The Complete Guide to Flower Colours and Meanings

There’s so much more to fresh flowers than just their sublime beauty and fragrance. This was something that the Victorians discovered centuries ago, when they began using flowers in different hues to express an array of feelings, from love to admiration and chastity to friendship.

That explains why even today, the meaning of a flower hinges on its colour - a dozen red roses are regarded as a timeless symbol of love and why we take white lilies to a funeral. No matter what mood or occasion you’re gifting flowers for, knowing the hidden meanings and symbolism behind each flower will help you make the an informed choice.

In this comprehensive guide, you will learn what the colour of each flower means and which flowers make the best gifts for different occasions. Read on!

Roses

The rose boasts a vibrant range of colours, and colour is where this flower derives its corpus of meanings. Whether red, pink or rainbow, as the colour of the rose changes, so does its meaning.

Fun fact: The world’s oldest rose bush is believed to be more than a 1,000 years old. It grows on the walls of the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany.

What Different Rose Colours Really Mean

Colours have an effect on our mind when we see them, evoking varying reactions within our brain. Learn about what the different colours of roses mean:

  • Red: The iconic red rose evokes the passionate and sensual side of love

  • Orange: A fiery bloom that energises the soul with desire and pride

  • Pink: The gentle pink conveys the softer side of love, including platonic love

  • Lavender: Enchantment and a sense of majesty is conveyed by purple

  • White: White roses signify dignity, purity, remembrance and new beginnings

  • Yellow: Joy, happiness and celebration pop at the sight of yellow roses

When selecting your rose colour, consider the type of occasion for which you are buying roses, the mood of the day, and the desired reaction to the gift.

The Best Occasions To Gift Roses

If you’re looking to gift roses for an anniversary, to take on your first date, or for Valentine’s Day, read on to see what colours match what you want to convey:

  • Valentine’s Day: This is the perfect time of year to pair red roses with messages of love. Gift a single rose if you want to remain anonymous, and for sweethearts, send 10 roses to tell them they’re perfection, or a dozen to single them out as the best heart in the candy box.

  • First Dates: Single roses are ideal for first dates because they imply love at first sight. For males, perhaps try orange or purple roses.

  • Anniversaries: As you and your partner celebrate togetherness with gifts of love, choose elegant orange, pink, or lavender roses to invigorate the air with romance to remember.

  • Gay Pride: Celebrate love and equality with rainbow roses. Liven the mood, or march proudly with an array of colourful buds on Mardis Gras.

  • Congratulations: Nothing says congratulations like a beautiful bouquet of roses. Bright colours like yellow will match the happy festivity of a graduation, promotion or engagement.

There is enormous potential to convey meaning through colour when gifting roses. The next step is to decide which rose colour heightens the sentiment you want to express.

Lilies

The enchanting beauty and mild, uplifting fragrance of the lily are perhaps what makes them one of the popular flower varieties across the world.

Although lilies are most commonly known as the go-to funerals flowers because they symbolise the soul’s return to innocence, they are also popular anniversary and birthday flowers for their representation of pride and devotion.

Fun fact: Did you know you could extend the vase life of a lily by simply removing the pollen!

What Different Lily Colours Really Mean

Lilies come in different colours, sizes, and forms, with the Oriental, Asiatic, and Stargazer qualifying as the most popular ones. Learn about the different meanings of the lily flower below:

  • White: The white lily denotes purity, chastity, and innocence

  • Yellow: A yellow lily stands for happiness, good health, healing and encouragement. However, in the Christian faith, the yellow lily is sometimes associated with falsehood.

  • Pink: Sending a pink lily to someone means that you are lending them support and encouragement. A pink lily also stands for ambition.

  • Red: Bright red lilies are a sign of passion and love, just like the red rose. If you desire someone, choose a bouquet of fiery red lilies for them!

The Best Occasions To Gift a Lily

Given that there are over a 100 varieties of lilies across the world, there’s a lily for virtually every occasion you can think of!

  • Funerals: Presenting a white lily bouquet to the family of the deceased is a time-honoured practice. Lilies stand for purity and innocence, making them a perfect representation of the state of the departed soul.

