Every flower has a cultural meaning. Most of the meanings and thoughts associated with the flowers that we grow and give come to us from the Victorian Era. During this time, expressing emotion was considered beneath enlightened people, so the “language of flowers” was born.
This language gives meaning to most of the commonly-cultivated and gifted flowers of today. The tradition continues as well, with specific flowers and their colors being associated with certain holidays, life events, and more.
Many gardeners enjoy creating flower gardens that revolve around a theme or emotional expression. These gardens are a beautiful display of complementary flowers in both color and meaning. If you’d like to create this continuity in your garden, the following list of flowers and meanings will be helpful.
Popular Flowers and Their Meanings
Nearly every flower has a meaning of some kind and many are associated with a specific month of the year (called “birth flowers”). Here are some popular choices for home gardening and what they mean.
Acacia – a popular backdrop choice, this flower grows on a tree-like shrub. It’s used for many things besides its beauty and stands for friendship, secret love, and beauty in retirement.
Aster – the Aster was first associated with love and daintiness by the Greeks (aster means “star”). More recently, they have been laid on the graves of soldiers as a symbol of the wish that they had not had to die.
Azalea – a very common flower, these symbolize temperance, passion, and in China, womanhood. They are grown as shrubs or shaped trees and often used as centerpieces or backdrops.
Baby’s Breath – are flowers meaning purity of heart and innocence.
Begonia – these flowers are associated with fanciful spirits.
Bluebell – associated with humility, constancy, and gratitude these flowers are popular and often referred to as “fairy thimbles.”
Carnation – these are often associated with Valentine’s Day because they symbolize fascination, impulsiveness, capriciousness, joy, and devoted love.
Cattail – associated with peace and prosperity, these plants are often used to highlight other flowers.
Chamomile – often used as a tea (German chamomile), the flower is a symbol of energy in action.
Chrysanthemum – meaning abundance, wealth, cheerfulness and optimism, these flowers are some of the most popular garden flowers in the world.
Daffodil – another “love” flower, these symbolize unrequited love, chivalry, and respect. Also called the “knight’s flower.”
Dahlia – is another common garden flower which means dignity and elegance.
Daisy – stands for purity, loyal love, innocence and beauty.
Dandelion – although considered a pest weed in most of the western world, the dandelion is prized in some cultures for its juice and symbolizes returned affection, desire, and faithfulness.
Geranium – is a popular flower of friendship, but is also associated with folly and stupidity.
Hyacinth – are popular flowers in England and signify sports, games, and rashness.
Iris – a very popular flower, these symbolize faith, wisdom, hope, and valor.
Jasmine – known for its heady fragrance, jasmines mean attachment, sensuality, grace, and elegance.
Lilac – are commonly known to mean beauty, pride, and youthful innocence.
Magnolia – another “knight’s flower,” these signify nobility, perseverance and love of nature.
Marigold – these flowers got their name as an amalgam of “Mary’s gold” and were given to the Virgin Mary by the poor who could not afford other gifts.
Morning Glory – usually associated with affection, these are often used in Valentine’s Day bouquets.
Orchid – these flowers signify love, beauty, refinement, and a hope for many children.
Pansy – a fun flower that symbolizes fun and merriment.
Petunia – another popular flower, this one is soothing and refreshing.
Poinsettia – the “Christmas Flower” is an old plant which used to signify purity, but now is most closely associated with the holiday.
Rhododendron – are common tree-type plants, but actually symbolize caution.
Rose – the meaning of roses is usually associated with its color, of which there are a wide variety. Nearly all symbolize love or friendship of some kind. Red ones mean passion, yellow means infidelity, white means purity, pink means happiness, etc.
Snapdragon – means graciousness and strength.
Sunflower – are a popular choice and mean simply “adoration.”
Tulip – like roses, are often associated with their color, but the most common meaning is perfect love.
Violet – these flowers signify modesty, virtue, and affection.
Zinnia – most often associated with absent friends and lost loves, these flowers are symbols of lasting affection.
Themed Gardens Using Flowers
Using the meanings in the list above and with a little research for more, you can create a flower garden whose meaning is based on a birthday, holiday, emotional feeling, etc. Using flowers that bloom at different times, you can even create an evolving flower garden. It’s all up to you!
Want to learn more about flowers and the meanings behind their names? Here are some resources: