The Flowers That Mean Remembrance, and Which Ones to Use

We associate certain flowers with remembrance, such as:

  • Poppies to remember those who died in World War I and II
  • White lilies, as they symbolize purity and sympathy
  • Yellow lilies symbolize gratitude, to express thankfulness to them
  • Flowers the decedent loved and would therefore be right to use in a floral arrangement at a funeral service

You have probably seen flowers displayed at funerals before, whether in person or on the television. They’re a common sight, whether they are used in wreaths, bouquets, sprays, or other arrangements.

You can send a message with flowers in lots of different ways. This applies to funerals just as much as it does to romantic meetings, birthdays, or simply celebrating the time of year.

If you want to know how to get it right when sending flowers for a funeral, keep reading. I’ll cover the most common flowers in this article, along with other recommendations that may help.


Poppies are the Most Famous Remembrance Flower

They’re used as a symbol of remembrance in several countries. Flanders Fields were the scene of battles in the First World War and were filled with poppies. A woman called Moina Michael adopted the flower near the end of the war, creating and wearing a red silk version. The American Legion adopted it in 1920 and was followed soon after by the Royal British Legion.

You will recognize the red poppy used in these tributes. However, poppies grow in other colors too, including white and yellow. If poppies were used in tributes, however, they would almost certainly be of the red kind.


Lilies are a Common Funeral Flower

As with so many other flowers, there are many kinds of lilies. White lilies are most common at funerals however, there is a reason for this. They are thought to stand for purity and sympathy, both of which are appropriate for a funeral or memorial service.

You would usually choose stargazer lilies for this purpose. I read that some people believe a person returns to a pure state upon death, so that makes sense when choosing white stargazers for a funeral arrangement. The sympathy angle also works well here.

However, if attending an overtly religious service, you may wish to switch to Oriental lilies. Some of these are more colorful, in light and dark pinks, and symbolize eternal life.

I also learned that yellow lilies symbolize gratitude. I thought that would be a marvelous flower to use at the funeral of someone you were grateful to have had in your life. As such, you might think about the message you want to send with your funeral bouquet or tribute.

Even if no one else at the funeral understands the message, you will know why you chose those flowers. Think of it as remembrance but in a more personal way.


Pansies for Plots

I’m referring to funeral plots here. I was surprised to learn this colorful bloom is associated with remembrance. They come in many shades and certainly brighten up gardens of remembrance.

They are small and quite hardy too. I have planted them during the winter for some color in the garden, so it makes sense they would survive well when planted around memorials. They do not need regular care and survive well on their own. Ideal for those making only occasional visits.


Zinnia Marks Absent Friends

Zinnia is a flower many people have not heard of, the bright petals appearing tightly together on this flower are glorious. They are associated with sentiment and of remembering friends who are not with us.

While this could be a reminder of someone who is still with us, while separated by distance, it would be wonderful to use in a bouquet for a funeral.


Flowers for the Bereaved

So far, I have covered the idea of sending flowers to a funeral in memory of a loved one, whether that is a friend or a family member.

However, you may also send flowers to the bereaved. These are also known as sympathy flowers. In this case, you may wish to think about different flowers. One thing I learned here was that white flowers are most common.

In most cases, you would either send white flowers or a selection of pale-colored flowers. People do not usually think of bright colors as a relevant sympathy flower. However, as always, your knowledge of the decedent should overrule everything else. I’ll cover this in more detail shortly.

I mentioned lilies already, and white lilies are one of the most popular sympathy bouquets you can send. However, do be aware that lilies are poisonous to cats, so if the person you are sending flowers to has one or more cats, you should choose something else for safety.

If pets aren’t an issue, you may wish to send a peace lily instead of flowers that won’t last long. I have a peace lily that has been around for years. You will occasionally see flowers unfurl instead of leaves – it puts on quite the display. They’re perfect for a longer-lasting sign of respect and remembrance.

Other common flowers sent to show sympathy include:

  • Chrysanthemums
  • Roses (not red though)
  • Orchids
  • Carnations


Floral Tributes Can Be More Personal Too

You’ve seen how we may use some flowers more often than others for funereal tributes. However, it is important to think about the person who has died, too.

I touched on this above, but I want to expand on it here. Someone I know loved forget me nots – small blue flowers that come up again every year when planted in the garden. I sent a small bouquet to their funeral when they passed, as I did not attend in person.

Had I gone in person at the right time of year, I probably would have taken a small bouquet picked from my garden, as she had given me cuttings to grow them from.

Either way, you can see the meaning is quite powerful in this situation. Of course, not everyone has a favorite flower or one that has meaning between two people. However, if there is a personal meaning for you in a particular flower or floral arrangement, that would usually be the best one to go with.


Ask a Florist for Advice

Florists regularly create flower arrangements for funeral and memorials. A florist knows far more about flowers and their individual meanings than you or I ever will.

You can take advantage of this knowledge to create the most appropriate and relevant arrangement for any funeral. When my father died, I wanted to have a display saying DAD.

After talking with the florist, I went for yellow roses among others, as they symbolized a strong tie with the person who had passed. That was ideal in these circumstances. It isn’t unusual to find yellow roses among floral bouquets or wreaths.

My advice is to think about the meaning behind any flower you think about using. You know that red roses mean love and romance, and would therefore be relevant to your husband, wife, or partner. However, family members – as in this case – would be better remembered with roses of a different shade.


People Once Connected Rosemary with Memory

Having a good memory isn’t the same as remembrance in this sense. However, I discovered that people once believed the aroma of rosemary helped their memory improve. The ancient Greeks once relied on this innocent herb to boost memory! This morphed into using it to remember those who have passed as well.

However, we don’t see too many sprigs of rosemary in wreaths or similar funereal floral tributes. This one might be best kept for the home if you wish to use it.


Don’t Be Afraid to Use Your Judgment

I think this is worth saying because one thing I found throughout my research for this article was a ton of information about flowers and their meanings. It is not unusual to come across multiple meanings for the same flower on different websites.

That’s why I have always resorted to chatting with the florist whenever I have needed to order flowers for a funeral. Yes, there are standard bouquets and arrangements that are cheaper and right for many situations. However, it is wise to go for a more personal stance if you are buying flowers to remember a loved one.

Even if no one else at the funeral understands the meaning behind your bouquet – or even notices it – you will know. And you will know why you chose it. And in the end, that matters most.


Writer: Allison Whitehead

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