  • Anniversaries: Nothing says “I’m devoted to you” as lilies in an anniversary bouquet do. Lilies are suitable for any anniversary, but are especially symbolic when presented on the 2nd and 30th anniversary.

  • Mother’s Day: Chrysanthemums, carnations and roses might be the more popular Mother’s Day flowers, but lilies are not far behind for their stunning beauty. Celebrate and pamper your mother with a dramatic pink and white bouquet of lilies.

  • Encouragement and sympathy: Know someone who’s dealing with a rough patch in life, at work, or in their relationships? Help them face their troubles with strength with a bouquet of pink lilies, which stand for sympathy and encouragement.

  • Congratulations: Yellow and orange lilies stand for happiness and joy. This makes them a perfect pick for those promotion and graduation parties, birthdays, and house warmings.  

From sombre to celebratory, lilies breathe life into the many different emotions you might want to convey.

Orchids

Did you know that there are over 25,000 species of orchids in the world? Just as vast as the variety of orchids are the different meanings and connotations associated with these alluring flowers.

If you’re trying to bring your emotions to life with flowers, we’ve got a quick guide to help you choose the perfect orchid for your bouquet or arrangement.

Fun fact: Vanilla is a species of orchid.

What Different Orchid Colours Mean

The majestic orchid is generally regarded as being a symbol of elegance and fertility. However, like many other flowers, it is the colour of the orchid that decides its meaning:

  • White: A white orchid makes a great gift when you want to express reverence, purity, and elegance.

  • Purple: There’s nothing quite as striking as a purple orchid, which represents royalty. Gifting a purple orchid is a sign of admiration and is great for a friend or mentor you respect.

  • Pink: The prettiness of the pink orchid is a symbol of grace, femininity, and happiness. It’s perfect for that special lady you know or as a gift for just about any joyous occasion.

  • Orange: When vitality and enthusiasm are the underpinning emotions, go for an orange orchid as it symbolises pride and boldness.

  • Red: Paying an ode to the most special one in your life? Then it is a fiery red orchid you should pick. Red orchids evoke deep passion and love. However, do remember that they also stand for strength and courage.

Other common orchid colours are yellow and green, which stand for new beginnings and good fortune, respectively.

When Should You Gift an Orchid?

Orchids have captured to imagination of flower lovers worldwide and are the floral gift of choice for numerous occasions:

  • Mother’s Day: What better occasion than Mother’s Day to tell your mother what she means to you. Exotic purple orchids are the best way to show your mother how much you love, admire, and respect her. If you want to make elegance the theme of your message on Mother’s Day, buy dainty pink orchids instead.

  • Housewarming parties: Potted phalaenopsis orchids make for a great housewarming gift with a personal touch. They’re not only long-lasting, but incredibly easy to care for which means they can bloom for years with just a little love. White potted orchids stand for serenity, while pink orchids convey feelings of joy.

  • New baby arrival: The association between orchids and fertility runs deep, especially in Asian cultures. This makes orchids, especially white and pink ones, perfect for someone who’s just entered (or is on the verge of entering) the exciting world of parenthood!

  • Congratulations and good luck: Searching for a thoughtful gift for a friend or colleague who’s achieved a milestone that deserves to be celebrated? Gift them an orange or yellow orchid. Orange orchids evoke feelings of vitality and enthusiasm while yellow orchids symbolise happiness.

Orchids complement different personalities and moods, so the next time you’re looking for last-minute gift ideas, don’t forget to consider orchids!

Chrysanthemums

These exceptionally beautiful daisy-like flowers are cultivated across the world and are among the most popular floral gifts. Did you know that in Australia, chrysanthemums are the classic Mother’s Day flowers and are nicknamed “mums”?

Fun fact: Chrysanthemums are the birth flower for November.

What do Chrysanthemum Colours Mean?

Chrysanthemums, or “mums”, stand for optimism, happiness, and fidelity in general. However, different colours of the chrysanthemum do evoke specific feelings:

  • White: One of the most common chrysanthemum colours, white means honesty and fidelity.

  • Yellow: Although yellow is often associated with joy and happiness, this isn’t necessarily the case with chrysanthemums. Yellow chrysanthemums denote sorrow and unrequited love.

