The Victorian Language of Flowers The Meaning of Flowers on Ladies Handkerchiefs
Did you know you can convey your sentiments to someone without ever saying a word? That is of course if they happen to speak the Language of Flowers.

The Victorian Language of Flowers
The Meaning of Flowers on Ladies Handkerchiefs

Did you know you can convey your sentiments to someone without ever saying a word? That is of course if they happen to speak the Language of Flowers. Everyone loves beautiful flowers and it appears since ancient times that they had special symbolism. In the book Song of Solomon in the Bible you will find the loved one calling herself a Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley. Authors and poets often use flowers in their writings. The language of flowers became especially significant in the romantic Victorian era.

As I became interested in collecting and now selling vintage ladies handkerchiefs I found that you can tell a story or express a message to someone by giving them handkerchiefs with certain flowers embroidered or printed on them. Ladies hankies are great gifts to send to far away friends in birthday, get well, or friendship cards. Hopefully this list will help you out in determining the meaning of certain flowers you find on your vintage ladies handkerchiefs. Enjoy!

  • Acacia - Secretive love
  • Acorn - life and immortality
  • Agapanthus - Love letters, love.
  • Alium – Strength
  • Aloe - Grief
  • Allspice - Compassion
  • Alstromeria - Wealth, prosperity, fortune
  • Alyssum (sweet) - Worth beyond beauty
  • Ambrosia - Love returned
  • Amaryllis - Pride, I am timid
  • Anemone - Unfading love, forsaken
  • Angelica - Inspiration
  • Aniseed - Restoration of youth
  • Anthurium - Lover
  • Apple - Preference
  • Apple Blossom – Good Fortune, state flower of Arkansas & Michigan
  • Arbutis – Thee only do I love
  • Artemesia - Symbol of Dignity
  • Asparagus Fern – Fascination
  • Aster - Love
  • Azalea - Take care of yourself
  • Bachelor Button - Celibacy

  • Baby’s Breath - Everlasting Love, happiness
  • Balsam - Ardent love
  • Basil - Best Wishes, Love
  • Bay Leaf - Strength
  • Begonia - Please Beware
  • Bells Of Ireland - Good luck
  • Bird Of Paradise - Magnificence
  • Bittersweet - Truth
  • Bleeding Hearts - undying love
  • Bluebell - Humility; constancy
  • Borage - Courage
  • Bouquet of withered flowers - Rejected love
  • Bouvardia: Enthusiasm.
  • Broom - Humility
  • Burnet - A merry heart
  • Buttercup - Cheerfulness


    • Cactus - Endurance; warmth,state flower of Arizon
    • Calendula - Joy
    • Calla Lilly - Magnificent beauty, associated with the sixth wedding anniversary.
    • Camellia - Perfection, state flower of Alabama
    • Camellia Pink - Longing for you.
    • Camellia Red - You’re a flame in my heart.
    • Camellia White -You’re adorable.
    • Candytuft - indifference
    • Carnation- good health, affection, also the birthday flower for January
    • Carnation (pink) - I’ll never forget you A Mother’s Love
    • Carnation (purple) – whimsical
    • Carnation (red) admiration ,state flower for Ohio
    • Carnation (striped)-refusal, sorry I can’t be with you,
    • Carnation (white) -Sweetness, innocence
    • Carnation (yellow) – Rejection, disdain, you disappoint me
    • Cattail – Peace, much prosperity
    • Chamomile – Patience, attracts wealth
    • Chrysanthemum - Cheerfulness; For a friend ,also the birthday flower for November
    • Chrysanthemum (red) - I love you
    • Chrysanthemum (white) - Truth
    • Chrysanthemum (yellow) -Slighted love
    • Clematis - Clever, intellectual, associated with the eighth wedding anniversary.
    • Columbine – Mental beauty, Colorado state flower
    • Coreopsis - cheerful
    • Coriander - Lust
    • Cornflower - Delicacy
    • Cosmos – Modesty, associated with the 2nd wedding anniversary.
    • Cowslip - Pensiveness; winning grace
    • Crocus – Cheerfulness, abuse not
    • Cyclamen - goodbye
    • Clover - Good luck
    • Daffodil - Respect, chivalry, associated with the tenth wedding anniversary, also the birthday flower for March.
    • Daisy – Innocence, He loves me he loves me not, associated with the fifth wedding anniversary
    • Dahlia - Instability. Associated with the fourteenth wedding anniversary
    • Dandelion - Wishes come true
    • Day Lily - Coquetry, Chinese emblem for mother, associated with the twentieth wedding anniversary
    • Delphinium - Big-hearted, fun
    • Dogwood – Durability, state flower for North Carolina & Virginia
    • Ebony - Blackness
    • Edelweiss: Daring, Noble Courage
    • Eremurus - Endurance.
    • Euphorbia - Persistence
    • Eucalyptus – Protection
      • Fennel - Worthy of praise
      • Fern – Sincerity
      • Fern - (Magic) – Fascination, confidence and shelter
      • Fern- (Maidenhair) - Secret bond of love
      • Feverfew - Protection
      • Fir - Time

