To you, my little prairie flower, I’m thinkin’ of you every hour.

We just adore flowers, and the appeal goes far beyond their beauty and fragrance. They have long been an historically significant part of social interaction. In fact, the custom of giving flowers dates back to early civilization, and the first depiction of a mixed arrangement is a mosaic from the early 2nd century at the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli. Mythology also blooms with associations between flowers and the gods and goddesses. Remember when Aphrodite’s handsome beau, Adonis, was killed by that nasty wild boar? The story goes that our heartbroken goddess used his blood to create the red anemone flower.

“The Awakening of Adonis” by John William Waterhouse, 1900

Assigning specific meanings to flowers is a tradition that is believed to have begun in Turkey in the 17th century and kept strong through the years by the French and English. During Victorian England, that time when everyone had to keep their feelings to themselves, people used flowers as a secret language for expressing their emotions. Not surprisingly, it was also the time when floriography books – beautiful floral reference books – became popular..

We all know that red roses mean love, but do you know the meanings associated with other popular flowers? Take a gander at the list below—it offers a garden of opportunities for using posies to proclaim a festive sentiment. Throwing a tea party to welcome a new friend to the neighborhood? Choose a centerpiece of yellow roses. Hosting a gathering to toast an engagement? Serve a dessert garnished with candied white violets.

White violets say, “Let’s take a chance on happiness.” 

BUTTERCUP – Childishness
CALLA LILY – Magnificent beauty
CAMELLIA – Admiration, perfection and good luck when given to a man
CAMELLIA (WHITE) – Adoration
CHRYSANTHEMUM – Abundance and wealth
DAHLIA – Dignity and elegance

Dignified dahlias

DAISY – Innocence
FORGET ME NOT – Memories
FREESIA – Innocence
GARDENIA – Secret love
GERBERA – Innocence
HYACINTH (PURPLE) – “Forgive me”
HYACINTH (RED OR PINK) – Playfulness
HYDRANGEA – “Thank you for understanding”

Hydrangea are flowers of appreciation

IRIS – Faith and wisdom
IRIS (YELLOW) – Passion
LILAC (GENERAL) – Beauty and pride
LILY (GENERAL) – Majesty and honor
LILY (CALLA) – Beauty
MAGNOLIA – Nobility
ORCHID – Love, beauty and fertility
PANSY – “You occupy my thoughts”
PEONY – Happy marriage

Peonies are the perfect wedding flower

PETUNIA – “Your presence soothes me”
POPPY (YELLOW ) – Wealth and success
RANUNCULUS – “I am dazzled by your charms”
ROSE (ORANGE) – Fascination
ROSE (YELLOW) – Friendship
SNAPDRAGON – Gracious lady
SWEETPEA – “Thank you for a lovely time”
TULIP (YELLOW) – “There’s sunshine in your smile”
VIOLET (WHITE) – “Let’s take a chance on happiness”
ZINNIA (MAGENTA) – Lasting Affection

Source: The Language and Sentiment of Flowers

Introductory photo: Mary Pickford (1938)
Introductory quote: The Awful Truth (1937)

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