The Best Flowers for All Occasions

Learn the significant meanings behind the flowers you choose

flower bouquet

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Bouquets and single flowers make the perfect gift for almost any occasion, spanning births to funerals. Whether you present a solitary long-stemmed red rose or a bouquet of various blooms, you’re offering an expression of emotions that words don't always easily convey.

You may be unsure of what type or color of flower is appropriate for each occasion. Nearly every flower has an attached and historical sentiment that conveys a message to the recipient or the guests at an event, such as a wedding. For example, a tansy flower, which is part of the daisy family, may have cheerful button-like heads, but to some, it suggests you're offering a recipient "hostile thoughts," while to others it means "health and immortality." Pink carnations may mean "gratitude," but striped carnations signify "refusal," and yellow carnations mean rejection.

These meanings are derived from several sources, from the Bible to the words of Shakespeare, and the symbology of flowers has evolved over centuries. Learn the language of flowers to feel more confident in your selections.

The Language of Flowers

The language of flowers is called floriography. During the Victorian era, flower dictionaries were published explaining the meaning of plants, flowers, and herbs. Floriography made it popular to give flowers to send messages to the recipient.

Wedding Flowers

wedding bouquet
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Regardless of the size or location of the wedding, many couples consider flower arrangements and bouquets to be a critical element to consider during the planning process.

Wedding flower trends change from year to year with colors and styles typically matching the trends in fashion and home decor. Many couples prefer to choose flowers based on the season of their nuptials. However, red roses (symbolizing passionate love) and peonies (symbolizing a happy marriage, prosperity, and good fortune) are always popular choices for wedding bouquets and arrangements. If you'd like to customize the message your flowers mean on your wedding day, here is the meaning behind some other wedding flower favorites:

  • Amaryllis: love and determination
  • Calla lilies: regal and elegant
  • Gardenias: joy
  • Hydrangeas: perseverance and heartfelt emotion

Valentine's Day Flowers

Valentine's Day Roses
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Lovers have traditionally given flowers that speak of their special relationship on Valentine’s Day. The most popular flower for this day is still the rose, in all its beautiful hues.

  • Red roses: passion
  • White roses: chaste love
  • Yellow roses: friendship
  • Coral roses: desire
  • Pink roses: admiration
  • Primroses: new love, new beginnings

Special Occasion Flowers

Roses and carnations
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Flowers are a colorful way to celebrate a special occasion such as a job promotion, prom corsage, wedding anniversary, or graduation. Almost any type of flower is appropriate, but you can make it even more special by taking into consideration the symbolism of certain varieties:

  • Camellia: excellence and finesse
  • Daffodils: truth and forgiveness
  • Daisies: innocence and playfulness
  • Dahlias: change and excitement
  • Iris: a traditional 25th-anniversary flower symbolizing faith, valor, and wisdom
  • Orchids: love, luxury, beauty, charm, and strength

Birthday Blooms

Birthday bouquet
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A thoughtful floral bouquet makes the perfect birthday gift. Yellow roses (friendship) are popular to include in a birthday bouquet. The best birthday bouquets are chosen based on the recipient's favorite blossoms or those that symbolize an aspect of your relationship with the person. In addition to yellow roses, here are a few ideal flowers to include in a birthday bouquet:

  • Pink carnations: gratitude
  • Red chrysanthemums: sharing and "I love you"
  • Forget-me-nots: remember me forever
  • Geraniums: comfort and true friendship
  • Jasmine: grace and elegance

Mother's Day

Mothers day bouquet
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Choosing a flower for Mother’s Day is simple since all you need to do is pick her favorite. Popular Mother's Day bouquets are made up of roses, lilies, and orchids. If she likes all types, consider giving her a spring bouquet with mixed blooms. Here are some thoughts for Mom:

  • Gerbera daisies: cheerfulness
  • White lilacs: the joy of youth and innocence of childhood
  • Daylilies: mother
  • Lily-of-the-valley: sweetness, pure love
  • Dwarf sunflowers: adoration
  • Red tulips: declaration of love
  • Yellow tulips: a smile with sunshine

Christmas and Winter Holiday Flowers

poinsettia christmas
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A plant or floral arrangement is a perfect gift to bring the host for a holiday party. Poinsettias are most popular, and you'll find them in a variety of colors including red, white, yellow, or green. Amaryllis (love and determination) is also a favored holiday bloom. Besides the poinsettia and amaryllis, there are additional meaningful ideas for holiday florals:

  • Red poinsettia: the blood of Christ, Star of Bethlehem
  • Christmas roses: a gift for Christ
  • Holly: everlasting life
  • Winter jasmine: gift from God, purity, and modesty
  • Narcissus: rebirth, renewal

Sympathy and Funeral Flowers

Funeral flowers
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You can send floral arrangements to the family of the deceased for use in the home or for presentation during a funeral or service. If the family of the deceased is accepting flowers for the funeral, select something appropriate that can be viewed during the service, taken home afterward, or placed on the grave later.

Floral funeral displays are presented in several ways, including funeral baskets, standing sprays, or in the shape of wreaths, crosses, and hearts. Here are flowers and their specific meanings when sent as sympathy arrangements:

  • Lilies: restored innocence to the departed soul
  • Gladioli: strength of character, moral integrity and sincerity
  • Red carnations: admiration
  • Pink carnations: remembrance
  • Chrysanthemums: honoring a full life
  • White roses: reverence
  • Red roses: respect, love, and courage
  • Crimson roses: grief and sorrow
  • Orchids: sympathy and eternal love

Funeral Flower Etiquette

Some cultures and religions do not traditionally receive flowers during funeral services, or certain colors of flowers are deemed inappropriate. Check with the family of the deceased or the funeral home to make sure you're following proper etiquette.