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The language of flowers for funerals

A funeral bouquet of pink roses

Photo by Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Flowers for a funeral say so much, from an elegant spray of fragrant white lilies on a casket, to a sympathy wreath that conveys “we’re so sorry for your loss.”

Flower arrangements for funerals can literally spell out sentiments too, with floral displays fashioned to read “Mom” or “RIP”. A hundred years ago or more, though, it was quite the fashion to use flowers as a code to express messages from the heart.

Most of us will associate red roses with an expression of romantic love. In the 19th century though, they were just one part of an entire lexicon called The Language of Flowers.

The language of flowers, sometimes known as floriography, could inspire extra sentiment to your funeral flowers ideas. Here, we look at the meanings behind 10 flowers for a funeral, to create a truly special funeral wreath, casket spray or sympathy bouquet.

If you are looking for an alternative sympathy gift to funeral flowers, you could also gift garden flowers, bulbs or seeds to begin a memorial garden for someone special.

1. White lilies

white lilies for funerals

Lilies represent purity, rebirth, restored innocence and sweetness in the language of flowers, while fragrant lily of the valley is also a symbol of light and purity. White lilies for funerals are a universally popular flower choice.

2. Roses for funerals

roses for funerals

Roses have many different meanings in the language of flowers and several are a symbolic funeral choice. A dark crimson rose signified mourning, while a tea rose was an expression of eternal remembrance.

According to the language of flowers, a light pink rose symbolizes elegance and grace, while a white rose reflected innocence. Roses in bud represent youth. In older cemeteries, a broken rose bud stem depicted in stone was often a symbol of a girl who died before she blossomed into womanhood.

3. Rosemary


Fragrant rosemary can look beautiful in a funeral bouquet or could be gifted as a garden plant to grow in loving memory. Long before the language of flowers evolved, this blue-flowering herb was a symbol of remembrance and has been used in burial rites dating back to Roman times.

4. Pink Carnation

pink carnations for funerals

Carnations are a popular and long-lasting funeral flower choice, with pink blooms expressing “I will never forget you” in the language of funeral flowers.

5. Heliotrope


This old-fashioned garden plant means “you are loved” in the language of flowers, with its purple flowers so sweetly fragranced that many people call this flower Cherry Pie, or Vanilla. A potted plant could make a beautiful sympathy gift.

6. Aspen

aspen leaves

Aspen leaves can add interest to a funeral bouquet, with this plant symbolizing lamentation and sorrow in the language of funeral flowers. If you are making up your own arrangement, aspen could add interest to your funeral flowers ideas.

7. Orchid

orchids for funerals

Representing eternal love and perfection in purity, orchids also represent grace, beauty and strength in the language of funeral flowers. Little wonder, then that orchids for funerals are a popular choice.

Orchids are elegant on their own as an understated coffin spray, or will complement other blooms as part of a flower arrangement for a funeral.

8. Ivy

Ivy for funeral wreaths

Ivy often features in funeral wreaths and upon grave markers, carved in stone. In the language of flowers, ivy represents loyalty, faithfulness and friendship.

Ivy adds depth to a formal funeral wreath, or can add a touch of trailing softness to a looser spray of beautiful funeral flowers.

9. Marigold

Marigolds for funerals

Marigolds represent eternal devotion, grief and sorrow in the language of flowers, while according to many ancient traditions they symbolize the sun and hope of new life or resurrection.

Marigolds are of great significance during the Mexican Dia de los Muertos, with the vivid blooms representing the light that guides the way for spirits returning home to visit their loved ones.

10. Passionflower


The beautiful passionflower is a more unusual, but symbolic feature in a funeral flower bouquet, symbolising mourning over the death of a loved one.

“Passion” is a religious reference to the suffering of Christ on the cross – the flower was so-called by missionaries who discovered it and considered the filaments in the centre to resemble a crown of thorns.

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