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Meanings Of Sympathy Flowers In Different Cultures

by Louise W. Rice

Flowers bring beauty to our environment. Their fragrance can uplift our mood and bring feelings of tranquility and peace. Apart from brightening up our surroundings, they can also be a thoughtful expression of sympathy and bring comfort to someone who has lost a loved one. These are known as sympathy flowers. 

Flowers can have different meanings in different parts of the world. Knowing the symbolic meaning of the flowers that can make up sympathy floral arrangements can help you choose which ones would be most appropriate to send to a grieving friend or loved one. Here are some of the most common sympathy flowers and what they represent in different cultures around the world.


Also referred to as “mums,” chrysanthemums are seen in funeral flower arrangements worldwide. They come in various colors: pink, white, purple, deep red, maroon, bronze, and yellow. In Japan, chrysanthemums represent death, hence their popularity at funerals. 

However, in some cultures in Asia, these flowers represent or symbolize sympathy. In many countries in Europe, this flower is also seen as a symbol of death and is often placed on the deceased’s graves. Mums are also seen as a symbol of respect and honor in the United States. 


Roses are widely known as a symbol of love, so it should be no surprise that they are one of the best choices for honoring a loved one who has passed. Roses come in different colors, and each color has a different meaning. Red roses represent respect, courage, and love. Dark crimson roses represent sorrow and grief, deep pink roses show deep gratitude towards the departed soul, and yellow roses are usually presented by the close friends of the deceased to communicate very strong ties. 

In European cultures, roses are presented to show that the deceased will always be loved, even after their departure. One of the best ways to show respect to a loved one who passed away is by placing a rose on his or her grave. The person might not be present anymore, but the message is that true love never dies. 


Lilies have come a long way over the years. In Greek and Roman times, lilies were used to symbolize divine love, procreation, and rebirth. Through the middle ages, the flower came to represent the purity of the soul and chastity. Lilies are now often used as sympathy flowers, especially in Chinese cultures. 

It is believed that lilies express sympathy and are widely used at funerals. The Stargazer, a variety of the lily flower, also represents sympathy. Lilies also represent the innocence of the deceased. 

If the deceased is a young person, lilies are a good choice. Lilies are often used to show that the deceased has returned to a state of peace and tranquility. 


In Chinese culture, red orchids symbolize unconscious love, and are believed to be ideal for funerals. Purple orchids symbolize respect for the departed soul. Pink and white orchids are also ideal for funerals as they both signify innocence. This flower is sometimes used to celebrate the femininity of a departed woman. 


Carnations come in a variety of colors. However, red, white, and pink are ideal for funerals to extend sympathy and condolences. Red carnations represent love, while white carnations represent purity and innocence, making them an appropriate choice when a young person passes. 

Pink carnations convey remembrance, while white carnations are seen as a symbol of pure love in France. Widely known as the traditional flower of Mother’s Day, carnations are perfect for honoring a mother or mother figure who has passed away. 


In China and other parts of Asia, the color white is associated with death and grief, so white flowers are always appropriate to send to a grieving person. White daffodils convey a message of renewal and fresh starts. For this reason, they are believed to bring hope and encouragement to a grieving person. In other cultures, yellow daffodils symbolize renewal and new beginnings.  


Sending a seasonal spring plant is a nice and appropriate gesture to send to a grieving family. In the United States, hydrangeas are often given as gifts of thanks and are presented as a gesture of heartfelt sincerity. They also speak of the renewal of home because of the abundant flowers in each bloom. 

Also known as Ajisai, hydrangeas were first cultivated in Japan. The flowers bloom in the rainy season, between June and July, and were a favorite choice at many Japanese temples. The abundant blooms always give a mystical feel to temples, so it’s not surprising that hydrangeas have become part and parcel of Japanese folklore. 

Legend has it that a Japanese emperor once gave hydrangeas to a girl he loved in a bid to express his love. Hydrangeas have been used to express heartfelt emotions and condolences in other parts of Asia, as well. They are also a symbol of unity and togetherness. Therefore, it is appropriate to send hydrangeas to a grieving person to sympathize with them, and let them know that they are not alone. 


The name Gladiolus comes from the Latin word gladius, meaning sword. Gladioli symbolizes a strong character and sincerity. These tall, strong flowers honor moral integrity and faithfulness. Gladioli are an appropriate flower for someone who served the community. The upstanding gladioli are a lovely way to soothe the grieving family, as they represent strength and a strong character. 

By giving a grieving family this flower, you remind them of what wonderful people they had in their life, and encourage them to persevere with strength as they navigate their own grief journeys. As a sympathy gift, the gladiolus does not ignore the pain of loss, rather it effectively communicates your compassion in a difficult time. 


There are several meanings for hyacinths depending upon the situation. Hyacinths used at funerals represent deep sorrow and anguish. The flower tells the grieving family that they are in your prayers. The strength of the emotions connected to hyacinths comes from Greek mythology. Hyacinthus was a Spartan prince who died in a tragic accident. 


Red poppies are usually used to remember veterans who died during World War I and World War II. The red poppy is very resilient and stood proud on the battlefields while the world was ravaged by war. People regularly wear it on their lapels to honor fallen soldiers. It is very popular in some parts of Europe and North America. In ancient cultures, red poppies were associated with death because of the similarity of their bright red color to blood. 

Losing a loved one is never easy. It is a time of grief, remembrance and honor. Flowers are a fantastic way of expressing ourselves, either to the one we lost or to a friend experiencing grief themselves. 

Nature has ways of expressing emotions in ways words sometimes cannot, and flowers are an excellent example of this. In this way, flowers can be a comfort source to the bereaved and a great way to express your love and care. 

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