Floriography: Exploring the Victorian Meaning of Flowers

Bouquets at Hong Kong Flower Market

Photo: Stock Photos from gdefilip/Shutterstock

Today, if we want to supplement our text and social media with a more visual element, we search for the right emoji; but in the 19th century, Victorians would’ve used flowers. In fact, due to the severe restrictions of Victorian society, an entire language in flowers was developed so that senders could express feelings and emotions through colorful coded messages. Consequently, Victorians carried floral dictionaries to decipher received bouquets and to compose their replies.

Armed with the right knowledge, you too can send secret messages through beautiful bouquets. Scroll down to learn about flowers and their meaning in Victorian times.

Different Flowers and Their Victorian Meanings



Anemone Flower

Stock Photos from nnattalli/Shutterstock

In art history, anemones were favorite flowers of Impressionist painters, like Monet. To Victorians, anemones carried dark undertones and meant forsaken.



Aster Flower

Stock Photos from sasimoto/Shutterstock

The name aster comes from the Ancient Greek word for “star,” and this flower is recognized for its unique star-shaped head. To Victorians, the aster flower represented daintiness.



Camellia Flower

Stock Photos from rainsoop/Shutterstock

As a 19th-century favorite, each color of camellia had a purpose.

  • Red camellias meant you're a flame in my heart. 
  • White camellias meant you're adorable.
  • Pink camellias meant longing for you.



Yellow Carnation

Stock Photos from Dimitrios/Shutterstock

The scientific name of the carnation is dianthus, which derives from the Greek words “dios” (genitive of “Zeus”) and “anthos” (meaning “flower”). They are therefore referred to as the “flower of Zeus.” Each color of carnation carried different meanings to Victorians:

  • Red carnations symbolized admiration.
  • White carnations symbolized purity.
  • Purple carnations symbolized capriciousness.
  • Pink carnations symbolized gratitude.
  • Yellow carnations symbolized rejection.



Chrysanthemum Flowers

Stock Photos from Marinka Buronka/Shutterstock

In Victorian culture, chrysanthemums meant you're a wonderful friend.




Stock Photos from Lesenok18/Shutterstock

The Latin name for daffodil is narcissus, based on the tragic myth of the beautiful Greek hero who fell in love with his reflection. But in Victorian times, this flower meant chivalry and unrequited love.


Next: More Flowers and Their Meanings

Page 1/3

Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content