This Valentine's Day, you could go with the expected choice and order a bouquet of a dozen long-stemmed (and over-priced) red roses. Or, you could do a bit of research, and pick a flower that truly conveys your feelings for your special someone.
The meanings of many of the blooms we love date back to Victorian times; people were big on conveying their feelings through symbols instead of words, and flowers were a large part of that. Some of those meanings have evolved, but we still strongly associate certain blooms with particular sentiments; there is a reason why some flowers are enduringly popular, despite their price or seasonal availability, and it's not always simply because of how they look.
And as it turns out, according to Morrison Gardens, the number of blooms you give can also express a particular meaning to the recipient. A single rose of any colour is meant to represent complete devotion, while two intertwined has a strong hint of a marriage proposal. A half-dozen roses represent a need to be loved or cherished (which could be seen as a bit clingy). And 13 roses tells the recipient they have a secret admirer.
Alternately, The Flower Expert suggests, you could simply go with a bloom that's in season in mid-February. For most of North America, that includes carnations, mums, gerber daisies, and orchids. (Roses are generally in season in North America in the spring, which is part of why they are so costly at this time of year.) Or you could go crazy and just get the flowers that your loved one likes the best, because that's never going to be the wrong choice.
Below, check out what different flowers mean — and what you're saying when you give them:
1. Red Roses: Red roses are a Valentine's Day classic for a good reason — they represent love and romance, and they have been a powerful symbol for many cultures through the ages. So if you're buying that bouquet of ruby roses, make sure you can stand behind their strong sentiment! A darker red bloom just intensifies the meaning; these are great roses to give along with an engagement ring.
2. White Roses: White roses were the traditional first choice for true love, though they've now been overtaken by pink. They are also often used in weddings because of their representation of purity and innocence (the same reason most wedding dresses are white). But many people associate white blooms with sympathy and death, so they're not the wisest choice for this holiday.
3. Yellow Roses: These roses are a great choice for your buddy, as they represent friendship, but they might send the wrong message to a paramour (exception: yellow roses with a red tip represent friendship blossoming into romance). But we see nothing wrong with giving flowers to your bestie on February 14! Yellow roses also represent cheer and are a good "Get Well Soon" choice.
4. Pink Roses: Pink roses are another colour that represents love, but one perhaps less intense than the burning passion implied by a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses. That makes them a good choice for a newer relationship — thoughtful, but less likely to seem over-the-top. They are also associated with giving thanks and admiration, especially lighter shades.
5. Lavender Roses: Purple roses are an unconventional choice, but not an inappropriate one: they represent royalty, so they're a good way to tell your loved one that he or she is the King or Queen of your heart.
6. Orange Roses: Another non-traditional choice, orange roses are a mix (in more than one way) of red and yellow roses: great for that middle ground between friendship and love. Send some to your crush!
7. Black Roses: Perhaps the only rose that could scream "Death! Doom!" more strongly than a black one is a dead one. Impressive as natural black roses may look, only give these on February 14 if you know they're truly be appreciated — say, if your lover leans goth or has a particularly dark sense of humour.
8. Daisies: Daisies represent innocence, and it's not hard to see why. What is more innocent than a young boy or girl plucking the petals off a daisy to see if his or her crush feels the same? Gerbera, or Gerber, daisies have risen in popularity in recent years, with their cheery colours representing happiness, so they're another great option for a friend on Valentine's Day.
9. Tulips: These flowers also change their meaning with the shade. Pink tulips represent caring, while purple mean royalty, as with purple roses. Red tulips mean love, white forgiveness, and yellow ones tell the recipient that you're head over heels for them.
10. Orchids: This flower's meaning of delicate beauty is pretty literal; orchids are famously delicate blooms. But they also convey a flattering sentiment, and giving a plant instead of a bouquet is a nice way to ensure your Valentine's Day gift lasts for longer than four days.
11. Carnations: Carnations are often thought of as the bargain basement of flower choices, but they are perfectly appropriate for Valentine's Day and can be quite lovely in the right arrangement. Like roses, their meaning varies by colour: yellow ones represent cheer, white ones remembrance, and pink ones gratitude. Avoid striped carnations, though, as those represent refusal — not a very romantic sentiment!
12. Mums: Yellow chrysanthemums represent a secret admirer, so thirteen of these are a good gift for your crush. And bronze ones convey excitement, so they're a nice unexpected choice for a first date.
13. Daffodils: These yellow blooms, aside from making us all think of spring (not that unwelcome in February), represent chivalry, making them a lovely gift from a man to his best female friend.
14. Hydrangea: These full stems represent perseverance, which makes them a lovely choice for long-standing couples, and may be part of the reason why they are so popular for weddings.
15. Peony: The national floral symbol of China, in Chinese the word peony literally means "beautiful." In most cultures, these blooms stand for riches and good luck, so work wonderfully for a newly engaged couple or a longtime married pair.