  • Red: Much like the red rose, red chrysanthemums symbolise deep love and passion.

  • Pink: Pink chrysanthemums mean grace and refinement.

  • Violet: The splendour of violet chrysanthemums means that you wish for the recipient to get well soon.

Occasions To Gift Chrysanthemums

  • Mother’s Day: A beautiful bouquet or posy of chrysanthemums is sure to make mum beam on Mother’s Day. Surprise your mum with a beautiful bouquet of chrysanthemums with her breakfast in bed!

  • Birthday: Chrysanthemums are the birth flower for those who celebrate their birthdays in November. However, you can gift a beautiful posy of chrysanthemums to those with other birth months as well - it would be a shame to deprive others of these ravishing flowers!

  • Sympathy: If you know someone who’s had a lot to contend with lately, give them a warm hug and a bunch of happy chrysanthemums to brighten their mood! Yellow chrysanthemums are best for spreading cheer.

  • New baby: Welcome that much-awaited bundle of joy into the world with a lovable bouquet of fresh and fluffy chrysanthemums. A bouquet featuring little green button chrysanthemums is another perfect way to wish mum and bub the best.

If you’re looking for a memorable gift that won’t dent your pocket, a beautiful arrangement of chrysanthemums is the best choice.

Tulips

The tulip itself symbolises perfect love, but like roses, the meaning of a tulip is affected by the colour of its petals.

Fun fact: Even after they’re cut, tulips can continue to grow up to an inch in the flower vase.

What Different Tulip Colours Mean

Colours are easily recognisable symbols for different feelings, and as a result tulips of those shades have come to embody those meanings. Different coloured tulips can mean:

  • Red: This tulip is timelessly used to send messages of love.

  • Yellow: Hope, friendship and cheer are the sentiments conveyed by a yellow tulip.

  • White: Express apologies, sympathies, respect and forgiveness with white tulips.

  • Pink: Tap into platonic love, happiness and confidence with pink tulips.

  • Purple: The iconic colour of royalty and admiration.

Before gifting tulips, consider the intention of your gift when selecting the colours of the bud filled arrangement or bouquet you’d like to send.

Popular Occasions To Gift Tulips

Tulips are a great choice to send a variety of messages on a range of occasions. Their size, shade and availability provide added value to an inspired and meaningful selection.

You might like to gift tulips on:

  • Anniversaries: Tulips are the 11th wedding anniversary flower, so grab a bunch of red, pink or purple buds to impress your spouse on the 11th celebration of matrimony.

  • Apologies: Express a heartfelt apology with a bouquet of white tulips, an elegant bloom to increase your chances of forgiveness.

  • Mother’s Day: Appreciate mum with an arrangement of purple, pink and yellow tulips to brighten the coffee table or hall in the family home.

  • Welcome a new baby: Yellow is the colour for celebrating the arrival of a new baby. Match with a card expressing fond wishes for the child’s future to send the right message.

Tulips are an elegant bloom, and highly flexible in terms of the meanings you are able to convey with a single flower. You only need to decide which message you want to send.

Carnations

Rich in meaning, the carnation symbolises fascination, distinction and love. Their endurance as a popular flower since ancient times is a testament to their appeal.

Fun fact: Carnation oil is used as an effective remedy against stress and inflammation.

What Different Coloured Carnations Mean

Carnations can be found in a wide variety of colours, and the meaning of each is diverse enough make them relevant to almost any festival or celebration:

  • Dark red: Carnations of this colour deeply express love and affection.

  • Light red: Admiration is the sentiment conveyed by light red carnations.

  • White: The white carnation is iconic as a symbol of purity.

  • Pink: Associated with gratitude and thankfulness, the pink carnation is one of the most popular colours in the family.

  • Green: This is the luckiest bud of the pot. Green carnations are used to symbolise fortune.

You might like to consider combining different coloured carnations to compose an individual floral message tailored specifically for your recipient.

