Flower Meanings - Our top 12 flowers and their meanings and significance, by Kate Hill.
What giving different types of flowers means.
For centuries, flowers have been given in times of celebration, mourning, cultural significance and used as a method of communication all across the world. Over the years, specific flower meanings, as well as symbolism associated with their colour variations have guided the tradition of giving flowers across a wide range of cultures.
Here are some of our favourite flowers along with their flower meanings to help ensure your gift of flowers is not only beautiful but also thoughtful and appropriate for the occasion being marked.
The Meaning of Peony Roses
Peony Roses have traditionally been thought to symbolise feelings of love, well wishes for good fortune and prosperity, especially upon marriage. Peonies have a softer meaning than traditional roses and offer the giver a unique way to subtly indicate their feelings of love and admiration for the receiver.
Peonies also have a significant meaning for Asian cultures, as they are native to China and have been given for centuries as a sign of well-wishing for prosperity and good fortune. In Chinese tradition, a peony bush in full bloom is considered lucky and giving this as a gift is a beautiful gesture of friendship.
When to give Peonies
- Weddings and anniversaries.
- The early stages of a blossoming romance.
- To offer luck and prosperity as a housewarming for new homeowners.
The Meaning of Freesias
Originating in South Africa, this bloom belongs to the iris family and boasts hundreds of different varieties and thousands of unique colour variations. Freesias are well known for their captivating and sweet delicate scent, which extends the sensory impact these flowers have when given as a gift.
Traditionally, freesias are given as a symbol of friendship and loyalty and are seen by many cultures as a symbol of trust. The different colours of freesias can also bear different meanings. White freesias evoke a sense of purity and innocence, whereas pink freesias show affection towards motherly figures. Yellow freesias are ideal to represent friendship and support in times of need, but red freesias are seen to symbolise intense love and affection for your partner.
When to give Freesias
- Birthdays and important milestones, such as an engagement
- Professional settings, such as giving thanks to a colleague
- Times of condolence for close friends of your family
The Meaning of Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms hold significant meaning in both Japanese and Chinese culture. This flower meaning has been adopted in modern floristry to align thousands of years of tradition to modern gift giving conventions.
The cherry blossom can be given to offer the receiver strength and power in times of need, as well as to symbolise the transition of life. Many traditional Japanese and Chinese stories that focus on the cherry blossom as a core theme, associate this flower to brave warriors and the sacrifices they make to protect their countries and people.
When to give Cherry Blossom
- To show support during old age or illness
- To give strength during the passing of a loved one
- To celebrate feminine power or achievements, such as pregnancy or birth.
The Meaning of Lily of the Valley
The meaning of Lily of the Valley originates in French culture and is given as a sign of female friendship. They represent care, hope and a celebration of motherhood, and are considered to be a beautiful token of support during pregnancy, birth and children’s key milestones.
The small dainty blossoms have been considered to represent the different lives that a mother impacts, including her children, her partner and the wider family to which she offers care and strength.
When to give Lily of the Valley
- Celebrations of motherhood, such as births or Mother’s Day.
- As a thank you for being cared for, such as during an illness or time of need.
- To show appreciation for people who have provided care, such as nurses or caregivers.
The Meaning of Tulips
Tulips are a much-favoured flower in floristry due to their versatility, longevity and highly recognisable form. Tulips are one of the first botanicals to flower in early spring, which has made them synonymous with rebirth. Tulips can be found in a huge range of colours, petal textures and formations and as such have earned special meanings for each of these unique variations.
Some of the more common meanings of tulips include:
White Tulips - Forgiveness and Sympathy
Yellow Tulips - Cheerfulness and uplifting well-wishes
Purple Tulips - Family and Royalty
Pink Tulips - Happiness and confidence
Red Tulips - Love and passion
Black Tulips - Sorrow and condolence
Orange Tulips - Friendship and loyalty
When to give Tulips:
- Birthdays of friends (yellow and orange tulips)
- Birthdays of family members (red, purple, pink tulips)
- Birthdays colleagues (orange and yellow tulips)
The Meaning of Hyacinths
Hyacinths are a wonderful and unique flower that offer the giver the opportunity to congratulate the recipient for outstanding achievements, such as at work or in sport. Hyacinths traditionally are not affiliated with feelings of romance or intense love, and therefore are a fantastic option to give to people who you might not consider close.
They are also associated with being apologetic or sorrowful for a wrongdoing, so are an ideal option when you are wanting to make amends.
When to give hyacinths:
- To apologise to someone who you may have accidentally wronged or offended.
- To celebrate the achievement of an acquaintance or distant family member.
- To offer congratulations for an achievement relating to work or sport/social life.
The Meaning of Orchids
Orchids are one of the most diverse species of blooms in the word. To date, there are over 25,000 unique sub-species that have been recognised with over 100,000 varieties available.
Orchids are delicate and require careful tending and the right conditions to thrive. As such, they are often seen as a luxurious addition to interior spaces. This brings a level of class and sophistication that no other flower is seen to bring.
When to give orchids:
- Orchids are perfect as housewarming gifts
- Orchids can be given upon retirement to symbolise the opportunity to slow down and take time to add beauty to the receivers life and living spaces
- To celebrate new living arrangements, such as a wedding or engagement.
Roses, without a doubt, have some of the most definitive meanings across a number of different cultures and contexts and are well regarded as the flower of choice in a wide range of situations. Few flowers hold the significance of roses, nor are as easily recognisable.
