Welcome to the curious world of floriography…

The most important thing about flowers is of course, that they make your home or your event naturally lovely and beautiful – and frankly, we can’t see why they really need to have much meaning beyond that! Even so, since long before red roses meant ‘I love you’ and the garage bouquet meant ‘sorry for forgetting your birthday or even our anniversary!,’ people invested time in floral symbolism.

Although many credit the Turks for developing flower meanings in the 17th century, the language of flowers (or ‘floriography’ as it is sometimes known), is most commonly associated with the Victorian era. It was during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837 – 1901) that flowers were used to communicate feelings that the strict etiquette of the era would not allow to be openly expressed.

flower language

Say it with tussie-mussies (nose-gays)

Flowers were typically sent in the form of small bouquets known as tussie-mussies or nosegays consisting of aromatic herbs and a single, meaningful flower such as a rose surrounded by secondary flowers and herbs, wrapped in a lace doily and other embellishments. Each flower was laden with significance, as was the size and the arrangement of the flowers, the way the ribbon was tied, and how the bouquet was actually presented and received (upright or upside down, held close to the heart, or presented using the left or right hand). Suitors presented tussie-mussies to their prospective lovers and watched to see if they were accepted. A tussie-mussie held at heart level indicated joy and acceptance, while one held downwards was a sign of rejection.

victorian bouquet

As the language of flowers became so widely practiced flower dictionaries began to be published all over Europe. It was a useful guide as not only did certain flowers have their own significance, different colour variations of the same stem also denoted different intents and emotions. In fact, when you take into account all the different colour nuances, nearly every sentiment imaginable can be expressed with flowers.

Today, the art of floriography may not be as widely understood or consciously practiced but flowers continue to be exchanged as a way of expressing important feelings. Red roses, for example, which represent romantic love are now intrinsically linked to Valentine’s Day. Wedding bouquets are often filled with hidden symbolism too, learn more here. By experimenting with different flower content you can let your loved one know exactly how you feel about them.

Here are just a few of the most common meanings associated with your favourite flowers:

Agapanthus               secret love

Alstroemeria             devotion, wealth, prosperity, fortune 

Amaryllis                   pride, timidity, splendid beauty

Aster                           Symbol of love 

Carnation                   fascination, woman love 

Red rose                     romantic love

Gypsophila                Innocence, pure of heart

Hyacinth                    playful, loveliness

Narcissus                   unrequited love

Ranunculus                you are rich in attractions

Violet                           faithfulness

Lily                               purity

Thrift                            sympathy

Daisy                           innocence

Tulips                          Love and Passion

Phlox                           our souls are united!

Primrose                    I can’t live without you


Does floral symbolism influence your purchase? Will it do so in the future?



  1. When I chose the flowers for my wedding I went through every flower and the meaning behind each one and picked that way to ensure the flowers I chose were for the right reasons as opposed to just colour/decoration, the flowers we had were a huge hit including the shape of the bouquet etc, very very traditional but looked stunning

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