Adding another layer of meaning to the plants you love can build on the joy they bring, so we're all in when it comes to sending messages or adding meaning to gifts with specific flowers. And we're not alone—the language of flowers isn't just a trend. While sending messages with flowers was popularized in the Victorian era of the 19th century, flowers have been used throughout history as a symbol of various emotions, sentiments, and messages. The language of flowers is also known as "floriography" (more on that below).
The symbolism of flowers can be deeply personal; they offer a way to express our emotions through nature and give more meaningful gifts.
Floriography Table of Contents
- For Mom
- Thank you
What is floriography?
Floriography, or the Victorian language of flowers, is a coded form of communication where flowers are used to send messages or carry special meaning.
Some flowers, like roses, have been used extensively in floriography. So, you'll see them playing a significant role in nearly all meanings outlined below. However, many flowers mean similar things no matter their color.
Floriography can get quite complex, but don't worry. We'll teach you how to crack the code.
From "thank you" to "you're a true friend," we'll help you "speak flower" and spread happiness with the ideas below. Plus, you can always find the lore of some plants in the "History" tab on select plant pages throughout the Monrovia website.
1. Flowers that Mean Love
You may be surprised by the nuanced messages of love, commitment, or adoration that you can send with your flowers. Tell your partner that you'll love them forever with a pink rose, or that your passion remains strong with a red rose. You can even reassure your loved one that your love will overcome adversity by gifting them dogwood flowers. Hellebores have even been given to friends or partners after a public embarrassment to say "we shall overcome scandal and slander."
Here's how to crack the "flowers for love" code: Roses are a tried-and-true way to send love. When in doubt, opt for big, beautiful, and prolific flowers in shades of pink or red to send a message of love, adoration, or passion.
Red rose symbolic meaning: Beauty, romantic love, passion, respect
Upright bouquets of beautiful, fully double, red roses on fuss-free shrubs with unwavering blooming zeal. This own-root rose has outstanding disease resistance, is self-cleaning, and has proven to thrive coast to coast. Full sun. Up to 5' tall, 4' wide. Zones 4-9.
Pink rose symbolic meaning: Desire, everlasting joy, romantic love, passion, trust
Big, delightfully fragrant blooms provide the classic romance of roses with the added benefit of disease resistance brought to you by modern breeding. Blooms repeatedly from early spring until first frost. Full sun. Up to 4' tall and wide. Zones 5-10.
Pink and white rose symbolic meaning: I love you still and I always will, commitment, everlasting love
Upright bouquets of beautiful, fully double, pink-and-white bicolor roses on fuss-free shrubs will endure the trials of a long, hot summer with unwavering blooming zeal. This self-cleaning, own-root rose has outstanding disease resistance. Full sun. Up to 5' tall, 4' wide. Zones 4-9.
Dahlia symbolic meaning: Forever yours, commitment, eternal love
A delightful profusion of red single flowers pop against the nearly black, dissected foliage of this well-branched dahlia. Excellent annual color for a container, or for accenting a bed or border. Full sun. Up to 14" tall and wide. Zones 8-10 (or grow as annual).
Red camellia symbolic meaning: Longing, ardent love, in love, the flame in my heart
An abundance of formal, four-inch, crimson red blooms open slowly over a long period for an especially long bloom season. Even young plants show an extra heavy bud set. Glossy, dark green foliage. Filtered to partial sun. Up to 6 to 8' tall and wide in 10 years; up to 20' tall with age. Zones 8-10.
Dianthus symbolic meaning: Pure love, adoration
Delightfully fragrant blooms grow above blue-green foliage on sturdy stems that do not flop. Crisp, pure white flowers have unique magenta centers. Trim back after summer bloom to encourage repeat fall blooming. Full sun. Up to 11" tall and wide. Zones 5-9.
2. Flowers That Mean Strength
Sending a message of strength when those you care about need a little boost or encouragement is one of the most thoughtful things you can do. The key to using flowers to send messages of strength is to consider what kind of strength your friend might need. Would bravery, mental fortitude, or physical strength be most helpful? Once you decide on the intricacies of your message, you can choose the perfect flower to reflect your intentions.
Coneflower is well known for having health benefits when used as an herb. Similarly, the flowers can be used to send a message of health or physical strength. Iris and oak symbolize bravery and valor, and clematis is perfect for helping a friend when they need mental strength. Allium can be used to send a message of strength and protection. Gerbera daisies mean innocence, purity, and strength, so are a great choice for sending peace of mind or clear resolve to someone who needs your support in a time of need.
Here's how to crack the "flowers for strength" code: You can often use the folklore, natural benefits, or characteristics of a flower to send your message. The strong trunk and deep roots of an oak tree, for instance, have a clear symbolic meaning. Low-maintenance, easy-care plants and plants that grow from tubers are often symbols of strength or tenacity thanks to their bulletproof nature.