Roses, in general, are seen to represent a wide range of feelings, emotions and intentions including but not limited to:
- Intense Love
Today, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of rose varietals to choose from, which has made them a staple in the tool kit of florists the world over.
White Rose Meaning
White roses can be used to mark many occasions. The white rose is often considered the most classic and beautiful of rose varieties as the absence of bold colour allows the roses unique structure to be appreciated at its purest form.
White roses are appropriate to be given to offer love, condolence or celebration which means that they are a very safe option in almost any situation
When to give white roses:
- To show sympathy or support during hard times
- To show love and admiration for a close friend or family member
- To celebrate nature and purity, such as a new birth or pregnancy
Red Rose Meaning
The red rose has become synonymous with expressing deep love, passion and romance. There is potentially no flower more symbolic of a specific feeling or emotion and they have cemented their place as the ultimate gift for your partner.
When to give red roses:
- Valentine’s Day to show commitment and love
- Birthdays of your partner or significant other
- To show love, passion and romantic desire
Yellow Rose Meaning
The yellow rose has been symbolic of trust, friendship and loyalty for hundreds of years. The yellow rose, similar to white rose and pink roses are appropriate for a wide variety of occasions and recipients including close friends, acquaintances and family members.
The yellow rose comes in a wide range of shades, from very pale yellow through to striking yellow/orange variations and is a beautiful centrepiece during gatherings and events.
When to give yellow roses:
- To celebrate friends and friendships
- To mark special events such as religious holidays and days of national significance
- To lift moods and provide cheerfulness in times of need.
Pink Rose Meaning
Pink roses are a very versatile option in a number of different situations and are a safe option if you are unsure of what type of flower is appropriate for a specific occasion. Pink roses and roses that are blends of pink can be used to send thanks, inspire confidence, provide congratulations or celebrate milestones and key life events. They are also an excellent option for giving to friends, family members, professional colleagues and acquaintances alike.
When to give pink roses:
- Birthdays, celebrations and milestones
- To give thanks and show gratitude
- To symbolise love and friendship
The Meaning of Disbuds (Chrysanthemum)
Disbuds or Chrysanthemums, also known commonly as Mums have earned their place as one of the most commonly given flowers for a number of occasions. Like roses, they come in a wide range of colours and sub-species each with their own unique symbology and meaning.
Disbuds also have significant meaning to different cultures. In Chinese tradition, white disbuds are considered a sign of death and hatred so we never give white disbuds to Chinese people on any occasion, as this can be offensive for both modern Chinese people and those who are more traditional.
In other scenarios, disbuds are an excellent choice to communicate a wide range of emotions and intentions. Some of the more common ones include:
- Celebrating friendship.
- Offering support to friends and close family members.
- Rejoicing new life or beginnings such as births, pregnancies and weddings.
The Disbud or Chrysanthemum is also the flower of choice to celebrate Mother’s Day, and is often given in a wide range of colours including white, pink, purple and various shades of soft through to vibrant yellow.
When to give disbuds:
- Mother’s Day is the perfect occasion for disbuds or chrysanthemums
- White disbuds should never be given to Chinese people, as will almost certainly cause offence.
- Yellow disbuds can be given to spread joy and cheer, especially after times of hardship or illness.
Meaning of White Lilies
White lilies are a very popular choice for floral gifts due to their striking form and longevity as a cut stem. White lilies can be seen in artworks dating back to as far as 1500 B.C. and have been a common staple in many cultures for thousands of years. White lilies are thought to symbolise charity and virtue, as well as love and purity.
Similarly, white lilies are also often associated with condolences and sympathy and are a very common flower choice to signify the passing of a friend or family member. White lily meanings also vary greatly from culture to culture, however, they are almost always an appropriate choice for a range of events and occasions.
When to give white lilies:
- To commemorate the passing of a loved on
- To celebrate romantic occasions, such as weddings and anniversaries
- To give thanks or extend congratulations such as graduations, promotions or significant life achievements.
Meaning of Hydrangeas
Hydrangeas have significant meaning in a number of Asian cultures, specifically in Japan where the flower is believed to have originated from. In many Japanese legends, hydrangeas are associated with apologies. One such story involves an emperor gifting these blooms to the father of the girl he loved to apologise for focusing too much on his work and business interests rather than on the woman he loved.
As such Hydrangeas can be seen to offer sincere apologies for either wrongdoing or during events where sympathy is the emotion that is trying to be conveyed. Hydrangeas usually come in three main colour variations, being blue, white and pink/purple. Regardless of the colour, or colour mix, they are an excellent choice when trying to make amends with friends or family members.
When to give hydrangeas:
- To offer sympathy or condolences
- To apologise
- When seeking forgiveness
Meaning of Australian Native Flowers
It is not commonly known that many Australian Native flowers also carry significant meaning being drawn from Aboriginal culture and customs for tens of thousands of years. They also have significant meaning due to their place in more recent history and as a symbol of our unique landscape and diversity of flora.
Some examples of meanings of Australian Native Flowers include:
Wattle - One of our countries most recognisable natives, the wattle is seen to symbolise hope and resilience in the face of adversity and can be given to mark occasions of cultural significance.
Bottlebrush - The bottlebrush is a unique and striking native flower that can be seen symbolise strength and unity. This flower can be given to show comradery and mateship.
Waratah - The Waratah not only bears significant cultural meaning but also graces a number of our national flags and emblems. Waratahs are an excellent choice when you are wanting to symbolise a wish for health and longevity, such as in times of illness. This flower is also referenced in a number of aboriginal dreaming stories and is used to symbolise both the positive and tragic sides of love.