Flowers make thoughtful gifts and can convey a message of love, sympathy, friendship or appreciation without ever saying a word.
However, every rose has its thorn. All flowers have one or several symbolic meanings, which can be positive, negative or both, whether based on tradition, type of flower or colour. The last thing you want to do is accidentally commit a flower faux pas and give your mom a bouquet of flowers associated with mourning or worse, a beautiful but poisonous wolfsbane plant.
To help you decipher the language of flowers and pick the right flowers for the right occasion, I’ve also organized this list of popular flowers in France into meaningful categories when appropriate.
*This list of popular and important flowers of France and their meanings is not exhaustive. *
The signification of different flower colours
Flower colour also matters when it comes to getting the message across, and different coloured flowers of the same species can have different meanings.
For example, if you want to make a romantic gesture, the obvious choice is red, but purple petals symbolize passion and sincere love. If you want to show a little more restraint, a pink flower that symbolizes tenderness and affection is a good choice.
You can also mix and match to create different sentiments.
Did you cheat on someone and need to be forgiven? Yellow and red are the perfect combo. Red for love and yellow for friendship and devotion, but it also means infidelity.
Here are some flower colours with their meanings and examples of flowers in these colours.
Meanings: Purity, Innocence, Elegance, Virtue, Beauty
Examples of white flowers: Lily, daisy, narcissus, jasmine, orchid, Lily of the valley, camellia, lilac.
Meaning: Intense passion, desire, anger.
Examples of red flowers: Rose, carnation, tulip, poppy, pansy, anemone.
Meaning: devotion, friendship, gratitude, light, luxury, infidelity.
Examples of yellow flowers: Sunflower, buttercup, mimosa, tulip, hyacinth, nasturtium, rose, daffodil.
Meaning: delicacy, purity, concern
Examples of blue flowers: Myosotis, blueberry, pansy, anemone, gentian
Meaning: Affection, gentleness, tenderness
Examples of pink flowers: Rose, azalea, magnolia, peony, camellia, lilac, pansy, carnation.
Meaning: vitality, cheerfulness, joy
Examples of orange flowers: rose, nasturtium, pansy
Meaning: Delicacy, deep feelings, shyness
Examples of purple flowers: Violet, iris, lilac, primrose, anemone, bellflower.
Lily and Iris: Two of the most important flowers of France and their meaning
Flowers are an important part of French culture however the Iris and Lily are especially important in French culture.
Iris (the national flower of France)
French flower name: Iris pronounced /ee-reese/
Meaning: nobility, chivalry, wisdom, faith, and purity
Out of all the flowers on this French flower list, the Iris is probably one of the most important flowers of France. Not only are Iris natively grown flowers in France, but they were also the inspiration for the fleur-de-lis, the French flower symbol and emblem for French kings and French nobility for centuries.
Iris, which means rainbow in Greek, is named after the Greek goddess of the same name. In Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of rainbows who delivered messages to the gods by travelling back and forth between heaven and earth on a rainbow bridge. The Iris flower was named after her because of its large variety of colours.
There is always a bit of confusion about the fleur de lys because it literally means “lily flower,” not iris. You can read more about France’s national flower here. The mysterious French fleur-de-lys: It’s not what you think it is
White Lily: (Madonna Lily)
French flower name: Le Lys pronounced /lease/
Meaning: Purity, nobility, virginity, chaste love
Another important flower of France is the white Lily (Lilium candidum). It’s one of the five flowers associated with the virgin Mary and goes by two other names.
Madonna lily and Assomption lily.
Because the white Lily symbolizes purity and virginity, it was often depicted in paintings of the Virgin Mary, hence the name Madonna lily.
The white Lily only blooms around the time of Assumption in mid-August, hence the name “Assumption Lily.”
Lilies are a popular choice for bridal bouquets because it signifies purity.
Roses are mportant flowers in France and French culture:
French flower name: Rose
The meanings of different rose colours.
