradise include happiness and paradise, as well as anticipation and excitement. The bird of paradise also has other meanings, such as 

  • Faithfulness, devotion, and thoughtfulness, making it an ideal romantic gift.
  • The bird of paradise grows wild in Hawaii and is an important part of the community. The name means “Little Globe” in Hawaiian and signifies magnificence.
  • The official flower for a ninth wedding anniversary is the bird of paradise.
  • Birds of paradise also reflect a positive outlook on life.

Calla Lily Meaning

Venus, the goddess of love, beauty, and desire, was envious of the lilies’ beauty. By putting a big yellow pistil in the center of the flowers, she cursed their beauty. Some people equate the calla lily with Venus, and thus with desire and sexuality, because of this legend. Calla lilies, on the other hand, are most often associated with purity, holiness, and faithfulness. It is often depicted in images of the Virgin Mary.

Chrysanthemum Meaning

Since the chrysanthemum blooms in the fall, it represents happiness and beauty amid the approaching winter. Chrysanthemums have a variety of meanings, both positive and negative, through different periods and cultures.

  • Chrysanthemums were used by Victorians to convey friendship and well-wishes.
  • Because of their strong Yang force, Buddhists use chrysanthemums as offerings.
  • The chrysanthemum is usually given to the elderly in China, as it signifies long life and good fortune in the household.
  • Because of their nickname “mums,” chrysanthemums are the official flower for Mother’s Day in Australia.
  • The chrysanthemum is almost exclusively used as a memorial flower in Belgium and Austria and is the flower of choice for putting on graves.

Daffodil Meaning

Wales’ National Flower is the daffodil. It blooms on St. David’s Day, which is a commemoration of Wales’ patron saint. The faithful rebloom of the daffodil has been linked to David’s faithfulness to his people.

In China, daffodils are also prized. About Chinese New Year, they bloom, symbolizing good luck, prosperity, and wealth. If the flowers bloom on New Year’s Day, it ensures you’ll have good fortune for the rest of the year.

On ten-year wedding anniversaries, daffodils are commonly provided as a symbol of joy, cheerfulness, and happiness. They are the American Cancer Society and the March birth flower, all of which represent hope for a cure.

Daisy Meaning

Daisy flowers are hybrid flowers, which means they are made up of two flowers fused into one. A disc floret is the inner petal section, and a ray floret is the outer petal section. Daisies represent true love because they are made up of two flowers that blend so well together.

Freesia Meaning

Friendship, trust, thoughtfulness, and innocence are all common Freesia flower meanings. They are a popular flower among different cultures and are a popular gift for friends and family.

  • The freesia is the supreme flower of trust, according to Victorian flower lore.
  • The freesia is the official flower for a couple’s seventh wedding anniversary in the United States.
  • Freesias represent the number nine in numerology, which represents selflessness and responsibility.
  • Freesias have been commonly used as wedding flowers since the 1950s because they symbolize the bride’s purity as well as the couple’s confidence.

Gladiolus Meaning 

Gladioli were once synonymous with gladiators in Rome. Gladiators are said to have worn gladiolus corms around their necks during fights to help them win and shield them from death, according to legend. Gladiolus flower sense is strength and integrity because of their association with gladiators. 

Infatuation is also represented by them. Because of the pointed form of the gladiolus, the giver is sending the message “you pierce my heart” to the recipient. Another sense of the gladiolus is remembrance.

Heather Flower Meaning

Heather flowers are also associated with good luck, admiration, and protection.

  • Because of her love of Scottish mythology and customs, Queen Victoria popularized the concept of heather as good luck in England. Heather may have been associated with good luck by Victorians due to its scarcity at the time, similar to how we equate four-leaf clovers with good luck.
  • Clan Ranald, a Scottish clan, claimed that wearing white heather in their bonnets gave them both luck and safety during battles in the sixteenth century.
  • A sprig of white heather is commonly used in a bride’s bouquet in Scotland for good luck.

Hydrangea Meaning

From sincere emotion to appreciation to boastfulness, the hydrangea has a broad variety of meanings. Each meaning is focused on a variety of cultural values and stories.

  • Hydrangeas are synonymous with an apology due to the Japanese legend.
  • Hydrangeas were thought to be a negative plant in Victorian times and were used to reflect boastfulness, bragging, or vanity.
  • Since they grow magnificent flowers but few seeds, hydrangeas have become synonymous with arrogance and vanity. People who turned down love interests were often given them as an indication that they were cold or frigid.