        Flax - fate

      • Flytrap - Deceit.
      • Forget-me-not - True love, memories, hope, state flower of Alaska
      • Forsythia - Anticipation
      • Four Leaf Clover - Good luck, be mine.
      • Foxglove- Insincerity.
      • Freesia - Innocence, thoughtfulness.
      • Fuschia – Taste, associated with the third wedding anniversary
      • Gardenia - joy, sweet love, good luck
      • Garland of roses - Virtue
      • Garlic - Courage; strength
      • Geranium – Preference, melancholy, associated with the fourth wedding anniversary.
      • Gladiolus - Love at first sight, tells recipients that they pierce the heart like a sword. Because the gladiolus has blade-shaped leaves, the name comes from the Latin word gladius, which means sword, also the birthday flower for August.
      • Gloxina - Love at first sight
      • Heather (lavender) – Admiration
      • Heather (white) – wishes will come true
      • Hibiscus - Delicate beauty
      • Holly - Good will, holiday cheer
      • Hollyhock -: Ambition, fruitfulness, associated with the thirteenth wedding anniversary.
      • Honeysuckle - sweet disposition
      • Hyacinth (general) flower dedicated to Apollo
      • Hyacinth (blue) - Constancy
      • Hyacinth ( purple) - Forgive me
      • Hyacinth (red or pink) - Playful
      • Hyacinth (white) – I’ll pray for you
      • Hyacinth (yellow) - Jealousy
      • Hydrangea - Thank you
      • Hyssop - Wards away evil spirits
      • Iris - Fleur-de-lis, emblem of France, your friendship means so much to me, my compliments, wisafom,faith,associated with the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, state flower for Tennessee
      • Ivy - Fidelity and friendship
      • Ivy - affection
      • Jack in the pulpit - Associated with the seventh wedding anniversary
      • Jasmine - Amiability; attracts wealth, sensuality
      • Jasmine (Yellow) - Grace, elegance.
      • Jonquil - Love me
        Juniper Protection
      • Lady Slipper - Capricious beauty, state flower for Minnesota
      • Larkspur – birthday flower for July
      • Larkspur purple - First love.
      • Lavender – Induces sleep
      • Lemon - Zest
      • Lemon Balm - Brings love
      • Lemon verbena - Attracts opposite sex
      • Lilac - Youthful, humility, confidence, state flower of New Hampshire
        Lily (calia) - Beauty
      • Lily (orange) – I burn for you
      • Lily (tiger) – Wealth, pride

        Lily (white) – Virginity, The Easter lily is also known as the symbol of the Virgin Mary.

        Lily of the valley – sweetness, return to happiness; humility, new beginning, purity, you’ve made my life complete, birthday flower for May, Legend says that Mary’s tears turned into Lily of the valley at the foot of the cross

    • Magnolia - Sweetness; beauty, love of nature, state flower for Louisiana & Mississippi

      Marigold - Comforts the heart, grief

      Mint - Protects from illness

      Marjoram - Joy

      Mimosa - Sensitivity

      Mistletoe - Kiss me, state flower for Oklahoma

      Monkshood - chivalry

      Morning Glory - Loves you, associated with the eleventh wedding anniversary.

