Some common gift flowers and their message:
Love: Red roses, red tulips, red chrysanthemums, orchids, asters, ferns, jonquils and forget-me-nots
Admiration: Lavender, red carnations, jonquils and pink roses (which can also symbolize happiness)
Friendship: Ivy (also a symbol of fidelity), yellow roses (also representative of a decrease of love or even a feeling of jealousy, so give these with caution)
Good luck: Bells of Ireland, myrtle
Innocence: Daisies, white roses, white carnations
Goodbye or thank you: Sweetpeas, cyclamens
Consolation: White poppy
Flowers make people feel better whether they are a gift for a holiday, special occasion, a get well, or sent as a condolence. What kind of flowers you choose also makes a difference in the message they send.
Let’s talk about the happy part first: Research at Rutgers University in 2005 showed recipients of flowers displayed more happiness than those who received gifts of fruit, sweets or candles. In fact, 100 percent of the flower recipients — a rare number for any research study — responded with a true smile, unlike recipients of the other gifts. In a follow-up, flower recipients were also happier than the other participants even after three days had passed.
Additional research at Rutgers sought to see if flowers had an impact on memory. In this study, those who received more flowers were able to recall events that occurred during the study better than those who received fewer flowers. Both men and women participated in the studies.
Researchers are still studying just what it is about flowers that cheers people up so much and exploring the idea that pleasure may be necessary for survival.
What about the type of flowers? Although not part of the research at Rutgers, flowers have long been considered a method of communication. Flowers were symbolic in ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Chinese cultures, and books devoted to flowers’ meanings were published in Victorian times. The way they are tied and arranged also made a difference at one point in time, although much of that symbolism is lost now.
The biggest downside to the hidden messages of flowers is that the sender might be unaware of the message he or she is sending. Some flowers even have multiple meanings. For example, many people are aware that a red rose is symbolic of love. An ivy leaf, however, is symbolic of fidelity or friendship — which certainly sends different messages to the recipient.
When giving flowers as gifts, stick with commonly known symbols or something you know the recipient likes. The odds are good they are going to smile, and they will remember it.