Floriography: The Language of Flowers

A bouquet of red roses.

Floriography, the language of flowers, was developed as a form of communication at a time when it was not appropriate, polite, or proper etiquette for an individual to express their emotions with another fully. (Image: via Pixabay)

Have you heard about a language involving flowers? Yes, that is what floriography is all about. It has been used for several decades to communicate and convey feelings using different types of flowers.  

In many places, people use flowers as gifts or for conveying heartfelt wishes to friends, relatives, and even co-workers. However, floriography is based on the concept of picking the apt flower type to express specific emotions and feelings. Flowers of varying colors and aromas convey feelings like deep love, friendship, and compassion.

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What is floriography?

Floriography, the language of flowers, was developed as a form of communication at a time when it was not appropriate, polite, or proper etiquette for an individual to express their emotions with another fully. This mainly applied to feelings of love, sympathy, remorse, and appreciation, strong emotions that could be considered uncomfortable to be spoken aloud.

Some form of floriography has been practiced in traditional cultures throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. William Shakespeare ascribed symbolic meanings to flowers in Western culture, especially in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Similarly, in Henry VI, English noblemen pick either red or white roses to symbolize their allegiance to the Houses of Lancaster or York.

During the Victorian era, several floral dictionaries were published to explain the secret language of floriography.
During the Victorian era, several floral dictionaries were published to explain the secret language of floriography. (Image: via Public Domain)

The Victorian era

However, interest in floriography soared in Victorian England and the United States during the 19th century, when the art of flower painting became popular. Victorian era interest in the language of flowers finds its roots in Ottoman Turkey, specifically the court in Constantinople, and an obsession it held with tulips during the first half of the 18th century. The Victorian use of flowers as a means of covert communication bloomed alongside a growing interest in botany.

During the Victorian era, several floral dictionaries were published to explain the secret language of floriography. It was common to relay meanings from various myths, fables, or legends.

The language of flowers

Would you like to know what type of flowers are used the most in floriography and which colors convey specific feelings? The details are listed below:

  • Red — Red flowers, especially red roses, are used to convey deep love. The red rose has become almost a symbol of romantic feelings. There are various shades of red, but crimson roses and tulips are deemed the most suitable for expressing heartfelt love to a man or woman.
  • White — White-hued flowers, including roses, are used to convey innocence and purity. A white rose is given as a sign of pure friendship. White lilies are also used for the same purpose in some places.
  • Pink — Pink-hued flowers, especially dark pink roses, are used to express appreciation and gratitude. It also reflects elegance.
  • Yellow — Yellow roses are used to express pure friendship, in most cases. Sunflowers are used for expressing loyalty and admiration.
  • Orchids — To express your compassion to a friend who has lost a relative of late, sending orchids is common. It stands for inner strength.
  • Daffodils — Daffodils bloom at the end of the winter and at the beginning of the spring. So sending daffodils makes sense when you want to wish someone a new beginning in his or her life. 
A pink lotus flower flowering on the Laoshan mountain in Shandong province, China.
Flowers have different meanings and symbolism worldwide. (Image: Shanshan533 via Dreamstime)

Flowers today

While the Victorian era gave way to “official” flower meanings written in modern Floriography dictionaries, flowers have different meanings and symbolism worldwide. The universal reason we give flowers is to communicate and further our connections with one another. 

Flowers are used in events like birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries profusely. They are also used in funerals. Flowers are given to the recipients in varying ways. For example, to express inner feelings, a single rose may be given, while congratulating someone for their achievements with a bouquet on a special occasion has become the norm.

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