      Moss - Maternal love, charity

      Myrtle – Love, Hebrew emblem of marriage

      Narcissus - Egotism

      Nasturtium – maternal love, charity, patriotism, associated with fortieth wedding anniversary

      Oleander – Caution

      OLIVE BRANCH - Peace

      Orange Generosity

      Orange Blossom - wisdom, state flower for Florida

      Orange Mock – Deceit, state flower of Idaho

      Orchid - Love; beauty, associated with twenty-eighth wedding anniversary

      Palm leaves - Victory and success

      Pansy – love, recipient is being thought about. The flower’s name comes from the French word pensée, which means thought or remembrance, associated with the first wedding anniversary

      Paperwhite - Aphrodisiac due to its intoxicating scent. It is also the national flower of Wales because it often blooms on March 1st, which is St. David’s feast day, Wales’ patron saint.

      Peach Blossom – Longevity, Generosity and Bridal Hope, state flower of Delaware

      Pear Blossom: Health and Hope

      Peony – bashfulness, Aphrodisiac, happy marriage, associated with the twelfth wedding anniversary, state flower for Indiana

      Petunia – Resentment, anger, oblivious, imagination

      PhloxUnanimity, agreement,

      Poinsettia - Be of Good Cheer, Traditional Christmas flower

      Poppy - extravagance, associated with ninth wedding anniversary

      Poppy (orange) State Flower of California

      Primrose - I can’t live without you

      Queen Anne’s Lace - Fantasy

    • Rose – Love, I love you, associated with fifteenth wedding anniversary, state flower for New York, love at first sight

      Rose (black) –Death

      Rose(burgundy) – Mourning

      Rose(damask) - Brilliant complexion

      Rose (lavender)- Love at first sight

      Rose (orange) - Fascination, display feeling of enthusiasm

      Rose (peach) - Desire, gratitude, appreciation, admiration, sympathy, modesty.

      Rose (pink) - Perfect happiness, please believe me, friendship

      Rose (red) I love you, courage, beauty

      Rose (red and white) – Together, unity

      Rose( white) - Eternal Love, innocence, purity

      Rose(Yellow) - Friendship , jealousy, decrease of love, infidelity

      Rose bud - youth, innocent love

      Rose(cabbage) - Ambassador of love

      Rose(hibiscus) - Delicate beauty

      Rosemary - Remembrance

      Sage Wisdom - long life

      Salvia - I am thinking of you

      Smilax - Loveliness

      Snapdragon - Deception

      Snowdrop- Hope and Consolation

      Spiderflower - Elope with me

      Stephanotis - Happiness

      Stock - Lasting beauty

      Strawberry - Goodness

      Sunflower - Loyalty, good wishes, worshipped by the Inca Indians as a symbol of the sun, haughtiness

      Sweetpea - Goodbye, associated with thirtieth wedding anniversary

      Sweet William - Gallantry, smile, finesse

      Thyme - Courage

      Tulips- Fame, charity, perfect lover, emblem of Holland

      Tulip (red) - I love you

      Tulip (variegated) - Beautiful eyes

      Tulip (yellow) - Hopeless love

      Violet – Modesty, associated with the fiftieth wedding anniversary. Also known as the birthday flower of February, state flower of Illinois, New Jersey & Rhode Island

      Violet (blue) – I’ll always be true

      Violet (white) - wishing you happiness

      Viscaria - Will you dance with me?

      Wallflower - Friendship, Adversity

      Water Lily – Purity of heart

      Yarrow – healing, sorrow

      Zinnia - Thoughts of friends


Here are some books on the language of flowers that you might be interested in,click on any of the titles to see the books:

The Language of Flowers: Symbols And Myths

The Language of Flowers by Kate Greenway

Tussie-Mussies: The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers by Sheila Pickles

The Language and Sentiment of Flowers

Loves Me, Loves Me Not: The Hidden Language of Flowers