- Red rose: (love, pleasure, passion)
- Pink rose: (true love, tenderness, joy)
- White rose: (charm, innocence, shy love)
- Orange rose: (desire)
- Yellow rose: (infidelity, possibly forgiven)
- Blue rose (Mystery)
- Purple rose: (majesty and glory)
Roses are popular flowers in France and a fixture in French culture thanks to Empress Joséphine (1763-1814), Napoléon Bonaparte’s first wife who loved gardening.
Fascinated by botany, Josephine collected and planted exotic plants from around the world. She grew around 200 new species of flowers in France for the first time on the grounds of her English-style pleasure garden at her home, Château de Malmaison, including; purple magnolia, tree peony, hibiscus, camellias, dahlias and many more.
Joséphine created the world’s first “rose-only” garden:
More than anything, Josephine had a passion for roses and created the greatest rose garden ever known in Europe (at the time).
She wanted to possess every rose known in the world and may have had as many as 500 different varieties.
Her rose garden popularized breeding roses throughout France and inspired generations of rosarians, and countless rose gardens worldwide.
In a word, she made having a rose garden cool and fashionable.
Two distinctly “French roses.”
1 ) “La France”: A hybrid tea rose bred in France:
The first hybrid tea roses were created in France in 1867 by cross-breeding the large, Hybrid Perpetuals with tea roses. It marked the start of the era of “Modern Roses.” All species that existed before 1867 are considered antique or “old garden roses.”
2 ) The French rose:
In 1815, Josephine cultivated the French rose, also known as the Gallic rose or rose of Provin.
It’s a species of flowering plant in the rose family, native to southern and central Europe and Turkey and one of the first species of rose cultivated in central Europe.
Carnations by colour
French flower name: Oiellet pronounced /Uh-Yeh/
Carnations are a species of Dianthus from the Greek words “dios” (god) and “anthos” (flower). They most likely originated from the Mediterranean coast and the high alpine mountains in the Pyrenees of Spain and France. Two thousand years ago, ancient Romans and Greeks cultivated carnations, making it one of the oldest cultivated flowers in the world.
Did you know that the first carnations in the US were shipped in 1852 from France to Long Island?
Initially, carnations were only found in shades of pink but have since been bred into a wide spectrum of colours—each with its own special meaning. Most carnations signify positive meanings. However, some colours don’t have such cheery, uplifting meanings.
Meaning: Love, affection
Green carnations are not only a symbol for St Patrick’s day; Oscar Wilde, a writer who was incarcerated in 1895 for being homosexual, made wearing a green carnation a secret hint that you were gay.
In 1892, Oscar Wilde asked a handful of his friends to wear green carnations on their lapels to the opening night of one of his comedy shows. From then on, it became a powerful queer symbol.
Dark Red Carnation:
Meaning: Love, affection
Light Red Carnation:
Meaning: respect, admiration
In Italy, France and Austria, some people wear a red carnation on May 1st for labour day.
Think twice before giving a bouquet of carnations in the following colours
Meaning: Disappointment, rejection
A bouquet of yellow carnations would be perfect for someone you don’t like or want to break up with.
While purple carnations are sometimes a symbol of capriciousness, people often place purple flowers near gravesites or on top of caskets in France.
Meaning: regret, rejection
Meaning: Bad luck (in France)
I know, but it’s white and pure. It’s also a flower of good luck in some cultures, but in France, a white carnation is thought of as bad luck.
Flowers meaning death, or relating to morning or grief
Certain flowers are tied to death, mourning, despair and or grief.
It’s ok to buy these for yourself but think twice before you give these as gifts unless they’re for a funeral, to give someone your sympathies, or wish someone death.
Chrysanthemum! (November 1st: All Saints Day)
French flower name: Chrysanthème pronounced /Chreeze-on-tem/
Meaning: Sympathy, honour, peace and beauty
Native to Asia, the name Chrysanthemum means Golden flower from ancient Greek “Chrys” ( gold ) and “anthemon”( flower.)
In some countries, like China, the Chrysanthemum symbolizes something cheerful like life and rebirth. In other countries, it’s associated with death and grieving.
For example, Chrysanthemum flowers in France, Belgium and Germany are the symbol of all Saints (“la Toussaint”) on November 1st and the day of the dead.
It’s tradition to go to the cemetery to place flowers on the graves of loved ones for all saints, an important holiday of remembrance for French people and their families.
