The Language of Flowers

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner


The Language of Flowers Centerpiece

Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or any other sentimental occasion, there is nothing like fresh flowers to show your feelings to those you love.

But in earlier centuries, the actual flowers you selected for your bouquets were very important. That’s because in the Language of Flowers, popular at the time, those blossoms carried powerful messages to the recipients. The messages could be nice or not very nice at all, depending on the flowers used. 

As someone who likes to study and collect historic gardening tidbits and old-fashioned folklore for my blog (, I’m charmed by this floral tradition with an interesting past. Above is just one of the many resources on this topic. The little book is by Margaret Pickston, and was published in 1968 by Michael Joseph Ltd in London.

The original Language of Flowers started back in the Turkish harems, where women used this secret language to communicate with men other than their sultans. In 1718, the English poet and society leader Lady Mary Wortley Montagu introduced the Turkish code to Europe. The code became known as the Language of Flowers and was popular with European ladies until the twentieth century, especially in the repressed Victorian era.

Today we don’t use this old way of communicating very often, but it’s still fun to look at some of the hundreds of meanings in the Language of Flowers. Before you throw together a bouquet for yourself or someone special, take a moment to think about what you’re conveying with those flowers. 


Red flowers


These red flowers may have the same color, but have different meanings:

  • Dahlia (bottom left) – instability
  • Gladiolus (top) – strength of character
  • Roses, red (bottom middle) – pure & lovely
  • Tulips, red (bottom right) – declaration of love


Yellow and white flowers


Or, consider these popular flowers and their meanings in theLanguage of Flowers:

  • Astromeria (middle) – friendship and devotion
  • Stock (left) – lasting beauty
  • Freesia (right) – innocence and friendship

This definitely sounds like the beginnings of a bouquet for a good friend, don’t you think?


Pruning flower stems


Regardless of the blossoms you select, snip off an inch or two from the stem before you put the flowers in a vase. Also remove any foliage that is hanging in the flower water.

Below are some of the hundreds of flower meanings in the Language of Flowers. Please note the meanings vary, depending on who you ask. So, don’t take it too seriously. Just have fun!

Flowers and Their Meanings:

  • Astromeria - Friendship and devotion
  • Amaryllis - Pride
  • Apple Blossom - Preference
  • Basil - Hatred
  • Borage - Bluntness
  • Butterfly Weed - Let me go
  • Campanula - Gratitude
  • Canterbury Bell - Acknowledgement
  • Carnation, Red - Alas for my poor heart
  • Carnation, Yellow - Disdain
  • Chrysanthemum, Red - I love
  • Chrysanthemum, Yellow - Slighted love
  • Coreopsis - Always cheerful
  • Dahlia - Instability
  • Daisy, White - Innocence
  • Dogwood - Durability
  • Forget-Me-Not - True love
  • Freesia - Innocence and friendship
  • Gladiolus - Strength of character
  • Goldenrod - Encouragement
  • Heliotrope - Devotion
  • Hemlock - You will be my death
  • Ivy - Fidelity, marriage
  • Lavender - Dishonest
  • Marigold - Grief, despair
  • Rose, red - Pure and lovely
  • Rose, yellow - Decrease of love, jealousy
  • Rose, white - Girlhood and naïve about love
  • Stock - Lasting beauty
  • Tulip, red - Declaration of love
  • Tulip, variegated - Beautiful eyes
  • Violet, blue - Faithfulness
  • Witch Hazel - A spell
  • Zinnia - Thoughts of absent friends