Flower Symbolism

Symbolism of Flower in Literature

Flowers as symbolism play a significant role in literature and art throughout many centuries in all the major literary works. Flowers are known as a non-verbal communication tool mostly to express gratitude or ask for forgiveness. Each flower has a separate meaning. However, it depends on the giver and recipient as well as the way it is given. In the Victorian Era, flowers were also called the language of love. The word flower comes from the Anglo-Norman word ‘flur’ or the old French word ‘flor’. Below are a few symbols of flowers in general.


Flowers are given to express love throughout the ages and are depicted in art as well as literature. Flowers as the symbolism of love include first love, passion, romantic, and even familial love. Red roses are a symbol of love and perfection and have the nickname of the most romantic flower. Apart from roses, tulips, lilacs, carnations, orchids, Red chrysanthemums, forget-me-nots, and camellias are symbols of love.  Tulips are given on festivals such as Easter and mother’s day. Orchids represent mysterious love and are considered luxurious, unlike roses. According to Chinese culture, a peony or paeony is also a symbol of love and is added to wedding bouquets. It is also the official emblem of China.


Yellow roses are at the top of the list among flowers as the symbol of friendship. There is an exchange of flowers on International friendship day, they are also paired with other flowers and given to a friend as a bouquet. Sunflowers, chrysanthemums, and daisies are other flowers that are considered symbols of friendship. South American native flowers, Alstroemeria, are shared to express friendship and devotion. Zinnia is a seasonal flower from Mexico and also grown in South American and southwestern states of the United States also represents strong affection and friendship.


Among all the flowers, Dahlia stands as the flower symbol of beauty. All flowers, with few exceptions, are beautiful.  Along with Dahlia, amaryllis, orchids, and black-eyed Susan, also represent beauty and are considered flowers with symbolism. Rose is also considered symbolism of eternal beauty in ancient Persian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures. However, the modern world also considers the rose as a beauty symbol and uses it in art, jewelry, greeting cards, etc. Many homes also grow the rose plant to admire its beauty.


When visiting a person recovering from illness, it is always suggested to take a bouquet of flowers. Among flowers, lavender and azalea are considered symbols of health and good fortune. Azalea is known to survive the driest weather and bloom into beautiful flowers. Malva is one of the flowers as a symbol of health that has been used for medicinal purposes in China for over 5000 years. Sage is also a symbol of health and healing as it contains anti-inflammatory properties. The other flower that represents health is dandelion, camellia, yarrow, chrysanthemum, magnolia, and tansy. These flowers are not only symbolism of health but also contain many health benefits.


Another occasion that prominently uses flowers is funerals. Hence, flowers also stand as a symbolism of death. In American and European cultures Chrysanthemums represent death and are placed at the graves of the deceased. Black roses are also symbol of death. Lillies are also known as funeral flowers and are symbolism of death, along with yellow and pink roses, carnations, and gladiolus. Red poppies, or scarlet corn poppies, are not exactly the symbol of death but are used as a symbol of remembrance for the soldiers who died in WW1. Also, marigolds or orange Cempasuchil are specially grown in Mexican and Mexican-American culture for the celebration of El Dia de Muertos.

Devotion And Purity

White Lilies are symbolism of purity and innocence. Lavender represents devotion. According to Greek mythology, lilies are also symbols of motherhood and rebirth hence given to them as a sign of devotion. Gypsophilia, which also represents purity and innocence, is given to the new mothers and babies. In European culture, violets are also a symbol of devotion


A few flowers are symbols of freedom. Strelitzia, which was named after the Queen of England, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who was also a naturalist, stands as a symbol of freedom. Due to its features, it is also called ‘the birds of paradise’. Yellow roses and tulips also represent freedom. In local folklore of the English Channel island of Guernsey, Nerine flowers are considered a symbol of freedom. These flowers are attributed to the nymphs, also known as Nereids and daughters of the sea deity Nereus.


