Valentine’s Day and the Language of Flowers

nick karvounis
nick karvounis
Reading Time: 5 minutes
“I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.”
― Emma Goldman

Giving flowers to your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day is an enduring custom.

But where did it come from?

The roots of this tender tradition stem from the 18th century when the practice was introduced by a King, Charles II Sweden.

For centuries, flowers were known to have specific meanings. In the Victorian Era, Charles introduced this language of flowers to his court, along with the practice of sending silent message bouquets.

This was a time where emotions and passions could not be spoken of freely. It was a lengthy period of strict conduct and quiet etiquette. A courtship went so far as to permit private conversations, and even physical touch.

It’s no surprise that flowers became a popular mode of communication for sweethearts. They could speak the language of love more freely than the couple themselves.

So it was that flowers were used to deliver secret messages of love. Each painted petal echoed the emotions of the human heart.

Who knew flowers could talk?

And they had a lot to say.

Many of those meanings still ring true today. So before you run to the nearest florist to place an order, you might want to keep this in mind.…

photo courtesy of unsplash, photographer @emilyfletke

The Meaning of Flowers

Each flower has a different meaning and story to tell. Often, the symbolism changes based on its colour.

photo courtesy of unsplash, photographer @jessiedaniella

There are hundreds of definitions to delve into, but not nearly enough time. So for now, let’s talk about the most popular Valentine bouquets: lilies, carnations, tulips and of course… roses.


photo courtesy of unsplash, photographer @hannaholinger

Lilies are a symbol of humility, purity, promise, passion, devotion and innocence. They are known for their strong beauty and are often linked to Christianity (especially associated with the Virgin Mary and Easter). But in ancient times, lilies were linked to the Greek Goddess Hera, queen of the gods. In legend, white lilies are said to have blossomed from the breast milk of Hera, and are thus associated with motherhood.

But other colours are known to have different meanings. Red lilies represent passion, yellow are a sign of desire, and orange signify confidence. 


photo courtesy of unsplash, photographer @diegobotero

Carnations can be found in an array of beautiful colours. They are an alluring symbol of love and fascination. White carnations indicate good fortune and pure love, and violet blossoms suggest whimsy. You might expect red carnations to hold the highest place of honour in the symbolism ranking, but in this case they come as a close second to pink. Red carnations are synonymous with love and affection, but pink carnations are a symbol of undying love. Important to note, this is a mother’s undying love. The symbolism stems from the belief that pink carnations appeared from the Virgin Mary’s tears. On Mother’s Day, these flowers are always a hit – but perhaps not the right choice for Valentine’s Day.


photo courtesy of unsplash, photographer @sheelahbrennan

The tulip is a symbol of perfect love. Since tulips are one of the first flowers to bloom in Spring, they are often associated with rebirth and hope.

Like all flowers, their meanings vary based on the shade of their petals. Red tulips are a sign of everlasting love; pink tulips symbolize happiness, and white blossoms express forgiveness.


photo courtesy of unsplash, photographer @mellabri

Since roses are the most popular flower sent on the holiday of love, let’s take a closer look…

The rose is the ultimate symbol of beauty and romance. Classic and timeless, this velvet flower evokes passionate emotions. In Ancient Greece, Aphrodite the Goddess of love and beauty was often depicted with a crown of roses on her head or by her feet.

Each of these flowers has a unique and enchanting message. On Valentine’s Day, there is perhaps no greater gift than a perfect radiant rose.


The red red is a classic symbol of beauty and romance. It has been referred in countless plays, poems, novels and songs. It resembles perfection and pure love. There is no greater way to say, “I love you.”


The white rose represents purity and innocence. A popular choice at many weddings, these elegant flowers are also said to represent new beginnings and remembrance.


Pretty in pink, these roses have a docile and sweet interpretation. They suggest grace, joy, admiration, gentleness, and happiness.


Bright and cheerful, yellow roses are often sent between friends. Their happy colour is meant to remind the receiver of friendship and say, “I care.”


Orange roses evoke energy and excitement. They’re fun, free and enthusiastic. These flowers come with a message of true excitement and joy for your relationship, as well as desire.


Violet or lavender coloured roses are a symbol of enchantment and love at first sight. When you give someone a violet rose, you’re telling them, “I love you, and can’t wait to watch this relationship grow.”

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Written by Jennifer Gault


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