Alright, so Victorian floriography might not be the latest craze of 2023, but we still think it’s pretty neat! After all, flowers are still popular during special occasions—like Mother’s day, Valentine’s day, birthdays, weddings, and funerals—so let’s put a bit of extra symbolism behind your next floral gift with our flower symbolism list, examining how Victorians looked at flower colors and what it really meant to give someone a yellow carnation or a handful of zesty zinnias:


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What is Victorian Floriography?

Long before the advent of the heart-eyed emoji, there existed floriography. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “floriography” simply refers to a form of symbolic communication using flowers. Flower symbolism is a fascinating aspect of history, with many different eras and cultures having their own unique flower symbolism lists that dictated what certain flowers meant and what energies they exuded when gifted or arranged. While some symbolic meanings were fairly universal across cultures, many are unique to the Victorians and can be traced back to their secret language of flower talk.

For the Victorians, discretion was crucial. The open expression of desire was a big no-no under the conservative forces of the church and the crown. As a result, enamored suitors had to find creative new ways to show they cared, with the object of their affection having to show the appropriateness of such floral advances with equally discreet gestures. If you received a flower offering of love from a suitor, it was your duty to decide which flower would either reciprocate or reject their advances. Eventually, the secret world of flower symbolism became so intricate that nobody could keep track anymore! 

Today, even amongst all the emojis and internet slang, we still use many of these flowers to represent the same social expressions of love, friendship, grief, and celebration as the Victorians all those years ago. This flower symbolism list captures the most common flowers gifted today and in Victorian times, along with their meanings:


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Flower Symbolism List for Love and Affection

If it’s really love, here are the flowers that say it all:

  • Red rose – love
  • Jasmine – sweet love
  • Red carnation – deep love
  • Red chrysanthemum – I love you!
  • Sorrel – affection
  • Red salvia – forever mine
  • Red tulip – declaration of love
  • Yarrow – everlasting love


Flower Symbolism List for the Friend Zone

Not everyone’s going to drive you wild with love and passion. Sometimes, you need to remind someone that you’re just friends. These flowers convey a subtle “no thanks” or simply a kind, platonic gesture from one friend to another:

  • Yellow tulip – appreciation of a bright, friendly smile
  • Dwarf sunflower – adoration
  • Pink rose – happiness
  • Yellow lily – joy
  • Spring crocus – cheerfulness


Flower Symbolism List for When You’re Definitely Not in Love

Sometimes, a gentle “no” just isn’t enough to get the message across. Here are the floral equivalents of “ew” or “if you were the last available man on earth, I’d happily die alone.” 

  • Candytuft – indifference
  • Yellow chrysanthemum – slighted love
  • Yellow carnation – rejection


Dees Nursery-Oceanside-The Meaning of Flowers-basket of flowersFlower Symbolism List for Grief and Loss

Even today, we still use flowers to express deep sentiments for those suffering illness, loss, and grief. These are the flowers historically used to give comfort in times of need: 

  • Marigold – grief
  • Poppy – consolation
  • Dark crimson rose – mourning
  • Pansy – when your thoughts are with someone
  • Lemon balm – to express sympathy
  • Purple hyacinth – to express sorrow


Dees Nursery-Oceanside-The Meaning of Flowers-the language of flowersFlower Symbolism List for Some Other Common Sentiments

In the Victorian Era, there were dictionaries to keep everyone in the loop as to what flowers to give when and to whom. We don’t have that kind of time in this blog, but here are a few more symbolic flowers and the emotions they represent, just in case you need a few more ideas for your next Oceanside special occasion:

  • Bluebells – to show humility 
  • White carnation – innocence, friendly love, pure love
  • Daisy – loyalty
  • Gladiolus – to offer strength
  • Heliotrope – to offer your devotion


Our flower symbolism list may not be as complete as a Victorian-era floriography dictionary, but it still gives you a great idea of just how important flowers are to human society and expression, no matter the generation. Here at The Dees’, we keep our own flower symbolism list for our Oceanside, NY clients close by to help us make some stellar floral arrangements that send the perfect message. No matter what you’re trying to say, say it with flowers from us!