Flowers can help us express what we want to say without using words. Although flower symbolism has existed since the Tudor era (think of Ophelia’s bouquet in Hamlet), the Victorians elevated the language of flowers to an art form. In fact, they created an entire encyclopedia on what various types of flowers mean, called floriography. Today, people use this flowery language to create stunning themed gardens.
Sometimes themes come to mind later, after we’ve planted a few options from the local garden nursery simply because we liked them. Other times, gardeners create a theme based on the environment around them or to express a mood for your home. Call it wishful thinking.
In this post, we’ll dive into a few popular themed gardens that use the language of flowers. I’ll show you my favorite configurations to help you create your own. The themes include love, mourning, friendship, and good luck gardens.
How Do I Choose Blooms for My Language of Flowers Themed Garden?
Start by considering the space you have available. Most people keep language of flowers gardens small, so they’re easy to maintain. Certain plants may also thrive in specific locations, or you may look for a plant for a designated area around your home.
Next, think about themes. Once you decide on your garden theme, find appropriate plants that thrive in your gardening zone. Think about which feeling you’d like to evoke in your life more: love, memorial, friendship, or good luck. If your themed garden is small and you can’t decide between two themes, you can always grow a different one next year.
Switch up the blooms. Select the options that match your planting zone and incorporate a variety of scents, colors, and textures. They should look nice together and benefit each other, but make sure to also select the flowers you truly enjoy.
Envision where each bloom in your grouping will grow. The plants must be able to thrive near each other, without competing for space. Consider your yard’s conditions, and plan to place the plants you select in a location your yard offers that aligns with their care needs.
Love Themed Garden
Romantic gardens create an environment for you to get away with your significant other. Many people add in elements to boost mystery and intrigue, like a decorative bench or statues. A nice sitting area or hammock where you can cuddle together adds to the ambiance. Help the space appear hidden or shaded, with stone walkways and subtle lighting throughout, for a perfect romantic picnic afternoon stroll locale.
Symbolizes: Pure or true love
If you want to create a love garden, it makes sense to include the traditional flower of love. Pair red roses with rosebud moss, which symbolizes confessions of love, for an added special element. Whenever you want to show your love, pick off a single rose in full boom for your partner.
Where to plant: Roses require lots of sun, rich soil, and mulching for the best results. They can grow in a wide range of zones, from 3-11. Depending on the cultivar, however, most roses grow better in USDA zones 5-9.
Symbolizes: Pure, sweet love
When given as a gift, gardenias also mean “you’re lovely.” Expect the plants to grow up to 8 feet tall and equally as wide. You’ll need to constantly prune and deadhead these blooms, as well as check for pests like mealybugs and whiteflies. With the right care, hardy varieties will come back year after year.
Where to plant: They’re a popular white flower due to their summer fragrance, so plant gardenias near your patio or a window where you can take in the aroma when you’re inside. These heat-loving shrubs need a full sun location during the spring. Avoid planting them too close to concrete walkways or foundations.
Symbolizes: Love, beauty, and refinement
The Chinese also use orchids as a symbol for fertility/many children, while the Cattleya type of orchid (a rarer variety) means “mature charm.”
Where to plant: If you live in a warmer location, you can grow orchids outdoors. In most areas, they thrive when planted under trees during the warm summer and moved indoors or to a protected patio when the danger of frost presents itself. In a frost-free area where temperatures never drop below 60 degrees F, you can grow one of the finest Cattleya types of orchid called cymbidiums.
Symbolizes: Fascination and love, but each color also comes with specific meanings.
Known as the “flower of the gods,” Carnations are one of the most popular cut flowers. They overall represent love. Each color then symbolizes a type of love, for example:
- Red – My heart aches for you, admiration
- White – Sweet, lovely, innocent, pure love, adoration
- Pink – I’ll never forget you (also good for a mourning garden)
- Purple – Capriciousness
- Yellow – Disappointment, rejection
As you can see, you want to avoid yellow carnations in a garden themed around pure love. You may also want to avoid striped carnations, which symbolize refusal as in “I’m sorry, I can’t be with you.”
