The Language of Flowers: Find Flowers by Meaning

Understanding the language of flowers will help you to find the right flower for any occasion, person or holiday! Flowers have been given as gifts for special occasions throughout history.

The language of flowers assigns symbolic meaning to a wide variety of flowers. This practice began as early as recorded history. Some form of a flower language is present in nearly all cultures.  

Flowers accompany us in every major event in life: birth, holidays, graduations, marriage, illness, and death. The language of flowers continues to inspire gift givers and decorators today.

Find the meanings of over 100 favorite flowers categorized by topic below.

Sunflower Photo Credit Kathleen Karlsen

Related Resources

The information in this article has been excerpted from the book Flower Symbols: The Language of Love by Kathleen Karlsen.

Flower Symbols includes ancient and modern flower meanings. Learn more or purchase Flower Symbols.

The Victorian Language of Flowers

The use of flowers to represent emotions was developed to a high degree during Victorian times. Due to the strict protocol of that era, emotions were not openly expressed between men and women. Instead, an elaborate language based on flower symbolism was developed. Gifts of single flowers or bouquets conveyed clear messages to the recipient.

The beauty of flowers also inspired the tradition of naming girls after flowers. Popular girls’ names related to flower meanings include Rose, Daisy, Lily, Holly, Violet, Heather, Fern, Jasmine, Myrtle, and Lavender.

During the Victorian era, flowers adorned nearly everything. This included hair, clothing, jewelry, home decor, china plates, stationary, wallpaper, furniture and more. Flower meanings were even associated with scents. For example, a scented handkerchief might be given in place of actual flowers. Gifts of either single flowers or bouquets conveyed clear messages through flower meanings to the recipient.

Victorian Language of Flowers

Daisy Photo Credit Kathleen Karlsen

Resources for the Language of Flowers

With the increasing complexity of flower symbolism, handbooks were written to guide the understanding of the symbolic meaning of flowers.

The first book written on flower meanings in modern times was Le Language des Fleurs by Madame Charlotte de la Tour in 1819.

The most popular book on flower meanings, which remains a prominent resource today, is Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers (1884).

Since antiquity, flower meanings have been a significant part of cultures around the world. Flowers have been grown in decorative gardens and used as adornment for centuries on virtually every continent on earth. The remains of flowers have been found in ancient burial sites as well as the essential oils of flowers.

 Language of Flowers in Ancient Religions

Flower meanings and symbolism began with ancient religions. Many flowers were originally linked to deities including Venus, Diana, Jupiter and Apollo. During the Renaissance, nature was viewed as a reflection of the divine.

Flowers are used today to convey feelings in a more general way than in Victorian times. Many florists provide information on flower meanings. This helps to encourage the practice of helping modern gift-givers to “say it with flowers.” The symbolic meanings of many flowers has been obscured by time. The meanings may remain only as a few key phrases or words. 

Guide to the Language of Flowers

This list below includes flowers arranged by category. Since many flowers have multiple meanings, some flowers appear in more than one category. Categories below include beauty, hope, faith, freedom, friendship, good fortune, happiness,  humility, immortality, love and prosperity. Click on linked flower names for more information. 

Flowers Meaning Beauty

The inherent beauty of flowers themselves has made them symbols of beauty the world around. Some of these flowers grow in many climates while others grow only in a few temperature zones. As a result, there are a number of flowers meaning beauty. This allows each nation, people and climate to claim a flower meaning beauty for their own! In the language of flowers, the following flowers specifically mean beauty:

Acacia Flower Alyssum Amaryllis
Anemone Apple Blossoms Calla Lily
Cowslip Daisy Gladiola
Hibiscus  Honeysuckle Lilac
Myrtle Orchid Rose

Flowers Meaning Hope

Flowers have long been used to encourage the ill and give hope to the grieving. Flowers bring a spot of cheer to a gloomy day. The appearance of flowers in the spring is a universal sign of hope. Particular flowers also carry the meaning of hope the whole year through! Flowers that mean cheerfulness and hope in the language of flowers include :

Almond Anemone Chrysanthemum
Coreopsis Crocus Daffodil
Rose of Sharon Snowdrop  

Find full article on Daffodil Meaning.

Flowers Meaning Faith

Flowers have often been used as a symbol of true love and faithfulness. The following are flowers that mean faith and fidelity in the language of flowers:

Calla Lily Compass Flower Daisy
Dandelion Iris Lemon Blossoms
Passion Flower Veronica Violet

Find full articles on Calla Lilly Meaning,
Daisy Meaning, and Iris Meaning.

Flowers Meaning Freedom

Flowers have been used as symbols of political and personal freedom for centuries. In modern times, the tulip has been associated with freedom. After WWII, Holland shipped thousands of bulbs to Canada. This was thanks for their help in freeing Holland from occupation. Flowers can be used to represent concepts and abstract ideas. These concepts may be difficult to out picture in the physical realm. Those dedicated to religions or political persuasions use flowers to convey their ideals. The flowers below are particularly associated with freedom and truth in the language of flowers:

Bird of Paradise Chrysanthemum (White) Iris              
Tulips Water Lilly  

Bird of Paradise Flower Meaning Hope in the Language of Flowers

Bird of Paradise: Flowers Meaning Freedom

Find full articles on Iris Meaning and  Tulip Meaning.