French flower name: Le Souci (literally “worry” in French)
Meaning: grief, despair and sorrow
Calendula officinalis, also called pot marigold, are called “souci” in French, which happens to be the French word for concern or worry. It’s
The French name for this marigold flower is “souci,” which means worry in French. It comes from the Latin “sol sequia” (follows the sun) because that’s exactly what this plant does. The marigold flower opens at sunrise and closes at sunset. In Old French, the Latin name “solsequia became “soulsie” and finally “souci.”
French Marigold (day of the dead)
French name: Oeillet d’inde (literally “Carnation of India”)
Meaning: jealousy, grief, despair, chagrin, deception, the end of a relationship, and mourning
French Marigolds are not really French flowers. Its species is called Tagetes patula, and they’re indigenous to Mexico and Guatemala. Explorers brought seeds back to Europe in the early 16th century, where they quickly became a garden favourite. When French breeders got their hands on the Marigold, they developed many new hybrids, and these became known as French marigold flowers.
French marigolds typically come in warm shades of oranges, yellows, reds.
Although many cultures associate the Marigold with happiness and the sun, it sometimes symbolizes darker emotions such as jealousy, grief, despair, and mourning.
In Hispanic countries that celebrate the Day of the Dead, it’s called “flower of the dead” it flor de muerto, or
Red Poppy: (Veterans day/armistice day)
French flower name: Coquelicot Rouge pronounced /Ko-kuh-lee-koe/
Meaning: Consolation, remembrance
People all around the world wear a red poppy on their lapels or pinned to clothing on veterans’ day in the US, called armistice days in Europe.
French humanitarian Anna A. Guérin started the tradition of wearing a poppy during her post-war charity work. Ever since, the red poppy has become the flower of remembrance to symbolize the spilled blood of fallen soldiers on the battlefields of WWI.
White Cala Lily
French flower name: Lys Calla Blanc
Meaning: rebirth, resurrection, purity, holiness, and faithfulness
An elegant and versatile flower is the Calla lily which is actually not a Lily. A Swedish botanist (Carolus Linnaeus) mistakenly named this plant, and the name stuck.
“Calla” is a Greek word that means “beauty” and comes in a variety of colours, including pink, purple, yellow, and even black. Each colour has a different meaning, but the white ones are most frequently seen in bridal bouquets and at weddings because of its symbolism of rebirth and new beginnings.
White Calla lilies also represent rebirth and the purification of the soul, which is why you’ll also see the Cala lily at funerals because it gives hope to grieving families.
While purple carnations are sometimes a symbol of capriciousness, in France, people often place purple flowers near gravesites or on top of caskets.
Flowers with dark or negative meanings: bad luck, infidelity, anger etc.
Meaning: Revenge, hatred, tragic romance, sadness)
Meaning: Bad luck
I know, but it’s white and pure. In France, a white carnation is thought of as bad luck.
French flower name: Les œillets jaunes
Meaning: Rejection, contempt
A bouquet of yellow carnations looks beautiful but avoid giving them as gifts because they also symbolize rejection and contempt.
Wolf’s bane aka monkshood, aconites
French flower name: Les Aconits
Meaning: Hatred or mistrust of others, caution, death
Wolf’s bane or wolfsbane is also a very toxic flower. It’s believed that the Romans and Greeks made poison with it.
French flower name: Les pétunias
Meaning: Anger and resentment
These beautiful and brightly coloured funnel-shaped flowers are popular indoor potted plants, but when petunias were first introduced to Europe, they were considered and nuisance and a type of invasive weed.
Petunias also have some negative symbolism.
They have been associated with anger and resentment since the 1500s, and during the Victorian era, the blossoms were a symbol of Queen Victoria’s angry outbursts.
As pretty as the name Petunia is, its meaning is not so pretty. Petunia is from pétun, an old obsolete French word for the tobacco plant.
French flower name: Le cyclamen violet
Meaning: Shyness, timidity, distrust, resignation, separation, parting and lost love
One of the symbols is separation and lost love, so don’t send these as gifts unless you just broke up with someone.
