Flower Symbolism And Which Are Appropriate For Funerals

by Dee Young September 01, 2022 5 min read

Flower Symbolism And Which Are Appropriate For Funerals

Funeral flowers are symbolic of the fragile, fleeting nature of creation, while also displaying the beauty of life. They provide a visual memorial of the relationship you had with your lost loved one in a gentle way. Through flowers, people can express feelings of loss, pay their respects, and offer condolences to the family of the deceased. There’s nothing quite like flowers to express your heart-felt grief.

So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that flowers have been used for centuries to honor the dead and share loving messages. Read on to learn more about the history of funeral flowers and the different meanings of flowers so that you can find the perfect flowers for you.

Here's a quick guide to this article’s content:

History Of Funeral Flowers

Different Uses Of Funeral Flowers

Different Flowers Used For Funerals And Their Symbolism

Funeral Plants

Did You Know The Colors Of The Flowers Carry A Meaning Too…

When Flowers Are Not Appropriate

Include A Card

Still Need More Information


History Of Funeral Flowers

Some people say that the first funeral flowers were used to mask the odor of the decomposing body at President Andrew Jackson's Funeral in 1874, but in truth, the use of flowers to decorate graves and at funerals is an ancient practice.

The earliest record of funeral flowers dates back to 60-80,000 years ago. A 30-to-45-year-old neanderthal male skeleton was found in the fetal position in the Shanidar caves in Iraq. Lo and behold, there were pollen deposits from eight wildflowers found on the skeleton - cornflower, grape hyacinth, hollyhock, St. Barnaby’s thistle, yarrow, bachelor’s button, ragwort, and woody horsetail. 

Since then, flowers have been used to decorate graves, used as part of a funeral home procession, and to decorate the home of the grieving. 

Memorial Day was first started in the 19th century when women called “flower ladies” decorated cemetery plots for families during the civil war and wars following that. Read more about that in this Memorial Day article.

Different Uses Of Funeral Flowers

People used flowers in many different ways - displayed during a wake at the funeral home, in a church or synagogue for religious services, to decorate graves, and drape over caskets. The family of the lost loved one often receives gifts containing flowers, such as decorated crosses, hearts, baskets, wreaths, memorial candles, personalized flower ribbon signs, funeral guest books, and shelf sitters.
LifeSong Milestones Custom Memorial Ribbon Sign
LifeSong Milestones Custom Personalized Funeral Guest Book
LifeSong Milestones Custom Memorial Solid Wood Heart Decoration

Different Flowers Used For Funerals And Their Symbolism

Flowers can be used to convey different messages and symbolize meaning. Take a look at these flowers commonly used for funerals:

White Tulips

  • Baby’s breath signifies respect for the deceased as well as love and purity. It often represents a life that was cut short or prematurely ended by illness or accident.
  • Calla lilies embody resurrection and rebirth.
  • Carnations symbolize the death of a loved one, sympathy, and grief. They remind people that life is short and should be lived to the fullest.
  • Chrysanthemums symbolize death and vitality as well as respect and love.
  • Daisies signify peace and hope.
  • Gladiolus represents strength and integrity.
  • Iris flowers stand for faith, hope, courage, wisdom, and admiration.
  • Lavender suggests grace, purity, and devotion.
  • Lilies of the valley represent everlasting love and are said to be a favorite of the Virgin Mary.
  • Marigolds symbolize loyalty, remembrance, and life.
  • Orchids signify hope, peace, courage, and love. Cattleya orchids are the most common orchids seen at funerals and represent trust, faithfulness, and strength.
  • Poppies symbolize eternal sleep, life, and beauty. They are most commonly used to remember a life lost at war or in military service.
  • A rose’s meaning depends on its color. White roses represent reverence, innocence, peace, and hope, while dark crimson roses signify grief and sorrow. White and dark crimson-colored roses are the only colors recommended to use at a funeral, as red, pink, and black mean love, appreciation, and beginnings, respectively.  
  • Snapdragons stand for graciousness and strength.
  • Sunflowers symbolize the light that the deceased person has brought to people close to them while they were alive.
  • Tulips indicate love, peace, and hope. Red tulips are said to be one of the most traditional funeral flowers.
  • Yellow lilies express gratitude.

Funeral Plants

Hanging Plant

Funeral plants are the longest-lasting option that you can choose to give to the family of the deceased. Just realize that grief can be overwhelming and it may not be a good idea to give a high-maintenance plant, especially if the family of the deceased does not enjoy gardening/plants. Consider the family’s personalities first before gifting. Look at this article to find other memorial gifts that may suit the family better. Otherwise, here are some popular easy-maintenance funeral plants and their meanings:

  • Peace lilies are known as bringers of peace and expressions of sympathy.
  • Palm plants were used during Ancient Egyptian time to symbolize eternal life.
  • Orchids symbolize your everlasting love for the deceased. Note that white or pink orchids also symbolize sympathy.
  • Succulents represent enduring, everlasting, tenacious love for the deceased.
  • Pothos is a climbing plant whose growth symbolizes perseverance and provides encouragement to the family of the deceased.
  • Philodendron is a well-known symbol of personal growth, love for nature, and eco-friendliness. These houseplants can be used as a reflection of the deceased loved one.
  • Spider plants are very easy to care for. They serve as a reminder to care for yourself, even during times of grief, and to be mindful of your well-being.

Meaning of Flower Colors Chart

When Flowers Are Not Appropriate

Flowers are great gifts, but in very few circumstances they are not appreciated. It's important to do your research so you can avoid making a faux pas. 

First, flowers are culturally insensitive at Jewish funerals and the shiva home. Some Jewish communities believe a flower’s life should not be cut short to create a floral arrangement for funerals. Judaism encourages people to have a deep mourning period to heal. The celebration of life and beautification of oneself/surroundings is considered to be a distraction from the religious healing process. Secondly, if the death notice states they want to receive donations in lieu of flowers, then follow their wishes. If you didn’t see the death notice, you can always call the funeral home and ask if flowers are being accepted.

Lastly, some people believe it is more appropriate to send flowers to the funeral ahead of the service instead of bringing flowers to the venue. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Listen to your gut and do what you feel comfortable doing. Again, you can always call the funeral home and ask them what they advise.

Include A Card

It is always nice to include a sympathy card when gifting funeral plants or flowers. Visit this article to learn how to write the perfect sympathy card. A heartfelt personalized card can offer much-needed support to grieving souls.

Still Need More Information

You can always ask the flower shop you are purchasing flowers from for help. They can guide you and put together a bouquet or decoration that conveys the exact meaning you were looking for.

Don't stress too much about making the flowers absolutely perfect. Flowers are always a beautiful gift  And after all, it’s the thought that counts.

View these references for more information:

 


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