The Hidden Meaning

of Flowers

There are few special occasions, milestones, or celebrations that aren’t highlighted with breathtaking bouquets of flowers. They adorn churches and banquet halls when two people marry. Lovers present them as tokens of their affection. Even our passage from this life to the next is honored by them.

But flowers aren’t just for occasions. We cultivate them in our gardens and on our windowsills, admire them growing in the wild, and use any excuse to display them on our dining room tables.
We surround ourselves with flowers. They add beauty to our lives and lift our spirits. But have you ever wondered if your favorite flowers have a hidden meaning or even why we choose the flowers we do for certain events? The significance of flowers has been cultivated in legends, literature, song, religion, and tradition. Let’s take a look at ten and discover what they mean:

Red Rose
The romantic red rose symbolizes deep emotions, whether that emotion is love, longing, passion, or desire. Hence the popularity of the red rose as the choice of flower to give on Valentine’s Day. The number of roses also has meaning. A dozen red roses has come to symbolize true love. Not only do red roses convey love, they can also illustrate heartfelt regret or sorrow. In Christianity, red roses can be a symbol of love or the blood of Christ.

The stately iris, the national flower of France, is rich in meaning, including faith, hope, wisdom, courage, and admiration. When presented as a gift, irises can convey deep sentiments. From the Greek word for rainbow, the iris dates back to ancient times when the Greek Goddess, Iris, personified the rainbow acting as the link between heaven and earth. As a girl’s name, Iris was most popular from the 1920s to the 1950s, but it has recently gained in popularity.

The lovely lily symbolizes purity and refined beauty and plays a significant role in Greek mythology. Its name comes from the Greek word leiron, which probably refers to the white Madonna lily. Because the lily was thought to sprout from the milk of Hera, the Greek queen of the gods, it was revered by the ancient civilization. Lilies are considered the May birth flower and the official flower of thirtieth wedding anniversaries. The Easter lily is the symbol of the Virgin Mary and a favorite in churches and homes during the Easter holiday.

The uplifting sunflower is symbolic of adoration, dedication, and dedicated love. In Greek mythology, the sunflower is the symbol of a water nymph called Clytie who becomes a sunflower while grieving over the loss of her love, Apollo. Because Apollo disappeared into the sun, Clytie, in the form of the sunflower, is always facing the orb awaiting his return. For the Chinese, the sunflower represents long life and good fortune. Due to its connection with long life, Chinese royalty once consumed it to insure immortality.

The demure tulip can be presented as a declaration of love, like the rose, and symbolizes fame as well as perfect love. Like a lot of other flowers, the significance of a tulip depends on its color. The red variety is most strongly associated with true love while the white variety signifies the worthiness of the receiver or forgiveness. Even though we associate tulips with the Netherlands, they originated in Persia and Turkey playing a significant role in their art and culture.

The intoxicating gardenia is a symbol of purity, sweetness, and refinement. In Victorian times, it was used to express secret love. A lovesick young man may have wanted the object of his affection to know she was admired, but, for various reasons, not who she was admired by. It this case, the young man would send her a gardenia leaving her guessing as to who her secret admirer was. Gardenias also convey joy and tell those who receive them that they are lovely.

The pretty daisy is symbolic of innocence, childhood, and purity. The term “fresh as a daisy” comes from the flower’s simple unadorned beauty. In Christianity, the daisy is a symbol of the Virgin Mary, referring to her chastity and grace. As well, it represents the Christ child. In Norse mythology, however, the daisy is a symbol of Freya, the love Goddess, denoting sensuality and fertility. As a girl’s name, Daisy means fresh, wholesome, and energetic and has returned to popularity in recent years. 

The frilly carnation symbolizes fascination, pride, beauty, and distinction. Like other flowers that come in a plethora of colors, its colors have different meanings. Dark red carnations express deep sentiments, yellow carnations symbolize disdain or disappointment, and white carnations signify purity and luck. Carnations have been revered for centuries dating back to Greek and Roman times. The first word in its scientific name, Dianthus caryophyllus, can mean either flower of love or flower of the gods. In Christianity, it is believed that the first carnation was created by Mary’s tears as she wept for Christ on the cross.

The exotic orchid symbolizes refinement, thoughtfulness, luxury, mystery, and femininity. It comes in every color of the rainbow, except true blue. Orchids are not only exotic in their appearance but also in their history. In ancient Greece, because they were associated with virility and male fertility, it was believed that if a woman ate the petals of the orchid she would bear a son. The Chinese use the orchid in traditional medicine, and the Aztecs believed it gave them strength.

The magnificent hydrangea symbolizes heartfelt emotions and can express gratitude. The flip side of the hydrangea’s symbolism is that it can represent heartlessness. In Japan, one of its emperors is said to have given hydrangeas to his maidens as an apology. For that reason, the flowers have become a symbol of apology in Japan. By contrast, Europeans see hydrangeas as symbolizing arrogance. In Medieval times, they became a symbol of frigidity. It was believe that maidens who grew them would end up as old maids. 


We don’t fall in love with flowers for their hidden meaning, and we probably think little of their symbolism when gifting or receiving them. But it is fun to learn the deeper cultural meaning concealed within our favorite blooms and discover their power over generations long past.