French flower name: Lys oranges
Meaning: Hatred, pride, disdain, contempt
French flower name: Œillet Rayé
Meaning: regret, rejection
A bouquet of all yellow flowers
Yellow is often associated with (infidelity and betrayal)
If you offer a single yellow rose to the person you love, it’s like asking for forgiveness. If you want to apologize for forgetting someone’s birthday, opt for a bouquet of yellow roses.
Other Popular flowers in France & their meanings
French flower name: La Lavande
Even though French lavender are not native french flowers of France, most people associate it with France due to its widespread cultivation in Provence, where it’s called “Lavande de Provence” or “Lavande Française “or Lavandin.”
Lavender flowers in France are actually native to drier parts of Spain, Greece and North Africa but have been grown in Europe for centuries dating back to the ancient Phonecians, Egyptians and Romans.
It was first used for its oil as a medicine and hygiene ingredient. Its name is from the Latin verb “lavo” (to wash) and was commonly used in Roman baths. It’s remained in soaps and cosmetics ever since and is one of the ingredients in French herbes de Provence.
French flower name:Le Dahlia
Meaning: wealth, elegance, love, involvement
The dahlia is a friendly flower and the perfect way to express gratitude and appreciation. This beautiful flower would be a great addition to your mothers day bouquet.
Dhalia flowers in France were made popular thanks to Empress Josephine Bonaparte who grew these in her garden at Chateau de Malmaison. She became the champion of the dahlia flowers in France and Europe.
French flower name: L’azalée
Meaning: sincere love, joy of loving
French flower name: Le bégonia
Meaning: Sincere friendship or sincere thoughts
French flower name: Le Renoncule
Meaning: Neatness, childish, charm
If you know someone charming, sending them a bouquet of buttercups is like saying, “I am dazzled by your charm.”
French flower name: Le Camélia Blanc
French flower name: Le Camélia Rough
Meaning: love, passion, and deep desire
French flower name: Le Camélia Rose
Meaning: longing for someone
French flower name: Le cyclamen
Meaning: Beauty, jealousy
French flower name: La glycine
Meaning: Sincere Friendship
French flower name: Les marguerites
Meaning: Purity, innocence, loyal love
French flower name: Les Jonquilles
French flower name: Le Myosotis
Meaning: Remember, fidelity and never-ending love
French flower name: Le Gardénia
Meaning: secret love, or sincerity, unacknowledged love, shyness
French flower name: Le géranium
Meaning: sociability, friendship, esteem, kindness
French flower name: Glaïeuls pronounced /Gleye-yuhl/
General Meaning: honour, remembrance, loyalty, sincerity, honesty, integrity
Red: love and passion
Pink: femininity, compassion and motherly love
White: Innocence and purity
Yellow: cheerfulness and compassion
Violet/Purple: charm, grace and mystery
The name Gladiolus in English and Glaïeuls in French come from Latin “gladius,” which means sword. Gladioli were considered the gladiator’s flower in ancient Rome and were associated with swords because of their sword-like foliage.
Because of their association with gladiators, the Gladiolus meaning became associated with strength and integrity. But they also symbolize infatuation.
You’ll often see them on day of the Dead shrines because some cultures associate it with remembrance, and it’s also a popular choice in funeral arrangements.
French flower name: L’Hortensia
Meaning: Cold beauty, indifference
French flower name: L’hibiscus
Meaning: delicate beauty
French flower name: Le chèvrefeuille
Meaning: bond, loyalty, fidelity
French flower name: Les Jacinthes
Blue = sincere
Yellow = jealousy
Purple = sadness for the
French flower name: La fleur de Jasmin
Meaning: love, beauty sensuality
French flower name: Le lilas
Meaning: First love, youthful beauty
French flower name: La gloire du matin
French flower name: Le magnolia
Meaning: Dignity and gaiety
French flower name: l’orchidée
Meaning: thoughtfulness, refinement, fertility, beauty, charm, love, spirituality, mystery
After the rose, orchids are the most popular flowers in France in terms of sales.
