Flowers and what they symbolize, from Ambrosia to Zinnia

I have loved flowers ever since I was little. I especially love the smells. I’m amused, however, when I walk the aisles of the chain drug store huffing cheap scent purveyors. In my view, these “perfumeries” have failed to capture “summer night bouquet” and “angel tears.”

One scent was actually titled “Japanese Garden.” Is that what gardens in Japan smell like? Interesting.

I also love the way flowers look. My mom’s garden is never as aesthetically satisfactory as I had hoped it would be. She plants mostly vegetables and herbs, which are like totally boring and yet domestically practical.


The garden in my mind is as stylish as it is impossible for Zone 5. My garden would focus more on personal expression. Yeah, that’s right, my garden would be a poem, each flower a stanza. If I give you a bouquet, it’s really going to say something.

I here present for your delectation an alphabetical compilation of the connotations implied when you give someone certain flowers, with additional interpretations by your truly. When you give flowers, you should know when you are sending a positive message, or just being mean.



Ambrosia: Your love is reciprocated. I think this might be a nice message to have out front in my garden, just because I want people to know that if they love my garden my garden loves them back.

Anemone: This flower means forsaken. I don’t want people coming into my garden thinking they will be abandoned.



Bachelor button: Single blessedness. I know some single gardens out there looking for some blessedness.

Bouquet of dead flowers: In case this wasn’t already clear, this symbolizes rejected love. I hope I don’t receive this because my bachelor buttons will wilt.



Carnation: The six colors of this flower all have different meanings. Red says, “My heart aches for you” or “I admire you.” I’m not sure this one will be in my garden. Pink says, “I’ll never forget you,” which is kind of a wistful message but beautiful nonetheless. White is supposed to represent innocence, and is a “ladies good-luck gift.” I’m not sure how innocence relates to good luck. A purple carnation stands for capriciousness. I want this in my garden. Wait, no, I don’t. Maybe? A striped carnation says, “I can’t be with you.” I’m pretty sure this will come in handy someday. Finally, a yellow carnation says, “You have disappointed me.” My cat keeps leaving these for me.



Dandelion: This flower symbolizes faithfulness. They are so faithful they will never leave your yard. So. Faithful.

Dead leaves: Once again, in case this wasn’t already obvious, these symbolize sadness. These are often in autumn arrangements. Maybe don’t get married in October?



Echinacea: Couldn’t find this one, so I’m winging it. I think it stands for that feeling you have when you can’t find your pants.



Fern: This one is a natural growing symbol of magic! Huzzah, calling all wizards.

Flax: This is a domestic symbol. Meh.



Garlic: Not sure how many garlic arrangements I’ve seen, but the flower symbolizes strength and courage. It has a very strong smell that might take some courage to get used to, but either way it sends a pungent message in my garden.

Grass: This plant symbolizes submission. Just in case your garden doesn’t work out, you can plant grass as a kind of white, sorry, green flag of surrender.



Heather: This means protection, or your wishes will come true. I’m wishing that my garden will be protected.

Hydrangea: I don’t recommend planting hydrangea if you want to give off a friendly, yeah-I’m-nice vibe, because this flower connotes heartlessness.



Iris: Bonjour! The iris is a symbol of France. It also symbolizes that a friendship is important to you. This plant is perfect for your French friend that you got in a fight with.

Ivy: This one means fidelity in marriage. Congratulations, keepers of the ivy.



Jonquil: This flower symbolizes affection returned, and that can’t hurt anybody.



Lily: Overall, these flowers symbolize beauty, but there are few wild meanings in some varieties. The daylily is the Chinese emblem of mothers, very sweet for Mother’s Day. Oddly enough, moss symbolizes motherly love as well. I’m not so amused by the eucharis lily, which symbolizes maiden charms. I’m not sure what maiden charms are, but the feminist race says “no.” A yellow lily says, “I’m walking on air or false.” I actually have no idea how to incorporate this meaning into my pretend garden. An orange lily is a symbol of hatred, putting giving orange daylilies for Mother’s Day in question.



Magnolias: These flowers symbolize nobility. Give them to your knight in shining armor.

Monkshood: This one means beware! A deadly foe is near! I wonder about the success rate of this warning signal.

Marigold: Such a happy flower to mean cruelty, grief or jealousy.



Nasturtium: Conquest, victory in battle. And isn’t it odd that you can eat these flowers?

Nuts: These means stupidity. If you give someone nuts in a bouquet (I really hope you don’t) or grow them in your garden (they won’t be in my garden because I’m allergic), then you might just be stupid.



Orchids: They stand for love and beauty. For me, they stand for a plant that will most probably be decimated by your cat and kept up with hair clips.



Primrose: They are a symbol that you cannot live without someone. Maybe I’ll give my parents one.

Petunia: This means resentment, anger or “your presence soothes me.” That’s one wishy-washy flower.



Rose: The classic single rose means “I love you.” A white rose stands for innocence or secrecy, which don’t really go hand in hand. A bouquet in full bloom means gratitude, a really nice message to any friend.



Spider flower: This one means “elope with me.” This is for those real underground secret messages you need to send without parents knowing. Now, if I can only figure out what a spider flower is.

Snapdragon: Once again, another confusing flower. It symbolizes deception or “a gracious lady.” Take your pick.



Tulip: A bunch with different colors means someone thinks you have beautiful eyes. Red tulips mean, “Believe me.” What is this flower hiding that it needs me to believe it?



Viscaria: These flowers say, “Will you dance with me?” I think it is very practical for high schoolers. People in my school seem to be to afraid to ask that question, so maybe they need a flower’s help.



Zinnia: These flowers mean consistency or lasting affection. If you want to send me zinnia, I prefer magenta.


This is the time of year for proms, and I do hope your corsages will be meaningful! As your plan your gardens, make sure you know the stories they tell.