Gerbera daisy symbolic meaning: Purity, strength
Robust Garvinea® hybrids are proven performers. Expect long-lasting, brilliant color from lush plants that can produce up to 100 flowers from early spring until the first frost. Full sun. Up to 19" tall, 15" wide. Annual.
Clematis symbolic meaning: Ingenuity, cleverness, mental beauty
The pleasing light scent of vanilla is unique for a large flowered clematis! Pure white, star-shaped blossoms open to reveal striking deep-red stamens. Partial to full sun. Up to 8' tall with support. Zones 4-8.
Echinacea symbolic meaning: Health, strength, protection
Bright, sunny blooms offer easy color from late spring through fall. Semi-double, golden yellow petals surround showy center cones. Lush foliage and sturdy, upright stems. Full sun. Up to 20" tall, 18" wide. Zones 4-9.
3. Flowers That Mean Friendship
Friends bring so much joy to our lives, so why not reflect it right back to them with some beautiful flowers? Yellow flowers are often associated with friendship, and a yellow rose in particular is perfect for welcoming back a friend and celebrating the joy that your friendship brings.
Zinnia is well known as a symbol of everlasting friendship and often comes in a variety of bold colors that can be used to celebrate a fun, playful relationship. Peruvian lilies are perfect for the best friend, sibling, or family member with whom you have a strong bond. Use geraniums to celebrate a true friend who always has your back.
How to crack the "flowers for friendship" code: Once again, starting with color can be the easiest way to send a message, especially when it's a joyful one. Yellow is known for being associated with friendship, so start there. Get more in-depth with your message of friendship with flowers like geranium and Peruvian lily.
Yellow rose symbolic meaning: Friendship, joy, platonic love, welcome back, apology
Upright bouquets of beautiful, yellow, double roses on fuss-free shrubs will endure the trials of a long, hot summer with unwavering blooming zeal. This self-cleaning, own-root rose has outstanding disease resistance. Full sun. Up to 5' tall, 4' wide. Zones 4-9.
Geranium symbolic meaning: True friend, availability, joy, friendship
Dwarf spreading form with dainty violet flowers that show color for many months. Lush mound of deep green foliage is lightly marbled chartreuse. Nearly evergreen in most climates. Partial to full sun. Up to 20" tall, 24" wide. Zones 4-10.
Peruvian lily symbolic meaning: Powerful bond
Dramatic red flowers, each with a contrasting red throat, and glossy variegated foliage on strongly branched flower stems. Blooms continuously during the warm season when spent flower stems are plucked promptly. Partial to full sun. Up to 12" tall, 24" wide. Zones 8-11 (or grow as an annual).
4. Flowers for Remembrance
Many people choose to plant flowers in memory of a loved one, as a living reminder of their presence and a way to keep their memory alive. Flowers have long been a symbol of remembrance, used to honor and pay tribute to loved ones who have passed away.
Lilies, calla lilies, and white roses are condolences classics for a reason and are always a safe option for sending your love and support in times of sadness and grief. However, there are several other flowers that will add nuance to your message of remembrance.
Lilacs symbolize a first love or a reminiscence of better days. Rosemary is known for symbolizing memory, remembrance, and wisdom. Consider rosemary to send a message that you are grateful for and will always remember the wisdom and lessons passed on from someone who has passed.
How to crack the "flowers for remembrance" code: The best place to start is personal. If you know the favorite flower of the deceased or their loved one, start there. If not, consider a plant with a symbolic meaning; lilac for a widow, pure-white roses or lilies for eternal love, or rosemary to signify they will never be forgotten. Use chrysanthemums for condolences and marigold for grief.
White rose symbolic meeting: Eternal love, heavenly, reverence
This durable, own-root, fuss-free groundcover rose produces an abundance of white blooms on a self-cleaning, easy-care plant. Full sun. Up to 3' tall, 4' wide. Zones 4-9.
Symbolic meaning: First love, reminiscence. "Victorian widows often wore lilac while in mourning over their late husbands" (Roux, 106)
Large clusters of dark-purple buds open to classic lilac-hue flowers. Blooms heavily in spring, with a second, lighter bloom set in fall. Compact, with a nicely rounded shape. Full sun. Up to 4' tall and wide. Zones 4-8.
Rosemary symbolic meaning: remembrance, wisdom
Profuse clear-blue flowers add a charming effect to this aromatic and flavorful plant. A great choice for screening or in carefree, waterwise gardens. Full sun Up to 6' tall and 4' wide. Zones 8-11 (or grow as annual).
5. Flowers for Mom
Carnations have been the default flower to send messages to a loving mom on Mother's Day, but we think it's time to raise the bar with big, luxurious blooms and unique plants. You'll want to send the message of love, but perhaps with a joyful, playful twist. Light-pink roses send messages of platonic love and admiration, while a yellow daylily can signify a joyful mother-and-child relationship or reinforce a friendship between two mothers. Use the pure-white blooms of a gardenia to tell your mom that she's lovely.