Iris Meaning

Iris is a flower that symbolizes knowledge, hope, trust, and valor. Its definitions have been modified to suit different cultures and it can be found in several temperate zones around the world.

  • Irises were introduced to Egypt from Syria in the 16th century BC, and stylized versions of these flowers started to adorn pharaohs’ scepters as symbols of victory and strength.
  • The fleur-de-lis, a decorative emblem used by French royalty, was inspired by the iris. It dates back to the Middle Ages. The fleur-de-lis became associated with the French monarchy during this period, appearing on their coats of arms, coins, and shields. The three petals are thought to reflect the three social classes: aristocracy, clergy, and peasants.

Lilac Meaning 

Throughout history, the meaning of the lilac flower has changed. Lilacs are a common part of Mediterranean culture, having originated in Southeastern Europe. They’re often associated with Easter, which falls at the height of their blooming season.

The meanings of lilacs vary across cultures and periods.

  • The lilac was considered to be “magical” by the Celts because of its intoxicating fragrance.
  • Giving a lilac during the Victorian era was supposed to be a reminder of an old love. During this time, widows were often seen wearing lilacs.
  • Holding a sprig of lilac over a newborn in Russia is said to bring wisdom.
  • The lilac is the official state flower of New Hampshire in the United States, and it symbolizes the people’s “hardy” nature.

Orchid Meaning 

Orchids are associated with fertility, virility, and sexuality due to their namesake. Because of these associations, as well as their exotic beauty, they have long been associated with love, fertility, and elegance across cultures and periods.

  • Paphiopedilum is a well-known orchid genus. The term “Paphos” is derived from the name of the temple where the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, was worshipped.
  • The tubers of the orchid were thought to enable parents to choose the sex of their child in Ancient Greece. The infant would be a male if the father ate thicker, fleshier tubers. The infant would be a girl if the mother consumed smaller, thinner tubes.
  • Vanilla, a form of orchid, was commonly mixed with chocolate by the Aztecs to make an elixir that gave them power and strength.
  • Orchids were exceedingly scarce and only present in the tropics during the Victorian era. As a result, Victorians regarded exotic orchids as a symbol of wealth and refined taste. The rarer the orchid you gave as a gift, the greater your love and passion for the recipient.
  • Orchids are known as symbols of honor, beauty, and friendship in China.

Peony Meaning

Since the peony has historical and mythological significance, it is associated with a variety of meanings and symbols. Romance, wealth, good fortune, a happy life, riches, honor, and compassion are all common peony meanings, but peonies may also mean bashfulness.

Rose Flower Meaning

Love and romance are the most common associations with roses.

  • Roses may also reflect confidentiality or secrecy. The word “sub rosa,” which means “behind the rose,” ancient times. Roses were hung from banquet hall walls, and it was known that anything said when under the influence of wine would be kept private.
  • Roses were also hanging from the ceilings of meeting rooms throughout the Middle Ages. Everyone under the roses was sworn to secrecy, it was known.
  • Roses appear on four tarot cards as well. The Fool, the Wizard, the Power card, and the Death card are the four cards in the deck. The white rose on the Fool reflects innocence and acts as a reminder to keep the mind clean. It reflects unfolding wisdom on the Magician card. The rose represents balance in the Strength card. It’s also a reminder of purity, clarity, and transparency of purpose on the Death card.

Stock Flower Meaning

Stock flower meanings include enduring beauty, a happy life, and a contented existence due to their long-lasting blooms and spicy clove-like fragrance. Gillyflowers are another name for stock flowers. The term “gillyflower” can be misleading, since it was applied to a wide variety of fragrant flowers from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, including carnations, wallflowers, stocks, and pinks.

Sunflower Meaning

The sunflower is most frequently associated with adoration and loyalty owing to the myth of Clytie and Apollo. Sunflower meanings, on the other hand, differ from culture to culture.

  • Sunflowers are associated with longevity, good fortune, and fertility in China.
  • Sunflowers symbolized harvest, bounty, and provision to Native American tribes because they supplied seeds, pigment, and more.

Tulips Meaning

  • Tulips are most often associated with ideal or intense love.
  • Tulips are a symbol of rebirth since they are one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring.
  • Tulips were also associated with the charity by Victorians.