Say It With Flowers: The Hidden Language Of Floriography

The Victorians were a sentimental bunch. Inspired, no doubt, by their Queen, who remained passionately in love with her husband, Prince Albert, until the day he died. Evidence of the era’s fondness for expressing their feelings is no more apparent than in the language they devised around flowers and their meanings. Ladies receiving bouquets from gentlemen friends would pore over the different flowers, translating their different messages to work out their suitor’s intentions.

While the language has, by and large, fallen out of use today, there is still something very charming about assigning emotions to different flowers. Here are just a few examples to help provide partners and would-be lovers some floral inspiration.

Acacia Blossom
This sweet-smelling bloom symbolises concealed love, beauty in retirement and chaste love. Suitable for both younger and older lovers beset by shyness.

A pretty wild flower that means ‘forsaken’. Signalling one’s dismay at abandonment by including this plant in a bunch of flowers is so much classier than keying the perpetrator’s car.

This vibrant plant means ‘humility’ – highly suitable for such a simple, yet popular flower that covers forest floors in beautiful carpets of blue without the fanfare of gaudy petals or too heady a scent.

An extremely versatile floral ‘adjective’, this plant changes its meaning according to its colour. Pink means ‘I’ll never forget you’, while red means ‘admiration’. White signifies innocence, but beware yellow – it means ‘disappointment’.

This delightful flower graces many a grassy area or border in early spring. It’s meaning is ‘cheerfulness’ and no-one can fail to enjoy seeing its joyful colours.

Modern ladies might baulk at receiving a fistful of dandelions, but they should not reject this plant so hastily. They symbolise happiness and faithfulness – not bad aspirations to have in life.

Does what it says on the tin, to coin a phrase. This tiny blue flower is associated with memories, true love and the hope that the giver will never be forgotten.

Clandestine lovers take note - this pretty white bloom signifies secret love. The perfect bluff for couples who are not quite ready to go public with their love.

In the doghouse? Gather some hazel branches for your loved one to convey your hopes for swift reconciliation. It’s worth a try.

Meaning ‘wedded bliss’, this is a plant that should be most popular with blushing brides – making ivy for life, not just for Christmas.

Lily (Tiger Lily)
Modern businessmen and women who reach the stage in a relationship when things look to be working out for the longer-term spend time setting up joint accounts, applying for joint mortgages and moving money online to prove their financial commitment to each other. This is all practical and reassuring, but not quite as romantic as sending each other tiger lilies – the floral harbinger of ‘wealth’.

Another one to watch; the bright orangey hues of this popular plant hide the more sinister connections to cruelty, grief and jealousy.

Another plant associated with marriage. This colourful bloom would look wonderful in a bridal bouquet and is all about love. Pure and simple.

This vibrant plant with its large red petals has become a must-have Christmas decoration. Hardly surprising, really, when its message simply states ‘be of good cheer’. Festive perfection.

This simple spring flower holds the powerful message ‘I can’t live without you’. Who would want to live in a world without the cheerful presence of this little yellow flower, popping up all over the countryside?

Another flower with multiple meanings aligned with the colour of the petals. Red roses signify love, while white ones are linked to innocence and secrecy. Yellow roses denote friendship and coral suggests desire. The type of rose delivered has its own meaning too. A single stem signifies @I still love you’, while a rose that has been stripped of its thorns says ‘love at first sight’. Rosebuds are associated with youth and innocence, making them a more suitable floral gift for a young girl.

Spider Flower (Cleome)
Ladies receiving this plant with its scented petals and long, narrow seed pods should get their bags ready and cancel the milk: this plant means elopement.

Sweet Pea
Houseguests wanting to express their gratitude for an agreeable stay would do well to offer their hostess a bunch of sweet peas. These delicate flowers spell out departure, blissful pleasure and thanks for a lovely time.

Growing close to the ground, often nestling under trees or in woodland, this charming little flower symbolises modesty – an underrated trait in these days of reality TV and social media, some might say.

Although the message varies slightly with the different colours, the overriding symbolism is one of lasting friendship, constancy and affection. Not a bad note to end on.

