Flower Symbolism

Quite often in my posts I will talk about symbolism of certain items, odd insects crawling about the canvas, colours, something in the background. What holds an enormous amount of symbolism, which appears to be by passed in our society today are flowers. In the past in art as well as as in everyday life the colour and type of flower either painted or given to a person could mean a great deal. We all know a red rose symbolises love, but what about a yellow rose, or a pink carnation? All of these hold a relevance.

Flowers are beautiful, fragile and fleeting, so when they are given or expressed, they should be taken notice of. Understanding the language of flowers was a really popular pass time in the Victorian era, and you can find the reproductions of the hand written botanist journals which were so popular at that time. Therefore today’s post is to break down so means of flowers for you, whether it be to appreciate in art, or give you something to think about next time you are buying a bunch.


Roses symbolise love, but they come in a multitude of colours, which all have their own meaning, making picking a bunch of roses a minefield.

Dark Red Rose – unconscious beauty

Red Rose – romantic love

Pink Rose – grace, happiness and gentleness

Yellow Rose – joy, friendship and new beginnings

Orange Rose – desire and enthusiasm

White Rose – purity, innocence, reverence, silence

Lavender Rose – love at first sight

Coral Rose – friendship, modesty, sympathy


The ruffled petals of these flowers have a Latin name of dianthus, meaning flower of the gods. Used in garlands and crowns in Roman times, these flowers are seeped in history and meaning.

Red Carnation – my heart aches, admiration

White Carnation – innocence, pure love, a good luck gift

Pink Carnation – I’ll never forget you

Yellow Carnation – disappointment, rejection

Striped Carnation – rejection, regret

Purple Carnation – capriciousness


Lilies have their history in Greek mythology, from Zeus wanting Hercules to be fed from the breast of Hera. As Hera was not his mother, Zeus brought Hercules to her while she slept, as the baby fed, Hera woke and pushed him away. Where the drops of milk fell to the floor, lilies grew. Lilies therefore have a link with motherhood and rebirth, potentially why they are linked to being funeral flowers, in the hope that the soul will be reborn.

White Lily – purity and virtue

Pink Lily – prosperity and abundance

Red Lily – passion

Orange (Tiger) Lily – confidence, pride, wealth

Yellow Lily – thankfulness, desire for enjoyment

Poppies – remembrance

Purple Iris – wisdom

Orchid – exotic beauty, refinement, thoughtfulness, mature charm

Peony – bashful, compassion

Tulip – declaration of love, perfect love

Granted, I have not covered every flower possible here, but I have covered a lot of the main ones seen in paintings.

The flower in the photo? That is the flower of the passion fruit, and its meaning…it is linked with the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, with the petals, rays and sepals all attribute to the suffering of Christ….also known as the passion.

Like this post? Why not let me know in the comments…or share it.


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