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Decoding the secret language of flowers

News source/writer: Rhonda Ferree, 309-543-3308,


URBANA, Ill. – Do you give flowers to your loved one on holidays and birthdays? Flowers are a great way to communicate your love and affection, and some can convey a specific message, according to a horticulture educator with University of Illinois Extension.

"Flowers can represent everything from friendship to true love," says Rhonda Ferree. "For example, chrysanthemums show friendship. Gardenias represent secret love. Give a primrose to say, 'I can't live without you.' Lilies, a traditional wedding flower, convey chastity, innocence, and purity, while Stephanotis shows happiness in marriage. Tulips are given to the perfect lover, and a red tulip declares your love. Orchids are commonly given as corsages to show love and beauty."

But, Ferree says, no other flower shows more meaning than a rose. All roses symbolize love, but certain colors of roses have special meanings. "What's more, when several colors in various stages of bloom are combined in one arrangement, your floral bouquet can speak a whole sentence instead of just one thought!"

Here are some of the most widely accepted meanings for different rose colors, blooms, and arrangements:

- Red roses show love, respect, or courage.

- Yellow roses represent joy, gladness, or freedom.

- Pink/peach roses exude gratitude, appreciation, admiration, or sympathy.

- White roses demonstrate purity or secrecy.

- Two roses joined together display engagement.

- Red and white roses together indicate unity.

Additionally, rosebuds say, "you are young and beautiful." A single rose stands for simplicity. In full bloom, a rose means "I love you" or "I love you still," and a bouquet of roses in full bloom signifies gratitude.

If you receive fresh flowers from your loved one, follow the following guidelines to ensure the longest vase life. Add water containing floral food to the vase every day. The best flower food can be obtained from your floral retailer.

Once the flowers are past their prime, discard them or make the memory last by creating a potpourri out of your rose petals. You can also press and dry the flowers for your memory book. "The uses of flowers are endless," Ferree says.

For a complete fact sheet on the meaning of flowers, visit the horticulture program page at