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Flower meanings: From Roses to Peonies, this is what different flowers mean

Flower meanings: From Roses to Peonies, this is what different flowers mean
(Image credit: ProFlowers)

Never heard of floriography, the study of flower meanings? Honestly, you’re not alone. The traditional and centuries-old language of flowers, and their true meanings, has fallen out of popularity since the Victorian era. However, it’s still a great and romantic way to communicate your feelings and pick the right bouquet to give your loved one this Valentine’s day (and avoid a potential social misstep). Plus, it’s a fascinating hobby if you dive deep enough into it. 

You may already know some Flower meanings. It’s universally known that giving someone a red rose conveys love, but did you know that hydrangeas represent gratitude, and hyacinth playfulness? 29% of people pick their bouquet based on its color, with red being the most popular color of flower year-round. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, floriography dictates that it’s not just down to the type of flower - different colors can denote very different meanings. 

The best flower delivery online services will give you a range of bouquet options this Valentine’s Day, so you can find the perfect way to convey your love with red roses or pink peonies. Just don’t send yellow carnations... those symbolise rejection. 

The language of love 

The most romantic flowers, and the ones you’ll find most commonly in Valentine’s Day bouquets, have their own specific meanings and messages. The lily represents beauty, which is apt given the elegance and unique flair it brings to a bouquet. 

Carnations offer a variety of messages. In white it means innocence, and red admiration. Pink carnations tell your loved one they’re unforgettable. A great addition to a big bouquet, the iris features in many Valentine’s Day arrangements. According to Bloom and Wild, it symbolises eloquence. Tulips are a brilliant, durable flower - perfect for bouquets which will last and not cost the earth. What’s more, they represent passion, and ‘perfect love’. Can’t say fairer than that.

An expensive option with incomparable style and elegance, the peony is a popular choice of flower for wedding bouquets. Perhaps that’s because they represent happy lives and happy marriages, but we’re not ruling out the possibility that it’s down to their decadence. 

Potted plants are less popular for Valentine’s Day gifts, but there’s plenty of online or in-store options to give your special someone a hyacinth. This communicates playfulness and in blue, its most common color, constancy. How appropriate, given the long life of potted plants.  

A rose by any other name… 

Roses are perhaps the most popular Valentine’s Day flower, but different color roses convey different emotions and meanings. The classic red rose means ‘I love you’ and a pink rose denotes happiness and romance, but not all the colors of rose have such lovely connotations. 

Dark crimson roses are typically indicative of mourning, perhaps more appropriate for funerals than Valentine’s Day, and yellow roses actually indicate jealousy. And black roses? They’re quite striking, but are not naturally occuring, so you’re unlikely to actually find them.

(Image credit: ProFlowers)

Yellow flowers: Know your tulips from your carnations  

Yellow flowers aren’t typically the most romantic you could send. Generally speaking, yellow flowers convey friendship and happiness, perfect if you’re looking to treat a friend or family member. This can vary depending on the type of flower you’re buying, though. Whilst yellow tulips reflect joy and sunshine, the yellow hyacinth represents jealousy and the yellow carnation communicates disappointment and rejection. Ouch. 

Of course, the king of all yellow flowers is the sunflower. These are great for putting a smile on someone’s face and letting them know they are adored.  

So, what bouquet should you send?  

Bouquets tend to mix different types, so how do they fit into overall flower meanings? Generally speaking, pink bouquets convey a playful and romantic meaning, perfect for early-stage relationships and new loves. The classic red, as implied by its comparative depth of color, communicates a more dedicated and intense love. Not one for a first date, or for families really.

However, whilst floriography is certainly fun to consider, it shouldn’t dictate your flower choice in its entirety. The most important thing to think about when picking a bouquet of flowers is whether or not the recipient will like them. You don’t need to be married to give someone peonies, and whether or not they are your ‘perfect love’, if they don’t like tulips this won’t be the best choice for them. 

And flowers may not be right at all. If you’re looking for a card instead, check out the best Valentine's Day cards DIY sites to add a special touch and show someone you care, or send them one of the best gift baskets instead.