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Flower Power: What Each of the 20 Most Popular Flowers Symbolize & Other Interesting Facts

In the Victorian era, sending a secret message to your lover using a carefully chosen bouquet of flowers was all the rage. The type of flower, its color and even whether the flowers were presented with the right or left hand (right for yes, left for no) all had a specific meaning to convey.

Have something you want to say? Say it with flowers!

This language of flowers, known as floriography, is not widely used today, when flowers are chosen more for their color, shape or scent. Nonetheless, the meanings still remain, and if you want to tell your lover how you feel or send a thoughtful note to a friend, why not say it with flowers?

Here are 20 popular flowers to choose from, along with their meanings (be sure to include a legend with your own flower message so the recipient can decode its meaning).

1. Lily
The color and type of the lily is very important:

  • Calla Lily: Beauty

  • White Lily: Purity, "it's heavenly to be with you"

  • Orange Lily: Hatred

  • Tiger Lily: Wealth, pride

  • Yellow Lily: I'm walking on air

2. Daisy
Looking for an "in" flower? Gerbera daisies are it. "Gerbera daisies are hot," said Barbara Hinrichs, owner of Barbara's Florals & Gifts. "A lot of gals are loving the daisies."

What do they symbolize? Innocence, loyal love, purity and gentleness.

3. Lilac
Lilacs symbolize a first love or new love so they're popular not only to celebrate a new union at weddings, but also to signify the first love between a mother and child.

4. Rose
The rose is perhaps the most commonly known romantic flower, but did you know they're also edible? According to Linda Stradley, author of "I'll Have What They're Having -- Legendary Local Cuisine," their flavor is reminiscent of strawberries and green apples, and the darker the color, the stronger the flavor. In terms of meaning, a rose's color is very important.

  • Red: Love, beauty, romantic love, I love you, courage passion

  • Yellow: Joy, happiness, friendship, a new beginning, remember me

  • White: Purity, innocence, humility, youthfulness, sincerity, unity

  • Pink: Elegance, gracefulness, appreciation, thank you

  • Peach: Desire, anticipation, optimism toward the future, closing the deal, let's get together

  • Coral: Desire

  • Orange: Enthusiasm, desire

  • Lavender: Love at first sight, enhancement

Gerbera daisies are one of the most "in" flowers right now.

5. Tulip
In general, tulips signify fame, charity and a perfect lover. If you want to be more specific, choose a color.

  • Red: Declaration of love, believe me

  • Yellow: Hopeless love

  • Variegated: You have beautiful eyes

6. Lily of the Valley
These dainty flowers symbolize sweetness, humility, return to happiness and purity.

7. Orchid
In China, orchids are a symbol for many children, but in general they also signify love, beauty and refinement.

8. Stephanotis
This fragrant, sweet-smelling flower is a favorite for weddings, as it symbolizes marital bliss, as well as a desire to travel (honeymoon!).

9. Carnations
Most aren't aware that carnation petals are edible and quite sweet. They've been used to make the French liqueur Chartreuse since the 17th century, says Stradley. In general, a carnation is a sign of affection, health and energy, but color does make a difference.

  • Pink: I'll never forget you

  • Red: Admiration, my heart is aching

  • Solid colored: Yes, acceptance

  • Striped: Refusal, no, I can't be with you

  • White: Pure love, sweet, innocence

  • Yellow: Rejection, disdain

Stephanotis is a favorite for weddings … and it signifies marital bliss.

10. Gardenia
Have a secret crush? Send him or her gardenias. They mean ecstasy, you're lovely, and I secretly love you.

11. Hydrangea
A hydrangea has two, very different, sides. It can express a thank you for understanding, but it can also signify frigidity and heartlessness.

12. Sunflower
Most people have snacked on sunflower seeds, but did you know the bud of the sunflower can be steamed like an artichoke (and tastes similar)? Interested more in meaning than eating? Sunflowers symbolize loyalty and wishes.

13. Pansy
Pansies are edible and can be used as a garnish or to add a slightly grassy flavor to green or fruit salads. Send them to someone you're thinking of; they signify loving thoughts.

14. Daffodil
Daffodils symbolize regard, respect and unrequited love.

15. Forget-Me-Not
Forget-Me-Nots have their name for a reason. Along with true love, they're also used to symbolize memories.

16. Marigold
Marigolds are a popular and pretty garden flower, but you may want to think twice before giving a bouquet to your neighbor. They can signify cruelty, grief and jealousy (although they can also be sent to "comfort the heart" of someone who's grieving).

Send someone a reminder of your favorite memories together with Forget-Me-Nots.

17. Peony
Another good flower choice for weddings, peonies symbolize a happy life and marriage and are regarded as an aphrodisiac.

18. Petunia
Also popular in the garden, petunias have several, somewhat contradictory, meanings. Along with resentment and anger, they can also indicate "your presence soothes me."

19. Stock
This fragrant flower means lasting beauty, you'll always be beautiful to me, affection and promptness.

20. Violet
The violet symbolizes modesty, hence the term "shrinking violet." However, based on color:

  • Blue: I'll always be true, faithfulness, watchfulness

  • White: Let's take a chance

Recommended Reading


What's Cooking America: Edible Flowers

Sioux City Journal: Say it With Flowers

Pioneer Thinking: The Language of Flowers, What They Mean

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