These days, the message associated with sending a bunch of red roses on Valentine’s Day is pretty clear – it signals some sort of romantic/passionate intent on the part of the giver. But the practice of bestowing flowers on someone else was a bit more complicated than that back in the Victorian period, when particular blooms had specific meanings.

Read on to find out how to convey your own message just by choosing the right flowers for Valentine’s Day…

The art of floriography

Floriography – or the language of flowers – became popular in 19th century thanks to the ease with which people could send secret messages to each other, just by selecting a particular flower in a particular colour.

When you consider how big a role moral values and behaving ‘correctly’ played in Victorian society, this could be seen to be a pretty radical thing to do at the time! Flowers were also used in this way simply by pinning them to a lapel or hat, just like the brooches and badges we wear today.

As well as selecting single varieties to convey a particular message, it was common to use combinations of different flowers to get across something more complex. The positioning of flowers also had significance; a flower pointing downwards suggested a negative attitude to something, while one directed the other way would indicate a more positive outlook.

Flower meanings

So, just what are the romantic meanings associated with specific varieties of flower? Here’s a list of some of them, but there are many more out there!

• Red rose – The daddy of them all. And yes, this definitely means ‘I love you’! A single one that’s fully bloomed is a simple way of declaring true love, while a bouquet of them refers specifically to feelings of gratitude, oddly enough.

• White rose – This can mean humility or innocence/purity. Another meaning is silence or secrecy – mysterious!

• Yellow rose – This can refer to friendship, happiness and/or joy. Ideal if you’re planning on giving Valentine’s Day flowers without a romantic intention behind them.

• Pink rose – This can imply secret love or sheer happiness. The meanings change depending on how light or dark the pink is; very pale means joy or grace, while dark signifies gratitude.

• Red tulip – Giving this flower is the same as a declaration of love, which is perfect for Valentine’s Day! Choosing any tulip also signifies ‘perfect lover’ – the Victorians probably didn’t mean this in a saucy context, but you could give it with that intention if you like!

• Calla lily – This means ‘magnificent beauty’ – now there’s a compliment!

• Carnation – A great option for anyone looking for low cost Valentine’s Day bouquets. Carnations can refer to deep devotion, but different colours mean different things (of course). There are so many we won’t go into all of them, but red signifies an admiration or an aching heart, while pink means the sender will always remember the recipient. Fascinatingly, a striped carnation means ‘no’ and a yellow one expresses disappointment or feelings of rejection – you can just imagine an entire relationship being played out just through carnations!

• Yellow daffodil – This means the sender is feeling chivalrous – one for knights, perhaps?

• Gladioli – This is one to choose if you want to show that you’re sincere or feeling generous.