Where to plant: Plant carnation seeds outside by sowing them in well-draining soil. Make sure the area offers 4-5 hours of sunlight daily and don’t mulch the garden for proper air circulation. With weekly watering and regular fertilizing with a 20-10-20 liquid fertilizer, you will see your beautiful, fragrant blooms return.
Symbolizes: I love you
As with carnations, the flower’s hue changes the symbolism in the language of flowers. Yellow chrysanthemums, for example, mean “slighted love”, and should be avoided in a pure love-themed garden.
Where to plant: Chrysanthemums, sometimes simply called “mums”, are tough overall. They require at least 5-6 hours of full sun in the morning, well-draining sandy soil, and a dry location. The plants are susceptible to mildew, so make sure to keep them from lying too low or sitting in wet soil. Avoid planting them near street lamps or porch lights, as the light could alter their blooming response.
Symbolizes: Love at first sight
Hardy varieties of Gloxinia are perennials, and must-haves for a love-themed garden. They’re perfect for zones that get too cold for most plant types to survive. Otherwise, you need to grow it in a warm planting zone or indoors.
Where to plant: Place these plants in a bright location with no direct sunlight. Anywhere near a sunny window where the rays don’t touch the foliage is perfect when growing it as a houseplant. Growing outdoors may only work if you live in an area with an average temperature between 60- and 75-degrees F, as they don’t transplant well.
Symbolizes: Love, patience, and daintiness
These daisy-like purple flowers are known to represent enchanted love and patience. They’re hardy plants and available in a wide range of species and varieties, making them popular across North America (zones 3-8).
Where to plant: Asters are easier to grow in cooler, moist climates. Avoid the hot midday sunlight, but ensure the site offers full to partial sun. Loamy soil with compost is best. Plant them in a border, wildflower, or rock garden. They also attract butterflies, so make sure the location allows you to watch the insects fly past later in the season.
Symbolizes: Endless love, honesty
Another plant that’s popular across growing zones 3-8, the balloon flower is a stunning blue flower that’s hardy, easy to grow for beginners, and disease resistant.
Where to plant: Balloon flowers thrive in a sunny border garden, where they can grow in clumps and spread out. Since they typically stay under two feet tall, you can plant them underneath a window. Choose loamy, well-draining soil, and anywhere from full sun to partial shade.
Symbolizes: I love you
In the language of flowers, honeysuckle symbolizes generosity. It’s also hardy in a wider range of planting zones, from 4-11, and the vine can reach up to 25 feet long.
Where to plant: Plant coral honeysuckle in the early spring. Well-draining soil of any type should work fine; maintaining warm temperatures with full sun is more important. Plant them along a fence or a trellis, where they can create a stunning display and receive much-needed support.
Symbolizes: Affection returned, desire, love me
Unrequited love can tear people up. With jonquil, also known as daffodils, you can ask your partner to return your affection symbolically or speak out to someone who may not know how you feel. Daffodils brighten up a home when displayed in a pretty vase, and they’re sometimes symbolic of domestic bliss or friendship as well.
Where to plant: Select a full sun location with at least 6 hours of daily light. They prefer northern areas rather than hot, wet locations like South Florida. Plant them in a cluster of 5-7 bulbs.
Symbolizes: Loyalty, love, devotion
Lavender is known as the herb of love, and is easy to cultivate in an herb or love themed garden. It speaks volumes about devotional love and features calming, stress-relieving qualities. The scent is said to even work as an aphrodisiac to get couples in the mood.
Where to plant: Find a location big enough for a bushy, strong-scented plant. Lavender will attract pollinators—like bees—to the garden, so consider avoiding seating areas. Plant it in the spring 2-3 feet apart in a drier soil condition, as it dislikes damp soil.
