The Meanings of Condolence Flowers


Flowers are one of nature’s gifts and the range of vibrant colors, exotic scents, and unusual shapes offers an abundance of beauty. We give flowers on many occasions: to celebrate a birthday or special event, to let someone know that we are thinking of them, to decorate a wedding, and at funerals to honor someone’s passing. Everlasting Footprint reminds you that flowers tell a story and celebrate life in many ways.

Why send flowers?

The traditional meaning of giving flowers at funerals may have been deeper, starting hundreds of years ago. Before the last century, bodies were not embalmed, which meant that funeral attendees might be exposed to an offensive odor. Flowers were used to mask the smell, and most flowers were piled directly on top of the casket.

Being named a pallbearer at a funeral continues to be an honor, but in days gone by, the role of a “flower lady” was as important. A group of six women carried flowers from the funeral to the “flower vehicle,” then set them up at the cemetery.

The use of flowers in funerals has become a way of expressing sorrow or remembrance. Because flowers create beauty and give comfort, the backdrop of flowers is something physical that expresses emotion. The picture the backdrop makes allows mourners to remember the service as meaningful.

Today, many bereaved ask that in lieu of flowers, mourners make a donation to a charity or organization that helps find cures, or a foundation that was close to the departed’s heart. Many people would still like to send flowers too, as they can’t imagine a funeral without them. It is a way to express their sentiment.

Meanings of funeral flowers

Certain flowers are traditionally used at funerals. The most common one is a lily.

Flower meanings were established in the 19th century Victorian era. Flowers had meanings, and giving or receiving certain flowers were understood as messages during times when emotions were not openly expressed. Social conventions of the time deemed it “improper” to act in emotional ways, which were considered “unseemly.” To the Victorians, geraniums symbolized comfort, magnolias meant dignity, violets stood for faithfulness and zinnia represented the thoughts of friends.

Today, we continue this tradition: white lilies signify sympathy, and have religious significance for Christians as symbols of everlasting life. Using a single rose in an arrangement of other flower varieties means enduring love for the departed. The colors of roses are also meaningful: red means love and respect, yellow conveys strong ties, pink symbolizes grace and appreciation, and dark red means grief and sorrow.

Florists use carnations to create spectacular spray arrangements that create flower wreaths. They are often placed on stands to add height to the display. Pink carnations are symbols of the Virgin Mary’s tears. Because the carnation is so versatile, many florists use it to recreate something meaningful to the departed, such as an image or a sports logo.


Colorful flower shop displayThe most skilled florists treat arrangements like artwork

Meanings of potted plants

Knowing what to take to a funeral may mean taking a gift of a potted plant, which will allow the bereaved to keep the memory of their loved one alive. Traditionally symbolic potted plants include orchids, which mean sympathy and love. White is an especially popular color.

Hydrangea plants mean heartfelt sympathy; tulips or hyacinths are symbols of renewal, because they are often one of the first plants that break through the cold ground in spring. Lilies are commonly given as plants as well as cut flowers.

Chrysanthemums are especially popular in France, Poland, Spain, Hungary and Croatia. In China, Japan and Korea, white chrysanthemums show grief, while in the US they are deemed more “cheerful,” except in New Orleans.

Should you send flowers?

The religion of the departed person also affects the choice of flowers. Often, Jewish funerals prefer charitable contributions to flowers. Islamic funerals may not have flowers, or may be restricted to where they are placed.

It has become traditional to send condolence flowers directly to the home of the bereaved, letting them know they are thought about. Flowers are also sent after the funeral so mourners are reminded that friends are keeping them in their prayers.

Flowers are a symbol of emotion and caring that will be appreciated in many ways.

Do any flowers have special meanings for you? Tell us about the meanings of flowers in your life – leave a comment or Tweet us.

About Cindy Readnower

Cindy Readnower, MBA, specializes in sales, marketing, and entrepreneurship. An award-winning certified Life Coach, business consultant, and publisher at Skinny Leopard Media, she helps writers produce and promote their books. She is a newspaper columnist, author of "Inherited Secrets," and a blogger.

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