What The Flowers You Gift To Someone Really Mean & How To Choose The Right Kind For Each Occasion

Photo: 88studio / Shutterstock
man holding flower bouquet

Picture yourself going to see a friend you haven’t seen in a while, and you want to bring her a gift. Instead of going to a gas station and picking up a pop socket, think of what she means to you.

Give her oak leaf geranium if she is a true friend, flax if you feel her kindness, white hyacinth to tell her she's beautiful, or lily of the valley if she symbolizes the return of your happiness.

But not everyone knows the symbolic meaning of flowers and why there are specific flowers to give on certain occasions, like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, birthdays, or for sad events like funerals.

Because, believe it or not, even in modern times people associate different meanings with different flowers.

What does giving flowers symbolize?

The language of flowers, also known as floriography, dates back thousands of years, where Ancient Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and Chinese used flowers to tell stories, especially in Ancient Greek mythology. But the act of giving flowers has existed since the Victorian Era.

In the Victorian Era, when the world was a madrigal, the lyrics were sung by the flowers. They held the meaning to what was really inside the hearts of the people who gifted and displayed them.

A single flower could hold the tales of your desires and the whispers of your secrets. A flower could bloom new love into your life or uproot a wild affair.

The Victorian Age birthed floriography, the language of flowers or the Victorian Flower Language, throughout a time where flowers were a way to communicate without having to verbally express feelings or emotions. Flowers were given to express love, remorse, sympathy and adoration, just as they are in modern times.

RELATED: Your Birth Month Flower And Its Meaning Explained

Flowers aren’t magic. They aren’t a cure to your pain. They won’t talk to you. They can't promise eternal love or millions of dollars. But don’t be afraid to put them in a floral arrangement or as a way of expressing love.

Let them teach you to heal. Let them help you to celebrate. Let them shower the ones you love with affection. Breathe them in.

Don’t be afraid to add a little lyricism to your life. Don’t be afraid to be thoughtful. Don’t be afraid to be poetic. And don’t be afraid to mean it.

What Type Of Flower To Give For Each Occasion

Take a look at the list below to find out which flowers symbolize different things — love, death, sadness or sympathy. This way, you'll never make the mistake of using the wrong flower in the wrong situation.

What Flowers To Choose For A Wedding

Red roses are the most commonly used symbol for undying love. If your wedding is filled with red roses, your family and friends will be inhaling love with every breath.

But you might also want to add other elements to your wedding flower bouquets. Perhaps flowers that represent some of the ideals you want encrusted in the foundation of your marriage:

Honeysuckle is for devotion (and lovely for a spring wedding). Blue bells symbolize constancy (such a powerful thing to promise someone).

Chervil is for sincerity; it doesn’t bloom because it's technically a spice, but it would be a lovely complement to a wildflower bouquet. Ivy is for fidelity; while ivy isn’t a particle flower to have in a bouquet, it would be lovely on an arch for an outdoor wedding.

Avoid gifting the following flowers: white rose (means your heart is unacquainted with love), yellow rose (means infidelity), lavender (means mistrust), yellow carnation (means disdain), striped carnation (means "I cannot be with you").

What Flowers To Choose For A Baby Shower Or Childbirth

Bringing gifts to newborn children and their families is a tradition that dates back to biblical times. Most people today bring baby clothes, diapers or blankets.

But if you want to bring something a little bit meaningful, gift flowers to pepper the air with your fragrant wishes for the new family.

Daffodils are a lovely choice as they represent new beginnings. Daisies symbolize innocence, and crocus are for youthful gladness. Oregano is for joy and Wisteria is for a grand welcome.

If you are a mother who is expecting your first grandchild, moss is for maternal love. It's such a lovely and profound gift for a mother to give her daughter or daughter-in-law on such a momentous occasion.

But you should avoid gifting the following flowers: scarlet geranium (means stupidity), peony (means anger), sunflower (means false riches).

RELATED: What Your Favorite Flower Really Says About Your Personality

What Flowers To Choose For Sympathy Or A Funeral

When someone you love loses someone close to them, it's hard to assess how they need you and how to support them. Just like giving flowers on special occasions, flowers can add a fragrance to the air, helping them open their lungs to the healing they may need.

Perhaps someone you love died. Perhaps you want to grow and display flowers as a way to communicate with them, as a way for you to bury your messages to the deceased and let them bloom.

Use zinnia to say, "I mourn your absence," and vetch to say, "I cling to thee." Yarrow can cure a broken heart, and tulips are a declaration of love.

Thrift and rosemary symbolize sympathy and remembrance, while black poplar symbolizes courage. Rhubarb is a way to ask your loved one for advice, just as pansy conveys warmth of feeling.

Periwinkle is for tender recollections, and red carnations symbolize heartbreak. Moss rose means confessions of love. Marigold is for grief, and stonecrop is often gifted for tranquility. Hazel is for reconciliation, and white poplar is the gift of time.

Phlox is perfect for saying that your souls are united, and olive is for peace. Lily of the valley symbolizes the return of happiness, and heather can be gifted for protection. Pear blossom helps to comfort, as ginger and fennel are for strength. Edelweiss is for noble courage.

Perhaps there are things you need to say to the deceased that have gone unsaid. Perhaps you could use the earth to grow the departed a beautiful bouquet of unexpressed feelings. Clove is to say I have loved you, and you have not known it. Michaelmas daisy is to say farewell.

You should avoid gifting the following flowers: basil (means hate), bouvardia (means enthusiasm), cabbage (means profit), yellow carnations (means disdain), heath (means solitude), lichen (means dejection).

What Flowers To Choose To Inspire People

We all want to make changes in our lives from time to time. We feel rooted in melancholy or indecision, knowing we need to make changes, but feeling completely uninspired.

Claiming that flowers will turn you on your head and change your entire outlook on life is improbable and untrue, but having a token of motivation is something that can help us all to grow.

Agrimony is an herb for gratitude that reminds you that you are trying to better yourself, and that you should be grateful. Use amaryllis flowers to instill pride because you should be proud of yourself.

Aster symbolizes patience and reminds you that real change takes time, while chamomile is great for motivation in spite of adversity; remember that it is hard but get up and keep going, and do it purposefully.

Chicory can be helpful for frugality. Cranberry can cure your heartache. Daffodil flowers can encourage you to start a new beginning. Hawthorn is for hope or when you don’t know what lies around the next corner, and olive is for peace.

Mistletoe reminds you that you can surmount all obstacles, and narcissus is an ideal symbol of self-love. Lupin is for wandering imaginations or for when you're feeling depleted of all original thought.

White poplar is best when you need to take some time to breathe, read, drink a cup of tea or a bottle of wine, or just be still. Protea is for courage when you feel like maybe you're running low.

You should avoid sending flowers like these: cowslip (means pensiveness), columbine (means desertion), camellia (means "my destiny is in your hands"), blackberry (means envy), raspberry (means remorse).

RELATED: 35 Amazingly Pretty Flower Tattoos That Are Perfect For The Spring & Summer

Kaitlin Kaiser is a writer and former YourTango contributor who covers love and relationships, astrology, pop culture, and lifestyle topics.