Symbolizes: Love and passion, perfect lover
As with a few other types of flowers, tulips’ meaning can depend on their color. You can gift a tulip to a loved one to speak the words you can’t. Consider the following blooms symbolism:
- Red – Declaration of love, believe me
- White – I am worthy of you
- Yellow – There’s sunshine in your smile
- Variegated – Beautiful eyes
Where to plant: Only plant tulips in well-draining, slightly acidic soil, either sandy or dry. Avoid a location with too much moisture and shelter tall varieties from the wind. You’ll also need a large planting area, as the bulbs must be spaced 4-6 inches apart.
Symbolizes: True love, faithfulness, and remembrance
Forget-me-nots are perfect in love or a mourning garden, as they’re a sign of true love and friendship. They allow you to think about memories of your lost loves, and they can be a reminder to reach out to the people you care about in your life today.
Where to plant: These are best planted after the danger of frost is over for the season, or you can start the plants from seed indoors. They’re easy to grow in flower beds, rock gardens, and borders. Average soil and a general-purpose fertilizer are all you need, but you should consider mulching the plants for winter if you live in the north.
A memorial or mourning garden is a place where you can think about your lost loved ones in peace. This type of garden often offers a nice place to sit and reflect when you’re feeling down. Many incorporate water features like a pond or fountain, and outdoor lanterns to create a tranquil space.
Some plant a single yew tree to symbolize their sadness, but your space could include a pathway to a small pond with a few flowers. Wherever you place the mourning garden, make sure it’s private and has a place to sit.
Symbolizes: Never ceasing memory
These flowers are commonly used as gifts for those who want to keep flowers around as long as possible. They’re a romantic gift, which could mean you can include them in a love garden too. In the language of flowers, these blooms symbolize your desire to keep the relationship strong.
Where to plant: They’re low-maintenance flowers, so just plant them in a full sun location with well-draining sandy soil. Sow the seeds directly into moist earth, or if you live in a colder region, start seeds indoors and transplant them when the weather warms up. Suitable for garden beds.
Symbolizes: Sorrow, please forgive me, I am sorry
These fragrant, bell-shaped blooms come in varying colors. While hyacinths generally symbolize play and loveliness, purple shades express a sorrowful feeling. Grow purple hyacinths in your garden to ask forgiveness from a loved one who has passed, or give the flowers as gifts to ask for forgiveness in your daily life.
Where to plant: Plant hyacinths at least 3 inches apart or deeper to protect against the cold in hardiness zone 4. Well-draining fertile soil and full sun to partial shade locations are ideal.
This herb offers a strong aroma perfect for invoking feelings of remembrance. Traditional memorial gifts, foods, and keepsakes often included dried rosemary. Additionally, funeral services often include either the aroma, or sprinkled dried rosemary in the area. It’s great for invoking support and sympathy.
Where to plant: Rosemary requires well-draining, loamy soil and 6-8 hours of daily light. A few varieties, such as Hill Hardy, are available to grow year-round outdoors (only in warm climates). If you offer a protected area and consistent temperatures above 30 degrees, you may be able to grow other varieties as well. Many people choose to grow theirs in containers, for this reason, so they can move the plants outside in the summer.
Express your friendship with a garden designed to honor the people you love most in the world. Friendship gardens help people connect and cultivate goodness in their lives. Try giving away a cut flower to your friends when the whim strikes, or create a nice sitting area where you can meditate on what friendship means to you.
Symbolizes: Thoughts of an absent friend
Zinnias are ideal in a garden where you go to think, such as in memorial or in a friendship-themed garden. Each hue comes with a different meaning in the language of flowers, while mixed colors invoke thinking about an absent friend. If you live in a different state from your bestie, a garden of mixed zinnias may help keep them in the forefront of your mind.
Where to plant: If you live in a colder region, start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the final first and transplant them when it warms. Warmer climates allow for direct planting into the soil. Zinnias require at least 6 hours of sunlight per day or they might offer fewer blooms.
Symbolizes: Unchanging friendship
While most friendships grow and change over time in much the same way as a garden, some things never change. With Arbor vitae (Thuja), you can celebrate the unchanging love you have for your friends. Their appearance is fernlike, and they’re native to North America. They’re perfect as a security hedge or a centerpiece to landscape your yard.
