Roses are red, violets are blue, but what does it mean if I give them to you?
Your choice of bouquet might, or might not, represent the feelings that you intend.
From early civilizations through modern times, flowers have been used to express a wide variety of emotions and sentiments to the recipient.
The type, color and grouping of blossoms can be specifically tailored to convey true and everlasting love, friendship, respect, or even hatred and jealousy. In Victorian times, flowers were sent to express intense feelings that were forbidden to be verbalized.
There is a language, little known,
Lovers claim it as their own.
Its symbols smile upon the land,
Wrought by nature’s wondrous hand;
And in their silent beauty speak,
Of life and joy, to those who seek
For Love Divine and sunny hours
In the language of the flowers.
–The Language of Flowers, London, 1875
The deep red rose is the classic and most expressive Valentine’s Day blossom, conveying deep romantic love and passion.
A dozen or two red roses will leave no doubt about your feelings toward your significant other but might start the gossip chain going if presented to a friend or coworker.
Pink roses signify admiration and gratitude. Orange indicates enthusiasm or desire, and white roses convey purity and reverence. Yellow roses celebrate friendship, joy, and new beginnings, but they symbolized jealousy and infidelity in the Victorian era, so avoid these if the recipient is a history buff!
Tulips connote hope and the promise of spring and renewal.
Red tulips indicate passion and romantic love, yellow tulips express hope and cheer, pink tulips are for friendship and happiness, and purple tulips proclaim reverence and admiration. White tulips convey elegance and beauty.
However, tulips typically fade quickly, possibly mirroring a “crush” rather than a deep and lasting love.
Rare and unexpected affection can be suggested with the exotic orchid, a beautiful tropical flower growing in popularity for Valentine’s Day. Glorious and regal lilies connote renewal and rebirth, with pastel colors emphasizing admiration and reverence.
In contrast, pinks and oranges can show a stronger passion or a sense of gratitude for the recipient.
Iris bouquets express respect for wisdom, and daisies celebrate cheery innocence. Edelweiss grows best in a cold and harsh climate.
Thus their presence stands for courage and devotion. Mums represent simple honesty, and zinnias are sentimental flowers meant to reach out to loved ones far away. Cheerful daffodils, one of the first flowers of spring, can be given to celebrate a new job, a new home or a new friendship.
Carnations are fragrant, well-loved flowers of every size and color and are popular for any occasion.
However, they are prevalent and inexpensive, so if you intend to express deep and lasting romantic love on Valentine’s Day, you might want to avoid sending a bouquet of carnations.
Ferns added to any bouquet surround your message with sincerity and humility, and strands of ivy can either emphasize your friendship or honor marriage and fidelity.
Some flowers originally carried a more malevolent message that has been forgotten in modern times.
Snapdragons stand for deception, not usually the intended message for Valentine’s Day! The tansy, a compact yellow member of the aster family, signifies hatred and war declaration.
In Victorian days, orange lilies or yellow roses were sent to convey jealousy and hostility to the recipient. Hydrangea, formerly a symbol of frigidity and heartlessness, now connotes gratitude.
Look for the flower type, color, or bouquet grouping to best express your emotions this Valentine’s Day. Or, better yet, ask your florist to create the perfect representation of your feelings, with the meaning of flowers in mind!
Margaret Sams is a Penn State Extension Master Gardener of Washington County