Flowers Meaning Friendship

Flowers express the essence of friendship. Various flowers express all of the subtle differences in affection, love and true caring between old and new friends. Flowers that mean friendship in the language of flowers include:

Acacia Flower Arbor Vitae Chrysanthemum
Geranium Honeysuckle Iris
Periwinkle Snowdrop Roses (Yellow)

Find full articles on Iris Meaning and Rose Meaning.

Chrysanthemum Flower Meaning Friendship in the Language of Flowers

Chrysanthemum: Flowers Meaning Friendship

Flowers Meaning Good Fortune

Flowers meaning good fortune exist in many cultures around the world. They are often associated with marriage and best wishes for the happy couple. See the list below for flowers particularly associated with good luck in the language of flowers:

Bells of Ireland Clover Heather
Lavender Orange Blossom Shamrock

Orange Blossom Flower Meaning Good Fortune in the Language of Flowers

Orange Blossoms: Flowers Meaning Good Fortune

Flowers Meaning Happiness

Flowers are often associated with happy times—births, weddings, graduations. Below are flowers specifically meaning happiness in the language of flowers:

Apple Blossoms Carnation Chrysanthemum
Corchorus Coreopsis Crocus
Dandelion Gardenia Holly
Hyacinth Lily of the Valley Marigold
Rose Stephanotis Violet

Find full articles on Rose Meaning and  Marigold Meaning.

Violet Flower Meaning Happiness in the Language of Flowers

Violets: Flowers Meaning Happiness

Flowers Meaning Humility

Some flowers grow close to the ground. They are easily trampled by the insensitive or unknowing. This inherently makes them a symbol of humility. In addition, other flowers have been associated with the quality of humility in the language of flowers. The beauty, gentleness and vulnerability of flowers make them an ideal symbol of humility.

Alyssum Baby’s Breath Bluebells
Buttercup Chrysanthemum Poppy

Find full article on Bluebell Meaning and Poppy Meaning.

Flowers Meaning Immortality

Some flowers that bloom perennially or in spite of hard circumstances. These flowers are natural candidates for meanings related to immortality and youth. Other flowers bloom over the course of a long season. Some open and close with the cycles of each day. These are also symbols of immortality and youth in the language of flowers:

Apple Blossom Bamboo Foxglove
 Globe Amaranth  Lilac Primrose

Find a full article on Foxglove Meaning.

Lilac Flower Meaning Immortality in the Language of Flowers

Lilacs: Flowers Meaning Immortality

Flowers Meaning Love

Flowers are the ultimate symbol of love. Single flowers and bouquets have been given by lovers to woo their sweethearts for all of recorded history. By association these flowers can sometimes be a symbol of ardor and romantic passion as well. According to the highly developed tradition known as the language of flowers, each flower has a special meaning. They can convey a myriad of emotions in a discreet way. The most cherished, however, are the flowers that say “I love you.” Some are well known. Others may surprise you.

Aster Azalea Bachelor Button
Cactus Campion Carnation
Cherry Blossom Chrysanthemum Cinquefoil
Coxcomb Daffodil Daisy
Dandelion Everlastings Fern
Forget-Me-Not Fuschia Gardenia
Gladiola Globe Amaranth  Gloxinia
Honeysuckle Impatiens Iris
Lilac Lotus Myrtle
Orange Blossom Orchid Passion Flower
Roses (Red) Tulip Violet

Flowers Meaning Prosperity

An abundance of flowers in the home is sure to uplift the spirits and fortunes of all inhabitants! Some flowers are associated with prosperity simply because they grow aggressively. This multiplies their numbers quickly. Others are associated with wealth due to their color (yellow representing gold and wealth). See the flowers below associated with prosperity in the language of flowers.

Bamboo Buttercup Cattail
Chrysanthemum Daffodil Lunaria
Poppy Peony  

Find full articles on Daffodil Meaning and Poppy Meaning.

Buttercup Meaning Prosperity in the Language of Flowers

Buttercups: Flowers Meaning Prosperity

Kathleen Karlsen Book Author

Kathleen Karlsen

Author of Flower Symbols and Vocal Medicine

The information in this article has been excerpted from the book Flower Symbols: The Language of Love by Kathleen Karlsen. This book includes ancient and modern flower meanings and folklore about the world’s most beloved flowers. Buy one for a flower lover in your life. Learn to “say it with flowers” for any occasion! 

See Floral Art & Gifts

  • Over 100 of the world’s most beloved flowers
  • Information about traditional uses of flowers
  • Famous quotes about flowers
  • Selected flower-related poetry
  • Flower remedies and essential oils for healing 
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Selected Floral Art & Gifts

Brighten up any space with gifts and decor featuring beautiful flowers! Find posters, canvas prints, coffee mugs and more. All products made in the United States. 

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