Popular Celebrations To Gift Carnations

The core meanings of the carnation are able to be applied to a myriad of occasions. You might wish to express fascination, celebrate distinction or send a message of love on these special days:

  • Mother’s Day: Carnations are the official flower of Mother’s Day in many parts of the world, so look no further for the perfect Mother’s Day gift than a bouquet of pink or light red carnations.

  • St. Patrick's Day: Worn by Oscar Wilde, you too can wish someone good fortune with a bunch of green carnations on St. Patrick's Day, or perhaps order an arrangement for the office to get everyone involved in the festivities.

  • Anniversaries: The first wedding anniversary is the year of the carnation, and we recommend a pink or red bouquet to celebrate your marriage.

  • School events: It’s a tradition to gift carnations to students at academic and sporting awards ceremonies in their school colours. Mix and match to suit your high achiever!

  • Exams: For a student celebrating the end of their exams, you might like to gift a bouquet of red carnations on the date of their final exam.

Carnations are meaningful flowers, and you can easily customise an arrangement or bouquet to make your gift an individual monument to love and achievement.

Gerberas

As the fifth most popular flower in the world, gerberas are a flower meaningful to many. This flower conveys innocence, purity, cheerfulness and beauty, sentiments matched by the bright variety of available colours.

Fun fact: Gerberas are among the longest lasting flowers with a vase life of up to 14 days.

What do Different Coloured Gerberas Mean?

The bright and sunny colour variety in which gerberas are available assures a positive array of meanings for happy occasions:

  • Pink: Admire, adore or express respect and esteem with pink.

  • Yellow: Spread cheer with a sunny bunch of yellow gerberas.

  • White: Capture the innocence and purity of childhood with white.

  • Red: Tell them that you are immersed in your love for them with red.

Use any of these colours to express wishes for happiness and wellness in the life of the recipient.

Occasions To Gift Sunny Gerberas

Gerberas are best paired with occasions marking a significant change or new direction in the life of your recipient. Consider gifting gerberas for:

  • Milestone birthdays: Milestone birthdays are the perfect opportunity to send a message of positivity with pink, white or yellow gerberas. Go with white for a sweet sixteen, or pink for a 50th birthday bash.

  • Overseas jobs: Congratulate a loved one who’s leaving to work or intern overseas with a bouquet of pink gerberas.

  • Summer dates: Start a romantic summer afternoon or enjoy an intimate picnic with a bouquet of red gerberas to set the mood.  

  • Get well wishes: A posy of yellow gerberas will brighten the mood of any hospital room. Send an arrangement to a recovering relative or friend and watch as the cheer becomes contagious.

This is only a sample of celebrations that can be brightened with a bunch of gerberas. Use your intuition, and let happiness guide your final decision.

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Australian Native Flowers

One of Australia’s greatest prides is her wide array of native flowers, many of which are found only on the Australian continent. These are not your typical buds and were experienced by the Indigenous and colonial peoples very differently. As a result, Australian flowers have assumed a richness in their meaning to peoples of both Aboriginal and colonial descent.

What do Different Australian Flowers Mean?

Many Australian flowers are imbued with meaning from their use as medicine or ingredients by Aboriginal tribes. Others take a more symbolic stature as memories of the Aboriginal Dreaming. These Australian flowers mean:

  • Wattle: This flower symbolises resilience, a value held high by the Australian people.

  • Bottlebrush: The bottlebrush embodies the essence of the kookaburra, symbolising the harmonious joy of the bird’s laughter.

  • Waratah: At the centre of several Aboriginal Dreamings, the waratah symbolises both the positive and tragic sides of love.

  • Banksia: Named for Sir Joseph Banks, the botanist who first documented Australian plants in the 18th century, the banksia is centred on discovery.

  • Grevillea: Favoured by Aboriginal peoples for their sweet nectar, the juice of this bud could be mixed with water to fix up a tasty bush treat.

You can use the cultural meaning behind these buds to inform your choice, but who wouldn’t love a bouquet of tropical wildflowers as a thought-filled gift.

Occasions To Gift Native Buds

You might be wondering when you can possibly gift flowers as special as Australian natives, and we’re delighted to say there’s more than you might realise:

  • Citizenship: Australia welcomes people from all corners of the globe, and an arrangement of natives is a perfect way to mark the attainment of Australian citizenship.