"Say It With Flowers: The Hidden Language Of Floriography"
was written by Laura Warby

Laura Warby is a freelance writer from England who loves travel and spending time in the countryside after renewing her caravan insurance, and hitting the road. It's surprising how much history and tradition gradually fades out over the years and she hopes her writing will help preserve some of that past.

Web presentation designed by Matthew Sleigh



Doctrine of Signatures

Mary Lambert's poem "Moonflower"

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More signs:

Acacia - Secret love 
Acorn - Nordic symbol of life and immortality
Aloe - Grief
Allspice - Compassion
Ambrosia - Love returned
Amaryllis - Pride; Timidity
Anemone - Unfading love
Angelica - Inspiration
Aniseed - Restoration of youth
Arbutis - Only love
Apple - Preference
Aster - Love; Daintiness
Azalea - Take care of yourself for me; Fragile passion; Chinese symbol of womanhood
Bachelor Button - Celibacy
Baby's Breath - Everlasting love
Basil - Best wishes, Love
Bay Leaf - Strength
Begonia - Beware
Bells of Ireland - Good luck
Bird of Paradise - Magnificence
Bittersweet - Truth
Bluebell - Humility, Constancy
Borage - Courage
Bouquet of Withered Flowers - Rejected love
Burnet - A merry heart
Buttercup - Cheerfulness
Cactus - Endurance; warmth
Calendula - Joy
Camellia - Admiration; perfection; good luck gift to a man
Candytuft - Indifference
Carnation (in general) - Bonds of affection; health and energy; fascination; woman love
Carnation (pink) - I'll never forget you
Carnation (purple) - Capriciousness; whimsical; changeable
Carnation (red) - My heart aches for you; admiration
Carnation (solid color) - Yes
Carnation (striped) - No; refusal; sorry I can't be with you; wish I could be with you
Carnation (white) - Sweet and lovely; innocence; pure love; woman's good luck gift
Carnation (yellow) - Rejection; disdain
Cattail - Peace; Prosperity
Chamomile - Patience ; attracts wealth
Chrysanthemum (in general) - Cheerfulness; You're a wonderful friend
Chrysanthemum (red) - I love
Chrysanthemum (white) - Truth
Chrysanthemum (yellow) - Slighted love
Coreopsis - Always cheerful
Coriander - Lust
Cowslip - Pensiveness; Winning Grace
Crocus - Cheerfulness; Abuse Not
Cyclamen - Resignation and Goodbye
Clover - Good luck
Daffodil - Respect
Daisy - Innocence
Dandelion - Wishes come true
Eucalyptus - Protection
Fennel - Worthy of all praise
Fern - Sincerity
Fern (Magic) - Fascination; confidence and shelter
Fern (Maidenhair) - Secret bond of love
Feverfew - Protection
Fir - Time
Flax - Domestic symbol; fate
Forget-me-not - True love; memories
Forsythia - Anticipation
Gardenia - You're lovely; secret love
Garland of roses - Reward of virtue
Garlic - Courage; strength
Geranium (Scented) - Preference
Gladiolus - Love at first sight
Grass - Submission; utility
Heather (lavender) - Admiration; solitude
Heather (white) - Protection; wishes will come true
Hibiscus - Delicate beauty
Holly - Good will, Defense;domestic Happiness; foresight
Honeysuckle - Generous and devoted affection
Hyacinth (general) - Games and sports; rashness;flower dedicated to Apollo
Hyacinth (blue) - Constancy
Hyacinth ( purple) - I'm sorry; please forgive me; sorrow
Hyacinth (red or pink) - Play
Hyacinth (white) - Loveliness; I'll pray for you
Hyacinth (yellow) - Jealousy
Hydrangea - Thank you for understanding; frigidity; heartlessness
Hyssop - Wards away evil spirits
Iris - Faith; hope; wisdom and valor
Ivy - Fidelity and friendship
Ivy - sprig of white tendrils - Anxious to please; affection
Jasmine - Amiability; attracts wealth
Jonquil - Love me; affection returned; desire; sympathy; desire for a return of affection