Blue Iris flowers are symbolism of hope. The other flowers include forget-me-nots which are also known as myosotis. The ALS foundation added blue corn flowers as their symbol, as it also means hope and healing. Bethlehem Star flowers are also symbols of hope and salvation, according to Biblical scholars and Christianity, with their white color and star-shaped petals. These flowers are also believed to be the star of Bethlehem that shined brightly, guiding the Magis. Later it was broken into pieces and dropped on earth to be flower plants. Lotus, a national and sacred flower for Hindus, opens its petals with sunrise and closes at sunset. Thus making it a symbolism hope as well as resurrection. The other flowers that are symbols of hope are sunflower, poppy, chrysanthemum, yellow tulip, daffodil, and snowdrop.


Anemone is known as one of the most powerful symbols of protection among flowers. It is toxic in its natural form but also has medicinal purposes of healing pain. It is also one of the most used flowers in artworks and represents the blood of Jesus Christ during the crucifixion. According to Protestant Christians, praying and claiming the blood of Jesus over them acts as protection for their family.  The dragon flower or Snapdragon is also a symbol of protection along with Malva, Verbascum, and Hypericum. Baptista is poisonous flowers and yet considered a symbol of protection. These flowers were used as an anti-inflammatory and also as a dye in Native American Culture.

Examples of Flowers as Symbolism in Literature

Example #1

The Flowers Alone By William Carlos Williams

I should have to be
Chaucer to describe
Loss keeps
me from such a
violet, scentless as
it is here! higher

In this poem, the flower is a symbol of loss and death, and also the poet specially mentions violet flowers that are left at the grave as a sign of devotion.

Example #2

Enchanted Flowers By Arthur Gregor

She is a flower in the wind
Her bloom is gone.
The wind must take her petals
one by one.
She brought joys to beholders,
Lean stalk of a stem,
the wind once proud of her.
The seer cannot see herself.
Dying is the wind’s full grief.

In this example, the flower represents death, and the loved one who had died is compared to the flower as well perhaps because of her short life.

Example #3

Ye Flowery Banks (Bonie Doon) By Robert Burns

Ye flowery banks o’ bonie Doon,
How can ye blume sae fair?
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sae fu’ o’ care?

Thou’ll break my heart, thou bonie bird,
That sings upon the bough;
Thou minds me o’ the happy days,
When my fause love was true.

The above example by a famous poet Robert Burn is written in Scottish dialect. It talks about the relationship between flowers and birds. Here the flowers symbolize beauty, hope, and purity.

Example #4

Flowers By The Sea By William Carlos Williams

When over the flowery, sharp pasture’s
edge, unseen, the salt ocean
lifts its form—chicory and daisies
tied, released, seem hardly flowers alone
but color and the movement—or the shape
perhaps—of restlessness, whereas
the sea is circled and sways
peacefully upon its plantlike stem

In this example, the flowers are symbols of beauty and hope as the poet describes green pastures and flowers blooming near the sea.

Example #5

Lead Us To A Place: Your Spiritual Journey Through Life’s Seasons by Andrew Pacholyk

The gentle rose offers a powerful joy known only to the heart.

The above example uses a rose, a flower that symbolizes beauty, love, and happiness.

Example #6

She’ll Find the Sky: A Collection of Poems by Christy Ann Martine

The flowers you see
blooming in the sunshine
were once hidden seeds
waiting patiently for the rain.

In this example, the flowers represent beauty, patience, and hope as the writer describes how the flowers wait for the rain and people must learn from them.

Example #7

A Secret Affair by Mary Balogh,

 Everyone was a rose but even more complex than a mere flower. Everyone was made up of infinitely layered petals. And everyone had something indescribably precious at the heart of their being.
No one was shallow. Not really.

In the above example, the author uses flowers as a symbol of friendship, devotion, and mystery. Here Rose is described as one of the most mysterious flowers and is compared to the human mind.

Example #8

In the Middle of Hickory Lane by Heather Webber

“Peonies are a gift from the heavens above. I mean, just look at this flower, so big and round. The ruffled petals that look like they belong on a ball gown? Absolute perfection. That scent? It always reminds me of rose and jasmine. I sell these stems at the Sweetplace, but there’s no better place for them than in a wedding bouquet, since peonies represent a happy marriage and a happy life. Mix them with some good stock in a bouquet, and well, you’re kicking married life off right.”

The above example describes various flowers that are in the bouquet that is given to the bride. Here each flower represents hope, love, happiness, and purity. Placing all the flowers in one place is meant to bring good luck to the bride.