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A Guy’s Guide to Valentines and the Meaning of Flowers

Valentine’s Day has been hurtling toward us since a few days before Christmas when the retail outlets hoisted out the pink and red to drape the center aisle that just the day before was reserved for red and green. Are you prepared? You know what’s expected, are you up to the challenge? Giving flowers means something, so let’s make sure we get the message right. This post is a virtual Rosetta Stone for the language of flowers.

A red rose conveys passionate love
A red rose conveys passionate love

Pick your posies as carefully as your words. Giving the ubiquitous red rose to your true love is a Valentines staple but in accordance with the “Meaning of Flowers” found at and compiled by the Society of American Florists from a variety of sources, it is as safe as it is unimaginative. A red rose means passionate love. Great, if that’s what you’re going for, but a little creepy for mom. Since a pink rose means friendship and a white rose means purity and a yellow rose means “zealous”, (Zealous??? Really??? There’s a flower for that?) suffice it to say, maybe mom shouldn’t be getting roses at all. Pretty much the only flowers that make sense for mom are carnations where pink expresses gratitude and white avows remembrance.

Purple tulips provide an essence of royalty

For love, maybe tulips are the way to go. Pink shows caring, purple royalty, red a declaration of love, white forgiveness, yellow hopelessly in love (maybe hinting at stalker tendencies). Last night my husband brought home two bunches of tulips…purple/royalty, okay, maybe the message is he treats me like a queen. Love you, honey! But then the red tulips tipped with white…what the heck? What kind of mixed message is that?He’s declaring love and seeking forgiveness…and I began to wonder why he brought me flowers in the first place, what’s he been up to? I didn’t know whether to hug him or slug him.

Clichéd as it may sound, guys as a species (a few poets and Shakespeare aside), tend not to be easy communicators, especially about feelings. Many demonstrate a preference for non verbal communication. Take the easy route, boys; let flowers do your talking with this flower language tutorial and you can prevent the dreaded turn of events when your lovely gesture is mistaken for an insult. This list is separated into 7 easy to understand relationship classifications:                   1. Looking for Love,   2. New Love,   3. Troubled Love,   4. Growing Family,   5. Old Married Love,   6. Just Not that Into Her,   7. Willing to be a Sugar Daddy…plus for you overachievers some random emotions that can be expressed by flowers.  Review carefully, enjoying the journey on the path to creating both your bouquet and the relationship you want.

1. Looking for Love. Let the flowers be your pick up line

  • Hibiscus and/or Orchid tell her that you recognize her delicate beauty
  • Jasmine reflects on grace and elegance
  • Star of Bethlehem is the glimmer of hope for what is yet to come
  • Irises declare she is your inspiration
  • Larkspur acknowledges a beautiful spirit
Single Sunflower
Vibrant Sunflower Shouts “I adore you”

2. New love. That crazy tumultuous disconcerting thrilling emotional rush can be communicated by posy

  • Lilac asserts she is your first love
  • Bachelor Buttons speak to your breathless anticipation
  • Chrysanthemum, (aka “mums”) just about the most mundane flower in the universe is one that would most likely earn you a blanket and a spot on the uncomfortable couch from a less knowing partner but it actually says some good stuff love-wise. Bronze means excitement, red means sharing (is this that dull maroon, because I really don’t know of true red mums). Yellow means secret admirer….oooo la la! (see my blog post “Mum’s the Word” for more on my opinions of this flower)
  • Tuberose hints at unbridled pleasure
  • Gardenia – joy (a personal favorite, hint, hint)
  • Sunflower declares your adoration
  • And, of course, Red Roses and Tulips are pulse pumping icons of romantic love
Daisies speak of innocence

3. Troubled love. Floral cures for what ails you as a couple

  • Apple Blossoms equal promises kept
  • Daffodil denotes chivalry
  • White Mums mean truth
  • A Daisy declares innocence
  • Gladioli offer renewed strength of character
  • Hyacinth project sincerity
  • Ivy promises fidelity, but trust me these drapey leaves won’t get the result you want as a stand-alone; combine them with some sort of blossom for a winning bouquet of positive attributes
  • Wisteria says you’re steadfast
  • Violets pledge faithfulness
  • An Olive Branch expresses a desire for peace and reconciliation

4. Growing Family

  • Orange Blossom is for fertility
  • Ranunculus declares her radiant
Deep Blue Hydrangea
Deep Blue Hydrangea suggests perseverance

5. Old Married Love Think before buying.Is this the statement you really want to be making?

  • Aster says you’re content
  • Geranium means comfort, but like an old shoe it’s not a great gift
  • Pansy conveys loving thoughts
  • Hydrangea means perseverance
  • Holly despite its toxic berries and sharp stabbing leaves, talks of Domestic Happiness, maybe because a female holly plant will not produce berries without a male nearby. But sentiment aside, I never saw a holly plant make it to a Facebook status about endearing things a husband did. So use it as a filler or just pick another plant.

6. Just not that into her Say it in flowers

  • Heather promotes your love of solitude
  • Lavender speaks volumes on distrust
  • Rhododendron may as well be wrapped in yellow tape for the warning they give: beware!
  • Striped Carnation let’s you just say “No”. It means refusal
  • Pink Roses, as delicate and pretty as they may be, are the kiss of death to romance. “Can we just be friends?”
Marigolds express a longing for riches

7. Willing to be a sugar daddy, There’s a flower for that.

  • Marigold demonstrates you understand her desire for riches
  • Azalea lovers seek abundance
  • Stargazer Lilies show irrepressible ambition
  • Statice equals success

Okay, two of these are pretty cheesy, hinting at retrofits for meanings and flowers rather than some long and ancient historical context. I mean Marigold means desire for riches like “Marry gold”…and Statice means success like status in the community. Just a little too obvious, but they’re on the list, so I’ll keep them here, anyway.

Black-Eyed Susans offer encouragement
Black-Eyed Susans offer encouragement

And now, as part of the Advanced Placement Class, some totally random emotions you can express with flowers.

Random Emotions

  • Yarrow, a drab looking thing often confused with golden rod, wishes good health, yet is not a crowd pleaser.
  • Begonia means deep thoughts without the slightest hint of what they might be.
  • Delphinium is the Capt Kirk of flowers suggesting boldness
  • Nasturtium proclaims patriotism (huh? it’s not even red, white, or blue)
  • Stephanotis conveys good luck. Tuck this in your button-hole on that trip to Vegas, baby.
  • Black-eyed Susans profess encouragement
  • Ginger signifies pride
  • Magnolia mean dignity
  • Peonies offer healing, and
  • Poppies provide consolation
Poppies offer consolation
Poppies offer consolation

You now speak the language of flowers, and in the off-chance your partner is not equally lingual, I’d suggest getting a card and inserting in said card, the list above, just to ensure you’re both on the same page. Ready set, bouquet away, or better yet buy something chocolate.


©2013 by Alison Colby-Campbell

4 thoughts on “A Guy’s Guide to Valentines and the Meaning of Flowers”

  1. And I thought selecting the right flowers was hard BEFORE now. Thanks for laying it all out, though. Very helpful, whatever the occasion!


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