Where to plant: Find a large space for these tree-like plants. They’re easy to grow in zone 3, and your soil must offer proper drainage. Plant them in the early spring, and be sure to purchase a variety from your local nursery for the best results.
Acacia (White or Rose)
Symbolizes: Friendship, elegance
Although acacia overall symbolizes friendship in the language of flowers, rose or white-colored blooms stand for friendship and elegance. They’re perfect for declaring your best friend for life in a classy way.
Where to plant: Grow acacia from seed in a well-draining container. You must treat the seeds before sowing, however, to remove the hard seed coating. This normally involves soaking them overnight in nearly boiling water. The thorny shrubs don’t live long, so keep them away from a sitting area.
Symbolizes: Friendship, trust, innocence
Popular as cut flowers you can give to your friend, freesias are one of the most popular blooms today. They offer a delicate fragrance and make excellent centerpieces for get-togethers.
Where to plant: These winter growing plants thrive in well-draining soil and sun, or light shade locations. Prepared versions are planted between January and April in a greenhouse or from April to July outdoors. Find a sunny area with fertile soil, and make sure to add in plenty of compost for the best results.
Symbolizes: True friendship, lady
While geraniums tend to stand for folly or stupidity, the oak-leaved variety (Pelargonium quercifolium) is the perfect bloom to give to your lady friends as a houseplant. In the language of flowers, it stands for true friendship.
Where to plant: The almond-scented shrub takes up a decent amount of space, so make sure you have a decent area to offer it. You’ll see pink flowers in the spring and summer months if you give the plant high-quality potting soil. Include plenty of peat moss and compost, and ensure proper drainage. Direct sun locations with at least 6 hours of sun are ideal.
Symbolizes: Friendship, valor, wisdom, faith
Give an iris to a friend to say, “your friendship means so much to me.”
Where to plant: These flowers require sun at least half the day, with shade in hot climates. Plant them so the tops of each rhizome are exposed, allowing the roots to spread throughout the soil. Drainage is important, and some varieties may not bloom until the year after you plant them.
Good Luck Garden
Growing lucky plants in a good luck garden may help you bring more fortune into your life. Furthermore, many of the plants used in these themes bring love, money, and all-around good fortune to each area of life. Give the flowers away to spread luck, or fill a garden with them to attract good vibes to your home.
Bells of Ireland
Symbolizes: Good luck
Bells of Ireland are flowering perennials, and represent all types of luck in the language of flowers.
Where to plant: Plant in full sun or partial shade, depending on your zone. Well-draining but moist soil is vital, even though the plant can survive in poor soil. With proper care, expect the bells to self-seed and spread along your flower bed.
Symbolizes: Prosperity, fortune, wealth, devotion
For an all-around boost in fortune, try alstroemeria, aka the “Lily of the Incas”. It’s a hardy and lucky garden plant that bushes out and produces flowers in the summer and fall. The blooms resemble mini lilies, and are been used to symbolize devotion and friendship in the language of flowers.
Where to plant: Alstroemeria is difficult to grow, but may be easier to cultivate in a container. The plants must be well-established in early summer and planted exactly 6-8 inches deep, and 24 inches apart. You need rich compost, and the soil must remain moist but well-draining or the blooms can go dormant. They also need time-released fertilizer in the spring.
With many hues available, the language of flowers meanings are associated with each tiger lily hue. Orange varieties stand for confidence, pride, and wealth, while yellow symbolizes thankfulness and a desire for enjoyment. White and red options also exist, which are tied to good luck in China and commonly used in weddings.
Where to plant: Tiger lilies thrive in moist well-draining soil, so plant them near a ditch in early autumn. Depending on your planting zone, you may be able to plant the seeds in late autumn as well. They need full to partial sun, with afternoon shade from hot summers, and plenty of compost.
A Final Tip
With this in-depth list of language of flower, you can evoke any emotion you desire. When looking for plants for your themed garden, you can also try searching for flower meanings online. Many species offer different meanings in varying locations, and certain flowers may take on a personal meaning for you.