Death & Flowers in Different Cultures

Turns out there is such a thing as the ‘perfect’ flower to bring to a funeral or grieving family. In this guide, we dive into the meaning behind different flowers within different cultures.
Death & Flowers in Different Cultures

Flowers are beautiful – nobody can argue with us on that. We often gift them on birthdays, as housewarming gifts, as a token of celebration when your friend receives a promotion at work.

But we also give flowers to those who are grieving, and some might choose to leave fresh flowers on the grave of a deceased loved one. However, not all flowers share the same symbolism, and not all cultures view all flowers in the same way.

So, naturally, we’ve done some research to discover the most appropriate flowers to buy and give after the death of someone you love, and we’ve compiled everything we learnt in this one juicy guide.

Let’s dive in.

Rose (The Flower of Death)

Guide - Rose.jpg

If we’re being really honest here, there’s no one flower that symbolises death, but the rose sits pretty high up on the hierarchy as it has long been associated with grief, mourning, death and funerals. Different coloured roses can also have different meanings; white roses are seen to represent innocence, black roses indicate sadness, and red roses symbolise love.

So if you’re choosing to send your loved one a rose, it might be worth choosing a colour that best symbolises your relationship with them and/or the deceased.


Guide - Carnation.jpg

They’re a beautiful, classic, traditional flower, and we often gift them to mourners at funerals (rather than placing them on a grave). They symbolise respect for the deceased, and are a way of showing the bereaved how much you adored their loved one.

The history of carnations stems from ancient Greece and Rome. It is said (according to ancient legend) that red carnations were first worn by Romans and Greeks during funeral ceremonies in remembrance of their deceased loved ones. Over time, the significance behind carnations has spread to other cultures, so their symbolism is now very widely recognised amongst many.

The best part about carnations, though? They last for ages, so they can be a beautiful gift to send a grieving family as they’ll likely last for some time.


Guide - Chrysanthemum.jpg

These beautiful blooms have different meanings in different cultures.

In Japan, they’re associated with death and reincarnation, and it’s common to place chrysanthemums in the coffin of someone who has passed (along with money).

In the US, chrysanthemums symbolise truth and purity. They’re a beautiful way of honouring and remembering someone who lived a whole – and very full – life.

In Chinese culture, white and yellow chrysanthemums are often sent to the family of the deceased. Other colours are generally avoided.

In France & Germany, chrysanthemums are seen as flowers you can only give to the dead. They shouldn’t be offered to the living and doing so can be perceived as bad luck (which is also the case in Malta and Italy).


Guide - Orchids.jpg

They’ve become increasingly popular in wedding bouquets, but orchids actually have a rich history when it comes to all-things death and grief. They’ve traditionally been gifted to express sympathy, while also representing eternal love. They’re empathetic flowers, so it’s kinda interesting to see so many brides popping them into their arrangements on such a celebratory day… They are pretty darn beautiful, though!


Guide - Marigold.jpg

They’re bright, and typically orange or yellow. Marigolds are said to attract spirits to the altar (due to their incredible colour), and they also celebrate life and happiness, rather than tragic and deeply saddening death. You’ll sometimes find both genuine and/or paper marigolds placed on altars, crosses or garlands.

Wrap up

These are just a few of the most popular flowers to give to a grieving family (or leave at a grave) when a loved one passes. However, if none of the above-mentioned blooms feel right for you (or the people you’re giving them to), you can always choose flowers you love most instead. There aren’t any rules when it comes to this kinda stuff, so follow what feels right for you.

Attending a funeral soon? We’ve written a guide about what to take to a funeral. You can also find our complete guide on what to wear to a funeral here.

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