Flowers mean different things to different people in different cultures. So it is key to know the designer’s intent as well as the recipient’s culture.
The arrangement above was designed with African colour meanings in mind. Both gold and green are pan African colours. In this context, gold is honey and conveys a wish of success and bounty. Nearly universally, green is the colour of vitality and rebirth.
Even in a single culture and a single city, London, flowers conveyed different meanings in the Victorian Era. Their meaning mutated depending on who was sending them and who was interpreting the folklore behind the arrangement.
When I set out to arrange, I consult with my customer to see if they are interested in weaving a couple layers of meaning into their gift. Tailoring a bouquet with respect to the language of flowers and further honoring the meaning behind different colors adds an extra level of thought. Now that we inhabit the modern era, we don’t have to worry about sending a card that spells out our intentions.
Bird of paradise – Flowers are my passion. It gives me joy to work with them, and I convey that to my customers every day by naming my enterprise after this flower. This bloom also conveys anticipation, optimism, and bright times.
Calla lily – Triumph, rebirth, sympathy, the circle of life. White calla lillies are a very popular option for altar arrangements, wishing someone your condolences and Easter bouquets. Red and pink calla lillies convey a rekindled romance and a strong sense of passion.
Chrysanthemums – Yellow chrysanthemums were equivalent to nobility in the Eastern world. Gold was reserved for the Emperor, much like purple was associated with royalty in the West.
Yellow twists the meaning of the mum to equate to rejection in the West.
White mums can convey a positive message in both hemispheres. This is one of the most versatile flowers and its meaning is no different. Size, shape, color and variety all matter when you’re trying to send a coded message.
Dahlia – Flux, transition, travel, opulence. It is unsurprising that opulence is associated with the dahlia. They can be quite dear, only last for a few days, but the impact of the bloom is enticing.
Ivy – Protection, abundance, steadfastness. There’s a reason it’s popular to plant ivy around our homes. I love to make use of variegated ivy in boutonnières, and it is the spiller of choice in my tiny container garden.
Crowns were fashioned of laurel in Ancient Greece and given to successful atheletes. In Rome, they were sported by military commanders after a successful campaign.
Lehua – Authority, jealousy, unrequited love. How can one flower convey such different meanings? Pele was jealous of her love of ‘Ōhi’a, so the volcano goddess turned him into a tree. Lehua, like Laurel, was a person before the gods changed her into a blossom so she could reunite with ‘Ōhi’a. The Big Island of Hawai’i is associated with this flower.
Melia, Plumeria, Frangipani – Love, Aloha. This flower is so fragrant that it provides an instantaneous trip to the islands. It is not confined to Hawai’i by any means. It grows in Nigeria, India, Italy, Florida, Tahiti, and many other tropical locations around the globe.
Protea – Protea are the national flower of South Africa. They symbolise hope, rebirth, triumph, resilience and transformation amongst other meanings. They can survive wildfires.
Rose – Love, devotion.
Roses are readily available year round and nearly universally loved.
Avoid the color yellow with roses sent to a Western lover. This selection can be conveyed as adulterous or unfaithful. Instead, send red roses and consider mixing in tulips if they’re available.
Yellow roses are left on graves in Colombia.
Tulip – Ardent love. An arrangement of roses, tulips and rosemary is the Victorian equivalent of swiping right on tinder.
Yarrow – Resilience, prophecy, the double sided sword of war and healing. Achillea’s association with the lungs and healing makes it a good addition in these times.
The Language of Flowers from Texas A&M
The Language of Flowers from the Smithsonian
and of course the Wikipedia pages that are linked to most of the headings.