French flower name: La Pivoine
Meaning: Sincerity of feelings
Plumeria aka Frangipani:
French flower name: le Pluméria
Meaning: birth and love; spring and new beginnings
French flower name: Les primevères
Meaning: Youth, budding love
Stemless gentian, or trumpet gentian:
French flower name: La gentiane acaule
Meaning: contempt, disdain,
French flower name: Le muflier des champs / tête-de-mort (dead head: word for the skull and crossbones symbol)
French flower name: Le Tournesol
Meaning: Respect, pride
French flower name: La Tulipe rouge
Meaning: declaration of love (more discreet than the rose)
French flower name: La Tulipe Blanche
Occasions for giving flowers in France
Here are a few celebrations where it’s customary to give flowers in France.
Lily of the valley flower (May 1st: for La Fête du Muguet)
French flower name: Le Muguet
Meaning: Purity, happiness, good fortune
It’s customary to give a Lily of the valley flowers in France on May 1st for “La Fête du Muguet” (Lily of the valley flower celebration)
Giving someone a sprig, bouquet or Lily of the valley flower as a potted plant is a gesture of friendship and a way to wish someone good luck in celebration of spring.
Red Carnation (May 1st Labour day)
French flower name: L’oeillet rouge
Meaning: Shared Passion
May 1st in France is not only the day to celebrate the Lily of the valley flower; it’s also Veterans day in several countries. In Italy, France and Austria, some people wear a red carnation on May 1st for labour day.
Mimosa (during the winter season)
Meaning: Magnificence, elegance, tenderness, friendship. In dreams, mimosa is a sign of security, Fragility, sensitivity.
Mimosa flowers in France are popular during the winter months between December and March when they’re in full bloom.
Mimosas are cut flowers from the yellow-blooming acacia tree native to Australia but were introduced to France in the 19th century. It’s primarily grown in southern France in the Côte d’Azur for
During the Carnival de Nice in February, many floats are adorned with the mimosa plant, and you see people carry around bushels. They also are a nice touch to add to your flower arrangement and remind me of baby’s breath because the yellow flowers have this pillowy appearance.
It also represents feminine energy, which is why it’s been the emblem for Women’s Day on March 8th since 1946.
Mothers day flowers in France
Mothers day in France is celebrated on the last Sunday of May unless it coincides with Pentecost day. In that case, Mother’s Day is pushed out to the first Sunday of June.
In the days leading up to mothers day in France, flower shops are brimming with fresh flowers. Some flowers are symbols of tenderness, others of recognition or love. Here are some flowers to celebrate your mom.
Peonies, orchids, lilies, freesia, tulips, dahlia, and gerbera daisy.
Valentine’s day traditions in France are pretty much the same around the world, and roses are a popular choice for valentines bouquets in France.
Traditions and etiquette for giving flowers in France.
If you can’t find the words, why not say it with flowers and send someone a secret message based on what you learned here?
Like any language, the meanings of flowers change and evolve over time and can also differ by culture.
Before sending flowers, consider the person’s cultural background because different cultures also have different rules and etiquette for gifting flowers.
Here are some basic French flower etiquette rules for a proper lady or gentleman in France, according to Hanna Gas, a historian and an expert on French etiquette and “savoire vive.”
1 ) Don’t bring flowers as a gift if you’re invited to a dinner party
The last thing you want to do is cause your host any more stress by having to stop what they’re doing to find a vase quickly. If you’re going to give flowers, give them the day before.
The exception is if you’re having a casual dinner with friends. Sure bring flowers.
2 ) If you’re offering less than 12 flowers, always give an odd number of flowers. (1,3,5,7,9,11).
This isn’t superstition; it’s aesthetics. Twelve flowers or more, it doesn’t matter. Offer an even or odd number.
3) Avoid giving certain flowers as gifts that symbolize death or mourning
Certain flowers, such as the Chrysanthemum, should not be given as gifts because they symbolize death or mourning. I have a list below of these flowers.
4) A bouquet of red roses should be reserved only for someone with whom you’re romantically involved.
You probably shouldn’t offer red roses to your French mother-in-law unless you want to get a funny look.
5)Yellow flowers in France are often associated with infidelity.
Although yellow flowers are beautiful, they are also associated with infidelity in France. and are sometimes given if you cheated on someone and wanted to be forgiven.