Translating the Language of Flowers

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Today is Valentine’s Day, and that means that florists around the globe are rejoicing in their increased sales. These days, giving flowers to a woman simply shows that you care about her, but the roots of this tradition are far more complex. Centuries ago, exchanging flowers was a way for men and women to speak in code, expressing emotions that would have been socially unacceptable to voice any other way. Each flower had its own meaning, and different flowers could be combined to make more complex “sentences.”

As you shop for flowers this year, consider what your bouquet would say in this old-fashioned “language.” Here are the hidden meanings behind some common blossoms:

Red rose: True love, passion

White rose: Eternal love, innocence, secrecy, “I’m worthy of you.”

Yellow Rose: This is a mixed bag, with potential meanings that run the gamut from “true love” and “friendship” to “jealousy” or “I cheated. I’m sorry.”

Tulips: Red tulips are a declaration of love. Despite their sunny appearance, yellow tulips indicate “hopeless love.”

Sunflower: Appreciation, pride or “pure and lofty thoughts.”

Daisies: Innocence, loyalty, or a promise of silence.

Carnations: A striped carnation was traditionally used to turn down a suitor, while a solid colour was used to say “Yes” to an offer of romance.

White Lily: Purity (are you sensing a pattern here?)

Orange Lily: Careful with this one: Wikipedia (and most other sources) says “desire,” while this guide from Texas A & M says “hatred.”

Orchid: You are a refined beauty.

Hydrangea: You are frigid and/or heartless.

Gardenia: “You are lovely,” or to declare a secret love.

Lest you think this is a lost art, The Daily Mirror reported that Kate Middleton used the “language of flowers” to create her bridal bouquet: “lilac to indicate first love, solomon’s seal for confirmation of love, blossoms for spiritual beauty and beech for prosperity.”

Image source: Attribution Some rights reserved by jimw