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Scent Expressions: The Secret Language of Flowers

Flowers can be a great gift for several occasions! There is a species for you, whether you want to express affection, sympathy, gratitude or anything else. While I originally purchased it at a museum in Boston for its pretty cover, Jean-Michel Othoniel’s The Secret Language of Flowers has proved to be more interesting than most coffee-table reads. So, without further ado, here are the expressions you can make with your floral arrangements!


Sunflowers are often associated with summer. Their scientific name, Helianthus annuus, comes from the Greek myth of the sun god Helios, whose traits came to be associated with this large flower. Gifting someone a sunflower will brighten their day and tell them you value their joy, vitality and pride! 


My favorite flower, the peony, represents opulence, nobility and love because the bloom time is shorter than other flowers. This “queen of flowers” is usually presented in groupings of three (Othoniel.) These blooms are more accessible in the summer months.


Considering that Othoniel states that this flower is the oldest in the world and comes in many colors, it is no surprise that, over the years, chrysanthemums have held many different meanings. It originated in Asia and holds associations with pleasure and a happy eternity. Later, the flower became associated with mourning when used for French World War I veteran memorials (Othoniel). Nonetheless, this colorful flower is popular and readily available at most places, serving as a convenient and thoughtful gift.


Roses might be the most well-known flower in the world. Widely associated with romantic love, this flower is what many mentally picture when they think of a flower. When white, the rose embodies purity and charity. Red or pink roses are representations of passionate love. Ever versatile, roses are also used for sympathy and funerary presentations because of their associations with renewal and rebirth.

Whatever the occasion—or even if it’s just for fun—it can be interesting to learn more about these beautiful blooms and their histories. In the Victorian era, people even used flowers to relay messages in a process called floriography. For example, if someone gave the bouquet with their right hand, it meant yes, and with the left hand, it meant a no to a question. While not all of these associations remain today, flowers remain a beautiful way to share a sweet sentiment or show you care!

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Alice Grenier is a second year english literature student at Florida State University. She is from Orlando, Florida and aspires to become a lawyer. @alice_grenier on instagram
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