Juniper - Protection
Larkspur - pink - Fickleness
Lavender - Devotion
Lemon - Zest
Lemon Balm - Brings love
Lemon verbena - Attracts opposite sex
Lily (general) - Keeps unwanted visitors away
Lily (calia) - Beauty
Lily (day) - Coquetry
Lily (eucharis) - Maiden charms
Lily (orange) - Hatred
Lily (tiger) - Wealth; pride
Lily (white) - Virginity; purity; majesty; it's heavenly to be with you
Lily (yellow) - I'm walking on air; false and gay
Lily of the valley - sweetness; return to happiness; humility
Magnolia - Sweetness; beauty; love of nature
Marigold - Comforts the heart
Mint - Protection from illness; warmth of feeling
Marjoram (sweet) - Joy and happiness
Mistletoe - Kiss me; affection; to surmount difficulties; sacred plant of India
Monkshood - Beware, a deadly foe is near; chivalry
Moss - Maternal love; charity
Myrtle - Love; Hebrew emblem of marriage
Narcissus - Egotism; formality; stay as sweet as you are
Nasturtium - Conquest; victory in battle; maternal love; charity; patriotism
Oleander - Caution; beware
Orange Generosity
Orange Blossom - Brings wisdom
Orange Mock - Deceit
Orchid - Love; beauty; refinement; beautiful lady; Chinese symbol for many children
Orchid (cattleya) - Mature charm
Palm leaves - Victory and success
Pansy - Thoughts; love
Peach Longevity
Peony - Aphrodisiac
Petunia - Resentment; anger; your presence soothes me
Pine - Hope; pity
Poppy (general) - Eternal sleep ; oblivion; imagination
Poppy (red) -Pleasure; consolation
Poppy (white) - Consolation; sleep
Poppy( yellow) - Wealth; success
Prickly Pear - Satire
Primrose - I can't live without you; early youth
Primrose(evening) - Inconstancy
Rose (general)(Red) - Love ; I love you
Rose( white) - Eternal Love ; innocence; heavenly; secrecy and silence
Rose(pink) - Perfect happiness; please believe me
Rose(Yellow) - Friendship ; jealousy; try to care
Rose(Black) -Death
Rose(red and white) - Together; unity
Rose(thornless) - Love at first sight
Rose( single, full bloom) - I love you; I still love you
Rose bud - Beauty and youth ; a heart innocent of love
Rose bud(red) - Pure and lovely
Rose bud(white) - Girlhood
Rosebud (moss) - Confessions of love
Roses(Bouquet of full bloom) - Gratitude
Roses( Garland or crown of) - Beware of virtue; reward of merit; crown ; symbol of superior merit
Roses ( musk cluster) - Charming
Rose(tea) - I'll always remember
Rose(cabbage) - Ambassador of love
Rose(Christmas) - Tranquilize my anxiety; anxiety
Rose(damask) - Brilliant complexion
Rose(dark crimson) - Mourning
Rose(hibiscus) - Delicate beauty
Rose leaf - You may hope
Rosemary - Remembrance
Sage Wisdom - long life
Salvia -(blue) I think of you
Smilax - Loveliness
Snapdragon - Deception; gracious lady; presumption
Spiderflower - Elope with me
Stephanotis - Happiness in marriage; desire to travel
Stock - Lasting beauty
Strawberry - Perfect goodness
Sunflower - Loyalty; wishes
Sweetpea - Goodbye; departure; blissful pleasure; Thank you for a lovely time
Thyme - Strength and courage; ensures restful sleep
Tulip(general) - Fame,charity; perfect lover
Tulip(red) - Believe me; declaration of love
Tulip(variegated) - Beautiful eyes
Tulip(yellow) - Hopeless love
Violet - Modesty; calms tempers; induces sleep
Violet(blue) - Watchfulness; faithfulness; I'll always be true
Violet(white) - Let's take a chance on happiness
Viscaria - Will you dance with me?
Woodruff - sweet humility
Yarrow - Health,healing
Zinnia - Thoughts of friends
Zinnia(magenta) - Lasting affection
Zinnia(mixed) - Thinking of an absent friend
Zinnia(scarlet) - Constancy
Zinnia(white) - Goodness
Zinnia(yellow) - Daily remembrance

Botanical name:
Common Name: