Skip to main content

Flowers are a forgotten love language

bouquet of fresh flowers

URBANA, Ill. – Love. Amor. Aimer. Liebe. Milovat. A red rose. Six different languages, all expressing the same emotion. Floriography is the forgotten language or secret language of flowers. Throughout history, including the Victorian Era and many cultures including the Persians have used flowers to send secret messages to others. Nowadays, many people use flowers to convey emotions but rely on florists to translate the emotion into flowers.

Flowers in a bouquet are like words or phrases in a sentence. Each one can convey a different part of the message or emotion but are you sure your flowers are sending the right message?

When thinking about luck, people often think of the four-leaf clover, however, there are other flowers representing luck. Since Victorian times, Bells of Ireland have been considered a symbol of good luck, the perfect flower to send to someone who is starting a new job or moving to a new home. Shamrocks are a symbol of good luck and fortune. Myrtle at a wedding means “Good luck and love in a marriage.”

When you pick a random bouquet from the store, does it say what you think it does? Here are three flower displays to practice decoding using the University of Illinois Extension Guide, "The Meaning of Flowers" available at The answers are also listed below.

  • Bouquet 1: Red and pink full-bloom roses; red and striped tulips; baby’s breath.
  • Bouquet 2: Red, pink, and striped carnations; sweet pea. What if you add yellow roses?
  • Flower Display 3: Snapdragons; red and pink full bloom roses; moss.

If you have a specific sentiment or occasion you are ordering flowers for, have a conversation with your local florist. They know their flowers for all life’s occasions including birth months, anniversaries, sympathies, or just because. To help start the conversation use our Meaning of Flowers infosheet.

For more information on flower care, connect with your local Illinois Extension county office at


  • Bouquet 1 – Valentine’s Day: Red (Love) & Pink (Grace & Admiration) Full Bloom Roses (I love you); Red (Declaration of love) & Striped Tulips (beautiful eyes); Baby’s Breath (lasting love)
  • Bouquet 2 – Anti-Valentine’s: Red (my heart aches for you), Pink (I’ll never forget you), & Striped Carnations (no, I can’t be with you); Sweet Pea (goodbye); Yellow Rose (infidelity)
  • Flower Display 3 – Mother’s Day: Snap Dragons (gracious lady); Red (love), & Pink (grace & admiration) Full Bloom Roses (I love you); Moss (maternal Love) 

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.

PHOTO ACCESS: The photo in this article is available to download for media use

person holding paper-wrapped bouquet of pink and whit roses