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Understanding Floriography: The Lost Language of Flowers

Flowers can say so much. Clutched in shaking-nervous hands, presented with a shy smile, they can say ‘I like you’ or even ‘I love you.’ An old friend coming to your door, their silhouette complete with bouquet shadowed at the window, can spell ‘sorry’ before you’ve even let them in. Enter a home and see that every single vase has been put to good use – to the extent that the water glasses are now housing clusters of daisies – can tell you that those who reside there have either received some wonderful news… or some tragic news.

We send flowers in joy, in sorrow, in love, in hope and just on those days when we think of someone, and want them to know that we care. But it’s not just the gifting of flowers that sends a message but the choice of the flower itself. Flowers have long held symbolism: mythologies, folklore, sonnets, and plays of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Chinese are peppered with flower and plant symbolism William Shakespeare used flowers as clever props in his plays, the ancient Greeks had a floral mythology, medieval healers saw magical qualities in flowers, and Henry VII’s Tudor rose emblem cleverly symbolised a united England by combining the white and red roses of the warring York and Lancaster houses.

But it was during Victorian times that this symbolism was taken to a whole new level – and an entire language was created around flowers. Known as Floriography, or the Victorian language of flowers it was a means to get past the strict, stuffy etiquette rules of the time Victorians began to convey what they really meant through bouquets. The flowers themselves held meaning, as did how they were gifted… and any playful, debaucherous behaviour remain hidden, spoken only through blooms. Everything from the flower itself to how you gifted it meant something. Yes and no questions could be answered simply, ‘yes’ was handing over the flowers with the right hand and no was the left… Perhaps the very first known instance of swiping left and right! 

How flowers were presented and in what condition was also important. If the flowers were given upside down, then the idea being conveyed was the opposite of what was traditionally meant. How the ribbon was tied said something, too: tied to the left, the flowers’ symbolism applied to the giver, whereas tied to the right, the sentiment applied to the recipient. So, imagine gifting say, a white catchfly – which symbolises betrayal. A ribbon tied to the left is admitting that you know they’ve cheated or betrayed you, but to the right… you’re admitting your own guilt. And, of course, a wilted bouquet delivered an obvious message…

Today, the language has mostly been lost but we love the idea of adding an extra layer to a bouquet with additional meaning. And luckily in 1884 Kate Greenaway published the Language of Flowers with a definition for each flower. You could create little posies out of your Freddie’s Flowers box, or learn to press flowers [LINK] and create gift cards with sentimental, historic value. You could even use flowers to express anger at your enemy! We wouldn’t advise it… but there really is a flower for every sentiment. Read on to find out what each stem really means…

Achilla – Cure for a broken heart

Alstroemeria You are beloved

Agapanthus Love

Amaryllis Strength and determination

Aster – Daintiness, patience & calm

AlliumUnity and good patience, humility

Birch twig Gentleness, elegance

Brassica – Profit


Bells of Ireland – Good Luck

Broom – Neatness, humility

Calla LilyMagnificent beauty 

Carnation (red) My heart breaks

Carnation (pink)I will never forget you

Carnation (striped)I cannot be with you

Carnation (white) Sweet and lovely

Carnation (yellow) Disdain


Carthamus Attractiveness to others

Campunula Gratitude

Clematis (white)Mental beauty

Crocosmia Confidence

CraspediaGood health

Celosia Affectation,  Foppery

ChrysanthemumTruth / You’re a wonderful friend

Chrysanthemum (pink) Cheerfulness in adversity 

Chrysanthemum (red)I Love 

Chrysanthemum (white)Truth 

Chrysanthemum (yellow) Slighted Love 

Daffodil New beginnings

Dianthus Wicky GreenMake haste

Delphinium Levity




Eryngium Independence & attraction

Forsythia Ancipatation, Good nature

Freesia Lasting friendship, Innocence

Germini Cheerfulness


Gladioli/Glamini You pierce my heart

Greenbell Stability

Hypericum Superstition 

Iris Message / wisedom

Ilex Foresight

Kangaroo PawUniqueness

Larkspur (blue & white)Lightness, Laughter

Larkspur (Pink) Fickleness

Laurel Glory & success

Liatris I will try again

LimoniumI miss you (same as statice)


Lily (orange) – Wealth

Lily (white) – Purity, sweetness

Lily (yellow) – Gaiety, Walking on air

Lisianthus Appreciation

Leucadendron – Courage


NarcissusSelf love

Nerine (pink) Silence

Ornithogalum (Star of Bethlehem) – Purity

Peony Happy Marriage / Prosperity / Bashfulness

Prunus (cherry) Education 


Phlox Our soles are united / Agreement

Pittosporum – Not in the VLF

Pussywillow Motherhood

Physalis – Protection, Courage


Rose BurgundyUnconscious beauty

Rose OrangeFascination

Rose Pale peachModesty

Rose (pink) Grace

Rose (purple) Enchantment

Rose (yellow) Infidelity

Rose (Red) Love

Rose (White)Heart unaquainted with love

Rosehip Waiting for your one true love

Ruscus Thoughtfulness, humility

Santini – Kindness


Solidago Careful encouragement / Sucess


SnowberryInnocence & Purity

Sunflower False riches / pride

Statice I miss you / remembrance

StocksLasting beauty

Sweet williamGallantry / Grant me one smile

Tulip- Love and Passion

Tulip (Red) Declaration of love

Tulip (White) I am worthy of you

Tulip (Variegated) Beautiful eyes

Tulip (Yellow) There’s sunshine in your smile

Tanacetum I declare war against you

TracheliumUnnoticed or neglected beauty

Viburnum – Bound

Waxflower SusceptibilityWheat – Prosperity

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