A Quick Guide To Flowers And Their Meanings

Not sure which bouquet to buy? A quick guide to flowers and their meanings


Wooing a crush? Meeting the parents? Saying you’re sorry? Confessing your undying love? There’s a flower for that.


In the Victorian Era, “floriography” became a way to communicate ideas and messages that were otherwise unacceptable to speak aloud. Even the way the ribbon was tied around them, or the hand they were delivered with, meant something. (Subsequently, many flowers we now associate with positive meanings also have alternate negative ones dating back to this time period. To add to the confusion, if flowers were given upside-down, their intended meaning was the opposite of their typical ones.)


Today, most flowers have positive and romantic associations. And because we don’t carry flower dictionaries with us anymore, very few flower-receivers will know if you’re accidentally declaring war with them.


That said, here’s a quick guide to flowers and their meanings so you can navigate the overwhelming florist shop with confidence.


Top tip: If she says daisies are her favourite, buy her daisies. Personal preference trumps everything else.


Say it with flowers:


“I love you.”


Red roses are the go-to “love” flowers — florists sell out of these marked-up blooms on Valentine’s Day — whereas white roses represent innocence and worthiness, and pink ones represent happiness.


Red tulips are also considered a declaration of love. Gardenias often mean “secret love.” And light purple lilacs can symbolize a first love.


“Please forgive me.”


Need to apologize? The purple hyacinth represents regret and asking for forgiveness.


Origin story: According to Greek mythology, Hyacinth died in a tragic accident at the hands of her lover, Apollo.


“Don’t forget me.”


About to enter into a long-distance relationship? Forget-me-nots are an obvious choice if you’re saying farewell to a loved one. Bold zinnias are also a reminder to not forget absent friends or to say “I mourn your absence.”


Pink carnations also mean “I will never forget you,” although some people have strong aversions to these frilly flowers and associate them with cheapness. Carrie Bradshaw wasn’t a fan. Unless you know your date loves them, buy at your own risk.


“You dazzle me” or “You’re beautiful.”


Get beautiful flowers for your beautiful date. The stunning ranunculus will tell her she’s dazzling, and the calla lily represents “magnificent beauty.”


“I’m a little shy.”


Confess your affection with a stunning bouquet of peonies. They represent bashfulness.


Fun fact: In the aforementioned Victorian era, these delicate flowers meant anger. Passive-aggressive flower-buying was a real art.


“To new beginnings.”


Those springtime daffodils represent new beginnings. If there’s a new job, house, baby or milestone to celebrate, do so with a bouquet of these cheerful flowers. (Daffodils can also represent domestic happiness, making them an especially appropriate housewarming or new-baby gift.)


And if you’re celebrating someone’s ambition, there’s a flower for that, too: the hollyhock.


“Hope” or “Innocence.”


Nothing conjures childlike innocence like the daisy. (White roses wouldn’t hurt, either.)


“You’re my forever.”


Wanna make it official (and forever)? The stephanotis means marital happiness. Both violets and lavender indicate devotion. The heliotrope represents eternal love. The honeysuckle represents “the bonds of love.” And the camellia means “my destiny is in your hands.”


“I respect and admire you.”


Not sure what to bring to her parents’ house? The purple iris might be a good option: it represents wisdom and respect. Or bring cheerful sunflowers signifying admiration, platonic love, good luck, and wishing the receiver a long life.




Tell her you’re in her corner with begonias or black-eyed Susans. (Begonias, while often representing justice and peace, can also serve as a warning about impending danger. Flower language is complicated.)


“Happy birthday.”


The most obvious birthday bouquet is one of her favourite flowers. Regardless of the flowers’ meaning, if she loves them, they’re the right ones.


That said, if you’re unsure, why not bring her the flowers associated with her birth month? The U.S. and U.K. use different flowers for each month, so we’re including both in the list below. Pick the flower best available (and best suited to your love).


A quick birthday guide:


January: carnation or snowdrop

February: violet or iris or primrose

March: daffodil

April: sweet pea or daisy

May: lily of the valley or hawthorn

June: rose or honeysuckle

July: larkspur or water lily

August: gladiolus or poppy

September: aster or myosotis or morning glory

October: marigold or calendula

November: chrysanthemum or peony

December: holly or narcissus or poinsettia


Use with caution:


Unless you know your loved one is crazy about one of these, it’s probably best to pick something else.


Cyclamen: resignation or “goodbye.”

Anemone: “forsaken.”

Yellow carnations: disdain or rejection.

Rhododendron: caution or beware.

Tansy: “I declare war against you.”


And to many, the chrysanthemum is exclusively a memorial flower. Avoid the unintentional funeral bouquet.


What’s your go-to purchase at the florist’s?