  • Australia Day: If you need something to take to your neighbours’ Australia Day barbeque, then a bouquet of bottlebrush, wattle and banksia pairs great with sausages for the barbie.

  • Anzac Day: Poppies are traditionally the flower of the day, but the resilient symbol of the wattle will pair well with any commemorative parade or activity.

  • Father’s Day: If you’re worried about sending flowers to Dad, forget about roses and tulips and instead consider a bouquet of native blooms.

Should you choose to give Australian native flowers to your special someone, remember to match up the meaning of the bloom with the central thought of the occasion.

Sunflowers

Sunflowers characterise summer and all things joyful. Is it any wonder that when you think of sunflowers, it evokes feelings of cheerfulness and a carefree time? When you want to celebrate summer and the special occasions that it brings along, sunflowers as gifts can bring the warmth of your feelings to life.

Fun fact: Each sunflower is actually made of hundreds of tiny flowers.

What do Sunflowers Symbolise?

Van Gogh’s celebrated Sunflowers painting gave this flower iconic status in popular culture, but sunflowers have appeared as a symbol of love and the sun since ancient times. Here are some of the popular meanings associated with sunflowers:

Happiness: The bright yellow colour of sunflowers is a reflection of happiness, hope, and sunshine. It stands for everything that makes life beautiful!

Adoration: The bold warmth of yellow sunflowers is the perfect way to tell a friend, family member, or that special someone that you adore them.

Loyalty: The radiant yellow colour has traditionally been regarded as a symbol of friendship and loyalty - this symbolism also applies to the vibrant sunflower.

Longevity: Sunflowers also have a deep spiritual meaning as flowers that denote longevity, strength, and enlightenment.

Good fortune: In China and many other Asian cultures, sunflowers represent good fortune. Likewise, Native Americans associated sunflowers with nature’s bounty.

When Should You Gift Sunflowers?

Sunflowers are best presented on happy occasions rather than sombre ones. If you’re asking yourself “When should I gift sunflowers?”, we’ve got you covered:

  • Anniversary: As a couple enters another year in their life together, a sunflower, like a ray of sunshine, symbolises happy times ahead. What better way to wish someone a happy anniversary!

  • Thinking of you: A sunflower is a perfect way of telling someone that you are casually thinking of them. If you want to brighten your grandma’s day or surprise a friend you haven’t seen in a long time, pick a bouquet with 15 sunflower stems!

  • Get well soon: While there’s no denying that all fresh flowers work like a charm in spreading cheer, sunflowers do so with unrivalled success! Their stunning beauty and striking yellow shades are sure to put anyone in a cheerful mood.

  • Thank you: If someone’s been kind to you and you want to return the favour, sunflowers make a great gifting idea. They tell the recipient that you adore them for their acts of kindness.

  • Birthday: A brand new year in someone’s life should be all about hope, happiness, good fortune, and good friends - these are precisely the things that a sunflower symbolises.

  • Congratulations: A bouquet of bright and beautiful sunflowers makes for an appropriate congratulatory gift. They are the best way to appreciate someone’s achievements and wish them a bright future ahead.

Succulents

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Everybody loves fresh, perky flowers but if you’re looking for a gift that goes beyond floral blooms, succulents fit the bill perfectly! With their unique and creative look, it’s easy to see why succulents are becoming popular gifts for many special occasions.

Why Succulent Plants make Smart Gifts

Succulent plant gifts are perhaps the easiest way to delight all those plant lovers and green thumbs in your life. Here’s why you should consider gifting a succulent to the special ones in your life:

  • Green and sustainable: Sure, nothing can replace fresh flowers as the gift that everyone loves and appreciates. But succulents manage to take the joy of receiving a gift to the next level with their exquisite beauty and ability to bring life to any corner of a room. What’s more, succulents are famously low-maintenance so even the not-so-green thumbs will derive joy from them.

  • Conversation starter: Succulent arrangements can range from elegant to quirky, making them great as a centrepiece in the living room or to spruce up the work desk. They can even be placed outdoors in the patio or garden. Go for succulent conversation pieces that will wow the recipient and draw compliments!  

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