While flowers are commonly seen as happy gifts that convey positive emotions, some flowers actually have negative connotations or symbolize unpleasant things. Let’s take a look at some of the flowers that you may want to avoid giving, along with their traditionally associated negative meanings.
Flowers Symbolizing Death
Some flowers are associated with death, dying, and funerals due to their dark colors or connection to myths and rituals surrounding death. Here are some examples:
Black roses symbolize death, farewell and mortality. They are sometimes used at funerals or left on graves to signify grief and bereavement. The color black evokes darkness, mystery and mourning.
In many parts of Europe, chrysanthemums are symbolic of death and are used as funeral flowers. This comes from the flower’s association with All Souls’ Day on November 2nd.
Gladioli are sometimes called “sword lilies” due to their long, pointed leaves. Their sword-like shape evokes connotations of battle, violence, and death. They are occasionally used in funeral arrangements for this reason.
Flowers Representing Negative Emotions
Some flowers represent feelings like anger, jealousy, sorrow, or thoughts of betrayal:
In the Victorian era, amaranth flowers represented immortality. However, they were also sometimes used by widows to convey heartache and sorrow after the death of a loved one.
While geraniums commonly symbolize positive emotions like happiness and stability, they can also represent feelings like melancholy, sadness, or even betrayal in the language of flowers.
Carnations convey different meanings based on their color. For example, while red carnations represent admiration, yellow carnations symbolize disdain, rejection, or disappointment.
Some toxic flowers represent harm or even death due to their poisonous qualities:
Also known as deadly nightshade, belladonna is one of the most toxic plants. All parts of the plant contain tropane alkaloids that can cause delirium, hallucinations, and even death if ingested. It represents danger.
White snakeroot contains the toxin tremetol, which can cause tremors, seizures, and death if consumed by humans or livestock. The plant is associated with warning and peril.
The seeds of the rosary pea contain abrin, an extremely toxic compound. As few as 3 seeds can kill an adult human. This flower represents lethal beauty.
Flowers That Represent Negative Qualities
Some flowers symbolize human flaws, undesirable traits, or qualities society considers negative:
In addition to representing rejection, yellow carnations can symbolize disdain, disrespect or an outright insult depending on the culture.
Orange lilies conveys hatred, pride, and hostility according to floriography. They are not a good flower to give someone you dislike.
While petunias can symbolize positive feelings, they can also represent anger or resentment if the relationship with the recipient is strained.
Flowers That Represent Bad Omens
Some flowers are viewed as harbingers of misfortune, bad luck, or ominous warnings:
Marigolds represent cruelty, grief and jealousy. In some cultures they are seen as flowers that bring bad luck or even death.
Yellow roses can mean infidelity, jealousy or the end of a relationship. Receiving them conveys a message of suspicion, pain, or even revenge.
In China, begonias are seen as unlucky plants that represent illness or misfortune. Many people avoid keeping them in the home.
While flowers generally convey positive messages, certain blooms have negative connotations across cultures. Some represent death, grief, unrequited love, or harmful qualities. Others are seen as bad omens. When selecting flowers, consider the meaning behind the botanical so you don’t accidentally offend or alarm the recipient!