He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: Flowers and Their Secret Meanings

peoniesWhile they usually get hit the hardest, Santa and his elves weren’t the only folk busy with orders this past holiday season. Apparently, the fresh flower and plant industries are giving Old Saint Nick a run for his money. According to one source, fresh flowers and plants bought during Christmas and Chanukah accounted for 30% of 2013’s gross sales with regards to transactions and dollar volume. Valentine’s Day still reigns supreme as the number-one holiday when it comes to fresh flower purchases alone, though, capturing 36% of holiday transactions and 40% of dollar volume; this makes sense when one considers the fact that in 2013 alone florists produced a staggering 233 million long-stem roses for consumers. We bet those numbers make the executives over at Band-Aid reaaaaal happy.

These statistics suggest that, even during difficult financial times, the ritual of giving flowers is one that is ingrained in our culture and is in no danger of being lost anytime soon. However, that doesn’t mean that the history behind this ritual isn’t disappearing. There’s an entire set of secret meanings associated with flowers that people used to draw upon when sending bouquets to intended recipients that just isn’t in use anymore. Sure, ask anyone what the significance of a red rose is and they’ll respond with some variation of passion or romantic love. Who can honestly say they know that chrysanthemums, one of the most popular flowers used in arrangements, mean romantic discouragement if they’re yellow and reciprocated love if they’re red? Not us, that’s for sure.

With Valentine’s Day already approaching (how!?!), it could be valuable understanding the messages you might inadvertently be receiving, not to mention entertaining sending messages of your own. By picking flowers with complementary meanings for your arrangement, you can even send an entire monologue if you so desire, like they used to do back when this practice was in its heyday. Below are the meanings of some of the most popular flowers used in arrangements today:

Carnations: Sending pink carnations means that you will never forget the recipient; for this reason, they are often used in funeral wreaths and featured in bouquets expressing condolences. White carnations, on the other hand, ask that the recipient never forgets the sender. Striped carnations signify regret that the sender cannot return the recipient’s romantic affections.

Chrysanthemums: Like we mentioned above, sending yellow chrysanthemums means that you do not reciprocate the recipient’s romantic affections, while receiving them means that your crush just ain’t feeling you like that. Bronze/orange-colored flowers mean that you love being friends… key word: friends. White signifies truth and trust. If you receive red chrysanthemums, rejoice! This means that your romantic affection is returned. Hint: Chrysanthemums usually go well with roses in arrangements.

Geraniums: Geraniums, while pretty, aren’t the nicest flowers to receive or send. Receiving pink geraniums signifies that the sender thinks, in the words of Ricky Ricardo, that you got some ‘splainin’ to do. Sending white geraniums signifies that you haven’t made up your mind yet, but that the answer is probably not in the recipient’s favor. Scarlet geraniums mean that the sender doesn’t find you trustworthy, and is in doubt of your character. Way harsh, Tai.

Lilies: The lily is the flower of extremes. On one hand, we have the tiger lily, which signifies sexual and romantic passion that knows no bounds with its vibrant coloring. On the other, there’s the white lily, which means purity and innocence in their most abstract, idealized senses, and the lily-of-the-valley, which means chastity and maidenly modesty. Sending an overzealous admirer a bouquet featuring lily-of-the-valley is one way of saying “For the hundredth time, I am NOT sleeping with you.”

Narcissus: Sending someone a bouquet with narcissus means that you think that person is as vain as the Greek youth who died when he fell in love with his reflection and couldn’t bear to leave it. If you receive a sprig of narcissus, perhaps it’s time to reconsider how many “selfies” you’re posting on Instagram.

Peonies: Peonies express shame and contrition, especially for rude behavior. The perfect way to say “Sorry!” without actually saying it.

Roses: The red rose is a universal symbol of passionate love. However, if the rose is in half bloom, the love the sender is experiencing is new and in its beginning stages. White roses, as gorgeous as they may be, are the antitheses of the reds, an unequivocal “I don’t love you.” No sorries, no regrets, no love. Yellow roses aren’t much better when it comes to their meaning. Receiving yellow roses means that, yes, the sender is in love… just not with you. They’d still like to be friends, though! Yaaaaay. Pink roses have little to do with love in the romantic sense, they’re all about happiness and joy and being in love with life.

Tulips: Tulips, in general, impart a sense of boldness and firmness in one’s beliefs. If you receive red tulips, be prepared for a long haul because your admirer is willing to proclaim their love for you from the rooftops and isn’t going anywhere soon. To receive yellow tulips means that the sender is hopelessly in love with you, whether you feel the same or not.

Granted, these are just a few of the well-known meanings for these flowers, and these are just a few of the more popular species, at that. Like we mentioned, floriography is a disappearing art, so not everyone will know the meanings these flowers signify, either. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun knowing something others don’t! And feel free to search the meanings of flowers that didn’t appear on this list. Happy arranging!

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