Valentine's Day: Language of Flowers

Updated: 15 Feb 2013
Photos by Su Aziz

On any special occasion such as birthdays or Valentine’s Day, say it with flowers. Before you do, Su Aziz suggests you amplify your sentiment with the list of meanings of what flowers signify. Send a bouquet that speaks of undying love, admiration and fidelity instead of tears, separation and grief.

Being a girl, I’ll admit to a love of flowers. Admittedly, they don’t come often enough but when they do it’s been a sport of mine to look up what each flower says and how sometimes a bouquet is better than a love letter in terms of relaying a message. A good book to refer to for flower definition, and to enjoy, is Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s ‘The Language of Flowers’ and Googling always helps, of course.

Naturally, there are bound to be ambiguity or conflicting meanings such as that of a yellow rose but part of the fun is hunting for the ‘true one’, so to speak. A visit to the florist on the corner of Burma Road and Bangkok Lane – the one with the bushes of flora hiding its entrance called Modern Classic Floral – helped with the compilation of the flowers most favoured. These flowers are also easily available in all florists in Penang such as The Perfect Gift on the ground floor of Straits Quay mall in Tanjung Tokong and Bamboo Green Florist at 7374, Jalan Raja Uda in Butterworth.

Anthurium, Latin name: anthurium andraeanum
Also known as ‘naughty boy flower’ probably due to the structure and design of its spathe which is a
leaf-like bract that encloses a spadix (a fleshy spike bearing very small flowers). This handsome flower means hospitality.

African Lily, Latin name: agapanthus
This one with its delicate little petals of lilac and purple has a name that literally means ‘flower of love’ and therefore signifies love.

Alstroemeria, Latin name: alstroemria, alstremeria
Also called Peruvian lily, this delicate looking flower simply means devotion.

Baby’s Breath, Latin name: gypsophila paniculata
Contemporary flower arrangers despise this bunch of small, white flowers now but don’t put them aside just yet because they mean everlasting love.

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise, Latin name: strelitzia reginae
Dramatic if its long, sturdy, thick and green stalk is kept, this one of red and vermillion means magnificence.

Cala Lily, Latin name: zanthedeschia aethiopica
This long-stemmed flower, possessing a beautiful name and has a petal that curves most gracefully, means modesty.

Carnation, Latin name: dianthus caryophillus
Considered rather retro but no longer popular these days, the red ones send the message of ‘my heart breaks’, the white relays ‘sweet and lovely’, pink says ‘I will never forget you’ and the striped variety says ‘I cannot be with you’ while yellow means disdain.

Caspia, Latin name: limonium
Also known as sea lavender, this one holds many small purple flowers in one branch and is good to fill a bouquet. Easy to turn it into dried flowers, it means remembrance or lasting beauty. Or it can also mean sympathy.

Chrysanthemum, Latin name: chrysanthemum
Probably the easiest to find and inexpensive to boot, this flower comes in at least a dozen colours and it mean truth.

Daisies, Latin name: bellis
This flower means innocence but what’s commonly available here are the African daisies or Gerbera daisies which are hardier, larger in size and comes in a myriad colours. This variety means cheerfulness.


Eustoma, Latin name: Eustoma
Also known as lisianthus, this one looks like a cross between a poppy and a tulip in full bloom. While its name means beautiful, good and well, the flower itself means appreciation.

Forget-Me-Not, Latin name: myositis
Probably the most straightforward one in terms of meaning, the flower’s common name holds its actual meaning of ‘forget me not’.

Lavender, Latin name: lavandula
Although it grows in abundance in Europe, it may be a little hard to find here. Nevertheless, its scent has been favoured, bottled and sprinkled onto bed linens, handkerchiefs, clothings and skin for the longest time. Its flower, however, means mistrust. So, be warned!

Madonna Lily, Latin name: lilium candidum
The second most popular flower on Valentine’s Day is this one and it means chastity, innocence and piety.

Orchids, Latin name: orchidaceae
Exotic to the core, orchids are expensive, delicate and yet they are parasitical plants that mean refined beauty.

Roses, Latin name: rosa
Without a doubt it’s the most popular one during Valentine’s Day. Especially the red ones. Luckily, its sentiment is true to the most romantic day of the year – love. While white means ‘a heart unacquainted with love’, yellow means infidelity, a pale peach rose means modesty and the pink ones mean grace.

Stargazer Lily

Stargazer Lily, Latin name: lilium ‘stargazer’
Fragrant, striking and graceful, this is one of those with a few (positive) meanings attached to it but to sum it up, a gift of this flower signifies purity or restored innocence.

Sunflowers, Latin name: helianthus annuus
As much as your loved one adore these long-stemmed, sunny flowers, refrain from giving it as a Valentine’s gift to proclaim your love because it means false riches.

Tiger Lily, Latin name: lilium lancifolium
It has been said that this type of lily with its black-spotted petals means wealth and pride.

Tulips, Latin name: tulipa
Although they are expensive and not as readily available as the rest mentioned here, this flower holds a special meaning worthy of mention; declaration of love.

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