Mother's Day is also a great time to use flowers to say "thank you" to your mom. Get ideas for flowers that send a message of gratitude further down.
Here's how to crack the "flowers for mom" code: Choose bright, cheerful colors to reflect on a joyful relationship, say "thank you" with roses, or look for big, fragrant blooms to treat her on her special day.
Light-pink rose symbolic meaning: Admiration, platonic love, gentleness
A smaller climber with large, very fragrant, classic pink flowers that bloom abundantly and continuously. This own-root variety has shown good disease tolerance. Full sun. Up to 8' tall with support. Zones 5-9.
Yellow Daylily Meaning: Cheerful, friendship, health, motherhood
A reblooming daylily with bold butter-yellow flowers. This easy-care compact plant tolerates a range of soils and can be tucked into nearly any garden to add reliable summer color. Full sun. Up to 18" tall, 18" wide. Zones 4-11.
Gardenia symbolic meaning: Emotional support, good luck, healing, joy, love, you're lovely
Wonderfully fragrant, large, white, double blooms are larger than any other gardenia and the first to bloom. This superior grafted selection thrives due to rootstock that is nematode resistant, tolerates poor soils, and more readily takes up soil nutrients. Partial to full sun. Up to 8' tall, 6' wide. Zones 8-11.
6. Flowers that Mean Thank You
"Thank you" can come in so many forms, and there can be many reasons why you want to show your appreciation to someone. From business associates to loved ones, there's a thoughtful option for every situation.
Send peach roses to a client or colleague to send your appreciation after closing a big deal or launching an important project. Use bellflower to tell someone you're grateful after receiving a gift. Send your love and appreciation to a friend or family member (perfect for mom on Mother's Day) with dark-pink roses.
Here's how to crack the "flowers for gratitude" code: Bright colors like yellow and orange can send an enthusiastic message of joy and gratitude. Specific flowers like peach or dark-pink roses, camellias, dianthus, bellflower, and begonia, are code for "thank you."
Dark-pink rose symbolic meaning: Thank you, gratitude
Not just a pretty face, this very durable, own-root, fuss-free groundcover rose produces an abundance of magenta-pink double blooms while offering excellent disease resistance and a self-cleaning, easy-to-care-for habit. Full sun. Up to 3' tall, 4' wide. Zones 4-9.
Bellflower (Campanula) symbolic meaning: Gratitude, thank you, acknowledgment, thinking of you
Beautiful lavender-purple star-shaped flowers bloom abundantly on this hardy perennial. Delightful wavy-edged foliage spreads and cascades down. Partial to full sun. Up to 12" tall, 24" wide. Zones 4-9.
Peach-rose symbolic meaning: Appreciation, gratitude, sincerity, closing the deal
This durable, own-root, fuss-free groundcover rose produces an abundance of peach blooms while adding great low-maintenance curb appeal to the landscape. Full sun. Up to 3' tall, 4' wide. Zones 4-9.
Bonus: Evergreens and Trees with Special Meaning
Cypress symbolic meaning: Mourning, despair, sorrow
This upright-branching conifer has distinctive two-toned foliage that contrasts beautifully with its cinnamon-colored bark. Chartreuse new growth fringes the bright lemon-yellow inner foliage. Fragrant foliage is reminiscent of citrus. Full sun. Slowly reaches up to 30' tall, 8' wide. Zones 7-10.
Arborvitae symbolic meaning: Everlasting friendship, true friendship
This naturally pyramidal evergreen features yellow-tipped foliage that doesn't burn in the sun. Spring growth has a touch of orange coloring. Perfect on its own as a colorful accent, or grouped to form a hedge, privacy screen, or windbreak. Full sun. Up to 15' tall, 8' wide. Zones 4-7.
Bay laurel symbolic meaning: Strength, success, prosperity
A compact, aromatic shrub with fragrant leaves that can add flavor to soups and sauces. Easy-care upright shrub or small tree that can be clipped into a formal hedge or topiary shape. Thrives in containers. Partial to full sun. Up to 6' tall and wide. Zones 8-11.
Dietz, Theresa S. The Complete Language of Flowers: A Definitive and Illustrated History. Wellfleet Press. 2020.
Roux, Jessica. Floriography: An Illustrated Guide to the Victorian Language of Flowers. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2020.
Learn More About Using Plants in More Meaningful Ways
- Captivating Foliage and Flowers for Your Perennial Cutting Garden
- "Shades of Beautiful" garden color guide
- Perfecting the Art of Plant Combinations
- Guide to easy and colorful plants
- Using Layers to Wow in a Low-Water Shade Garden
- Create an Enchanting Garden Where the Whole Family Can Play
- Rare and Unique Flowers for Collectors
- Grow Gifts: Perfect plants for the people you love
- Your Gift Guide for the Truly Hard-To-Shop-For
- Find large, healthy Monrovia plants at your local Monrovia retailer.
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