If you’re choosing flowers for a funeral, discover these beautiful funeral flower meanings, from white lilies for peace to lilacs for love.
The history of funeral flowers
Giving funeral flowers is one of the oldest funeral traditions in the world. Archaeologists have analysed graves from over 62,000 years ago in Iraq and found fragments of flowers left as a tribute.
Thousands of years later, funeral flowers are still a tradition that exists across many different cultures around the world.
The meaning of funeral flowers
Flowers are thought to represent the natural circle of life. Different types of flowers also have different symbolism. Here are some other common funeral flower choices and their symbolic meaning:
White lilies – This is the flower most associated with funerals. They are commonly used in funeral flower arrangements, floral sprays and funeral wreaths. The white lily represents peace and purity. In Christianity, the Virgin Mary is often shown holding lilies.
Gladioli – Meaning ‘little swords’ in Latin, these tall-stemmed flowers are often used in funeral sprays, which may decorate the coffin. Because of their name and sturdy shape, Gladioli are traditionally associated with strength and courage.
Carnations – These flowers are a popular choice for sympathy flowers, perfect for a posy or bouquet. They are also widely used in special tributes in unique shapes such as hearts and teddy bears. Pink carnations in particular represent a mother’s love.
Chrysanthemums – In some European counties, such as France, Belgium and Italy, chrysanthemums are symbolic of death. They are only used for funerals and as floral tributes. In China, Japan and Korea, white chrysanthemums symbolise sadness and grief.
Roses – The ancient Greeks and Romans associated roses with the goddesses of love. White roses have become a classic choice for funeral flower arrangements. Traditionally, yellow roses symbolise friendship, while dark red roses stand for eternal love and grief.
Lavender – These purple, scented blooms are a common addition to gardens and flower boxes, but can also be used in funeral flower arrangements. Lavender represents devotion and holiness.
Daffodils – Because daffodils are a sign of the start of spring, they have come to represent hope and rebirth. Although not a traditional funeral flower, they’ve become a popular addition as a symbol of joy and celebration of life.
Orchid – These stunning flowers are popular choices as sympathy flowers, particularly in white or pale pink. They can be bought as potted plants, for a longer lasting sympathy gift.
Peace Lily – The peace lily symbolises innocence and remembrance. It lasts longer than traditional cut flower arrangements, making it perfect for a thoughtful bereavement gift.
Hyacinth – These fragrant flowers are perfect in a mixed funeral flower arrangement. They are said to be named by Apollo, in memory of the Greek hero Hyakinthos. Purple hyacinths are particularly associated with sorrow.
Forget-me-nots – As the name suggests, these delicate blue flowers represent remembrance. As an alternative to traditional funeral flower arrangements, some grieving families hand out seed packets of forget-me-nots so that each guest can grow their own floral tribute.
Lilacs – These flowers often represent love, while white lilacs are symbols of youth and innocence. The flowers make a beautiful addition to a sympathy flower arrangement.
Sunflowers – A choice that has become recently popular for celebrations of life, sunflowers are remarkable for the way they always turn to face the warmth of the sun. Their large, bright petals are a perfect symbol of joy and thankfulness.
Willow – Branches from weeping willows can be used in floral arrangements to represent sadness and grief. In China and some other Asian countries, willows are associated with the afterlife and spirits of people who have died.
Choosing funeral flowers
Funeral directors and florists can help you find the perfect floral tributes for a loved one’s funeral. Although there are some traditional choices, more and more types of flowers are becoming acceptable for funeral flower arrangements.
If there’s a particular flower that was your loved one’s favourite, ask your chosen funeral director or florist if they can incorporate it into arrangements.
Alternatively, more people are choosing not to have funeral flowers. Instead, mourners are asked to make a charitable donation in the name of the person who has died.
When you buy an Avalon funeral plan, you can make special requests, such as what flowers you’d like, or what music you want played. Your requests will be given directly to the funeral director when the time comes, so your family will know exactly what you wanted for your final farewell. Find out more about our range of funeral plans.
About the author
With a Masters from the University of Bristol, Jessica Hanson has worked in the funeral sector for several years, following the latest industry trends and writing about end of life planning. Jessica has previously written as a blogger for the Huffington Post, covering topics such as death positivity, understanding grief and how funerals are changing. You can find Jessica on LinkedIn and Twitter.