Discovering the Emotive Meanings of Funeral Flowers

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia gives a monologue containing the names of plants and flowers which are rich with symbolism. She does so while grieving her unquestionable loss. Ophelia. There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts... There's fennel for you, and columbines. There's rue for you, and here's some for me. We may call it herb of grace o' Sundays. O, you must wear your rue with a difference! There's a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they wither'd all when my father died. They say he made a good end. [sings]For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy.

Discovering the Emotive Meanings of Funeral Flowers

Ophelia dies following this speech. Her references to flowers illustrate strong symbolism.

  • Rosemary and Pansies: Ophelia cites these flowers as being for remembrance and thoughts.
  • Fennel and Columbine: Fennel is the symbol for flattery and columbine is considered the flower for “deceived lovers,” a symbol of male adultery and faithlessness.
  • Rue: Rue is the symbol for bitterness, thought to be the cause of most abortions in that day, and often connected with adultery.
  • Daisy: Ophelia picks up and sets down the daisy without giving it to anyone. This is interesting because the daisy is the symbol of innocence and gentleness.
  • Violets: Ophelia says that she would have brought violets but that they all withered when her father died. She ends on this note because violets are the symbol for faithfulness and fidelity and she knows no one there represents either.
Flowers have spoken their own language throughout history and continue to do so today. When choosing flowers to convey your feelings for a deceased loved one, consider the symbolism. In combination, flowers can speak your heart.

Carnations (Strength, Faithfulness)

Carnations have long symbolized admiration and love. White is pure adoration, light red is impeccable admiration and dark red is deep affection. When sending carnations, you affirm your profound love and affection for the deceased.

Chrysanthemums (Loyalty, Lamentation)

The literal meaning is “gold flower,” indicating special value.  White mums symbolize lamentation, so chrysanthemum flowers are given to mourners as tokens offered up to comfort those who grieve. Red mums signify love and white mums symbolizes chaste loyalty.

Daffodils (Cheerfulness, Hope)

Yellow tulips and daffodils bloom in the spring, therefore they symbolize rebirth, fresh starts and new beginnings. These are perfect flowers for those who grieve because they represent hope for the future.

Gladiolus (Strength, Faithfulness)

The origin of the term “gladiolus” is “sword,” because of its tall flower and slender leaf shape. Gladioli symbolize moral integrity and remembrance. White gladioli express purity, while yellow gladioli express friendship. Sending these flowers indicate that you will always remember the person’s regal strength and honorable integrity.

Ivy (Immortality, Eternal Life)

Ivy is evergreen and as such conveys ongoing power and life.

Lily (Purity, Majesty)

White lilies symbolize the pure soul’s journey to the majesty of heaven.

Orchid (Everlasting Love)

Pink and white convey sympathy, so be sure to choose a combination of these colors. Because orchids are a live plant, they symbolize feelings which will continue on.

Roses (Love)

Roses are used in most funeral flower arrangements. They convey love, with the color specifying what type of love you have for the deceased.

* White is reverent, spiritual * Red is romantic * Pink is admiration * Yellow is friendship

Tulip (Perfect Love)

Tulips represent elegance and grace. Yellow tulips represent hope and cheerfulness, while white tulips represents forgiveness.

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