Flower colors have different meanings

Published 9:00 am Sunday, November 16, 2014

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

For thousands of years flowers have been sent to people with specific meaning in the color or type of flower given. We send flowers for various occasions from birthdays, holidays, graduations, baptisms or christenings, funerals and many other important celebrations. How many of us have received a floral arrangement while we were recuperating from an illness or accident? Perhaps the love of your life sent you a bouquet for an anniversary or just to let you know they love you. We send flowers for so many events during our life, so I thought this would be a good time to discuss the meaning of flowers and the colors they represent for specific occasions.

A purple bearded iris. The color purple is symbolic of wisdom and compliments. The royal color, purple, stands for dignity, pride and success. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

A purple bearded iris. The color purple is symbolic of wisdom and compliments. The royal color, purple, stands for dignity, pride and success. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Henrietta Dumont wrote about the relationship of flowers and people in her book “The Floral Offering,” in 1852, and in the preface she stated, “Why do flowers enter and shed their perfume over every scene of life, from the cradle to the grave? …It is for no other reason than that flowers have in themselves a real and natural significance. They have a positive relation to man, his sentiments, passions and feelings.”

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In the early 19th century, floral dictionaries became very popular with wealthy ladies of leisure. In 1829 Elizabeth Wirt wrote the American version of the language of flowers in her Flora’s Dictionary. The language of flowers was intricate and involved learning how to send a secret message with flowers to someone or receive them.

Today the language of flowers may mean something different than it did in earlier times but they still convey a message. The color blue enhances calm and tranquility it also symbolizes clarity in dreams, thoughts and imagination. This color would be perfect to send to a poet, artist or musician.

The color pink represents grace, gentility and happiness. It also conveys youth, innocence and joy. The shape of the flower does not make any difference in this case.  They can be in bud or full bloom.

Purple is tied to royalty and ceremony, dignity, pride and success. A bouquet of purple blooms represents accomplishment and admiration. The color violet is both energizing and spiritual. It is used for holy articles as a devotional color. If you send a bouquet of violets you are telling the person they are unique and special.

Yellow flowers bring smiles to our faces as well as joy and lightheartedness. It is also the symbol of friendship, new beginnings and happiness. The Mayans viewed the color yellow to be associated with corn, thereby also symbolizing provision, sustenance and wholesome. An interesting fact that I found was that writing on a yellow tablet increases memory retention.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

The color orange symbolizes energy, enthusiasm and warmth. It also conveys confidence, satisfaction and a passion for life. It is symbolic of expansion, growth and warmth also of friendship and community. This color beckons us to remember the good times and being with friends.

White stands for innocence, humility and reverence as well as simple beauty. The meaning of flowers in white are purity, cleansing, healing and clarity. White roses are traditionally associated with marriages and new beginnings or as a gesture of remembrance.

Perhaps the most coveted color is red and we traditionally think of red roses and romance. They say “I love you.” Every woman wishes to receive a bouquet of red roses on Valentine’s Day from that someone special to let them know how cherished they are.  The color red has long been associated with love and passion, but according to Madame de la Tour, who wrote “Le Language Des Fleurs,” the French flower dictionary, it also means timidity. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” a red rose also suggested bashful shame.

The color green is about renewal, growth, hope, health and youth. How we all look forward to the first sign of green in spring after a long winter to renew our spirits.

The Victorian floral dictionaries vary from one to another, but in general it has not changed a lot over the centuries as flowers still convey a message from one person to another. I have not gone into the specific flowers and what they mean, and roses have their own meanings, but this will give you an idea of what a specific flower’s color represents.


Carol Hegel Lang is a green thumb residing in Albert Lea. Her column appears weekly. Email her at carolhegellang@gmail.com.