The Victorian Language of Flowers


In almost every culture in the world flowers have played an important part in the lives of human beings. Flowers appear in religious rituals all over the world, they are also a part of our ceremonies celebrating birth, adulthood, marriage and death. In India Hindus offer Flowers to the Gods when they pray. They put flowers on banana leaf boats and release them into the river carrying their prayers with them. In Japan there are flower viewing festivals called Hanamis to celebrate the blossoming cherry trees. In France they celebrate the Lily of the Valley on May Day.


The Victorian era was the age of the flower garden, and flower symbolism bloomed in these days and became part of the contemporary popular culture. The Victorians used flowers in everyday life, women wore flowers in their hair or pinned on their dresses, and bouquets were sent as Love tokens. The language of flowers was important, and the first western language of flowers dictionary came out in 1819, written by Charlotte de Latour. It became extremely popular. Bouquets were deciphered and read messages into, and flowers for Christenings, weddings and funerals were chosen based on their meaning and symbolism.


It is said that the western language of flowers originated in Turkey, but no one can know for sure. So let us get to the point, what does the flowers symbolize? What is the Language of Flowers?



The name Anemone comes from the Greek anemos, meaning the wind. Perhaps because the flower petals are so delicate that they easily get caught in the wind. The Anemone is associated with the story of Aphrodite and Adonis. It is a sad story where Adonis in the end dies in Aphrodite’s arms. So Anemone is associated with fleeting love, abandonment and short lived feelings.



This flower was originally a wild plant of Southern Europe introduced to England by the Normans. The Victorians loved this flower. The flower is considered to be the flower of the God Zeus. It symbolizes the emotions of romantic love and marriage. Pink carnations say: I will never forget you. White Carnations say: You are so sweet and lovely.
It was common in the Victorian era for a man to give a girl he liked a white carnation. He would typically leave it at a table under a napkin for her to find.

Cherry blossom

Cherry Blossom

The Cherry blossom has grown in Europe for hundreds of years, introduced by the Romans from Asia. But it was the Japanese cherry blossoms, the sakura, brought to England in the 1860s, that become popular with the Victorians. The life of the Cherry Blossom is short and its beauty ephemeral. It reminds us that life is short and fleeting and that we have to enjoy each moment and celebrate the gift of life and beauty every day.



The Chrysanthemum is an ancient, but elegant flower. We know that it has been cultivated for at least 2000 years. It is believed to originate in Japan. For the Japanese this flower symbolized perfection. The Victorians came to associate this flower with hidden truths revealed. The Chrysanthemum was brought to Britain from China at the end of the eighteenth century and became very popular with the Victorians. It was a popular buttonhole flower and often shown at winter parties during shooting season. The White Chrysanthemum in a wedding bouquet speaks of the bride’s honesty and good character.



Daffodil marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It comes into flower around Easter time and therefor is also called Easter Lily. It symbolizes renewal, new beginning and new life. The daffodil has grown in Britain in the wild since the sixteenth century and to the Victorians the Daffodil was a flower of the countryside, simple and pure. It was also known as “Butter and Eggs”. The Daffodil was the flower of children, and many children’s songs from the Victorian era features the Daffodil.



The Dahlia originates in Mexico where it grew in the gardens of the Aztecs. It was a rare flower, but loved by the Victorians because of its colors and variety. It was immensely popular at the Victorian Flower shows. The Dahlia symbolizes dignity.



For centuries this flowers has been associated with sweetness, innocence and childhood. Celtic belief says that if a small child dies an angel comes and plants a Daisy on earth to comfort the parents. Victorian children used the flower in games and to make wreaths of. The Daisy is the flower we use to ask Heaven: does he love me, or does he love me not, by pulling out one petal for each question and see what we are left with.



Iris was in classical mythology the goddess of the rainbow. She was the messenger of hope. The Iris has therefor come to be associated with good tidings and warm wishes. This flower is also the fleur-de-lis of the arms of France. It is one of the oldest of cultivated flowers in Britain. It was used by the Victorians to decorate churches and homes in the winter, or announcing a birth.



This beautifully scented and delicate flower became the perfect symbol of youthful femininity. It marks the beginning of summer and the beginning of Love, and was associated with the first emotions of Love. Lilac originates in the Middle East. The name comes from the Persian Lilak meaning blue or bluish. The flower is also popular in literature especially from the Victorian era and is mentioned in both Jane Eyre’s books and Charles Dickens’ books used with the popular symbolism of girlhood and sweetness.



This flower was in the Middle Ages associated with the Virgin Mary. It was said that after Virgin Mary died and they opened her tomb it was empty save for Lilies and roses. The lily came to symbolize perfection and Majesty to the Victorians. The Madonna was, for the Victorians, the ideal woman, and the Lily became the ideal of womanhood. The lily also appears in Victorian literature, like in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.



The Victorians were in awe of the orchid, being such a rare and exotic flower. The orchid was extremely expensive and therefor came to symbolize refined and exquisite beauty.



The rose has been the symbol of Love for centuries. The birth of the goddess Venus was accompanied with roses.
The white rose says: a heart unacquainted with Love. The Pink rose says: grace. The pale peach rose says: modesty. The Orange Rose says: fascination. The Red Rose says: mature Love.



The Snowdrop is one of the first flowers of the years, it comes to calm our fears and give us hope. So it is considered to be the flower of hope and consolation. The flower originates from Turkey and Greece and was introduced to Britain during the reign if Elizabeth the 1st. The Victorians considered it to be unlucky to bring the Snowdrop inside or pick at all, so this flower was allowed to stay in the garden. But it was a popular flower and during its first coming in spring the Victorians arranged Snowdrop walks. A brooch or a piece of jewelry shaped like a snowdrop was considered be a gift of hope and comfort to a grieving friend.



The tulip is a dear flower during spring season. It originates in the Middle East. In the Eastern language of flowers the Tulip symbolizes the first passion of romantic love, so it became to the Victorians the flower that is associated with declaration of Love. The Tulip is probably best known to be the favorite flower of the Dutch. In Holland there are Tulip societies, Tulip festival and every year tourist agencies arrange trips to Holland to see the famous Tulip Shows.

water lily

Water Lily

The Water Lily is perhaps the most beautiful and mystic of flowers, associated with mysticism and fairy lore. The Water Lily emerges from muddy waters pure, untarnished and perfect. It opens to the warmth of the sun. In Eastern religion the Water Lily or the Lotus is used as symbol of the divine soul. The Water lily originates in India and from there it brings with it its meaning: purity of heart.