Before we had emojis and texting, people devised other ways to communicate symbolically. During the Victorian era, in the reign of England’s Queen Victoria (1837-1901), flowers were used to send messages much like emojis. Flower meanings could vary depending on many factors including color, species, or simply which guide or ‘flower dictionary’ people referred to at the time. Despite these differences, flowers were widely accepted as a way to tell stories and share messages.

Activity Procedure:

Using the Smithsonian Gardens’ guide to flower symbolism and coloring pages shown below, create your own floral messages. Use these flowers in the same way that you might use emojis while texting.

Follow these steps to make your own:

  1. Print out coloring sheets
  2. Color in the flowers
  3. Cut out the flowers
  4. Arrange the flowers to create unique bouquets that create a story
  5. Give this bouquet to someone you care about so that they can learn about the meaning of flowers, too

Remember to share your flower messages with Smithsonian Gardens social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)!

Click on each flower to open the coloring page:

Camellia japonica
Name: Camellia
Scientific Name: Camellia japonica
Meaning: Pity
(Photo: By PumpkinSky – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Rocky mountain columbine
Name: Columbine
Scientific Name: Aquilegia caerulea
Meaning: Resolved to win
(Photo: Dr. Thomas G. Barnes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Mountain Laurel
Name: Mountain Laurel
Scientific Name: Kalmia latifolia
Meaning: Treachery
(Photo: Katja Schulz from Washington, D. C., USA – Mountain Laurel, CC BY 2.0,)
Orange Blossom
Name: Orange blossom
Scientific Name: Citrus x  sinensis
Meaning: Your purity equals your loveliness
(Photo: Ellen Levy Finch (Elf), Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)
Hibiscus
Name: Hibiscus
Scientific Name: Hibiscus brackenridgei
Meaning: Delicate beauty
(Photo: By KarlM at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Mock orange
Name: Mock-Orange
Scientific Name: Philadelphus lewisii
Meaning: Disappointment
(Photo: Oleksandra Deriy – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Viola cornuta
Name: Purple violet
Scientific Name: Viola (purple)
Meaning: Thoughts are occupid with love
(Photo:
David J. Stang,  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)
Cypripedium
Name: Lady’s Slipper Orchid
Scientific Name: Cypripedium reginae
Meaning: Capricious beauty
(Photo: By NC Orchid from North Carolina, USA – 4 Cypripedium reginae, CC BY 2.0)
Paeonia
Name: Peony
Scientific Name: Paeonia officinalis
Meaning: Bashfulness
(Photo: Quartl, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
Sunflower
Name: Sunflower
Scientific Name: Helianthus annus (Tall)
Meaning: Pride, haughtiness
(Photo: Sivahari – Own work, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)
Goldenrod
Name: Goldenrod
Scientific Name: Solidago gigantea
Meaning: Encouragement
(Photo: By Ryan Hodnett – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Sweetbay Magnolia
Name: Sweet Bay Magnolia
Scientific Name: Magnolia virginiana
Meaning: Perseverance
(Photo: By and (c)2008 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man). Co-attribution must be given to the Chanticleer Garden.derivative work: Bff)
pine cone
Name: White pine
Scientific Name: Pinus strobus (cone)
Meaning: Farewell
(Photo: By Keith Kanoti, Maine Forest Service, USA, CC BY 3.0 us)
Syringa vulgaris
Name: Lilac
Scientific Name: Syringa vulgaris
Meaning: First emotions of love
(Photo: By George Chernilevsky – Own work, Public Domain)
Common hawthorn
Name: Hawthorne
Scientific Name: Crataegus monogyna
Meaning: Hope
(Photo: By EugeneZelenko)
Trifolium
Name: Red Clover
Scientific Name: Trifolium pratense
Meaning: Industry
(Photo: By Ivar Leidus – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Dogwood
Name: Dogwood
Scientific Name: Cornus florida
Meaning: I am perfectly indifferent to you
(Photo: By and (c)2016 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Tulip
Name: Tulip
Scientific Name: Tulipa hybrida (red)
Meaning: Hopeless love
(Photo: Kor!An, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)
rose
Name: Rose
Scientific Name: Rosa hybrida
Meaning: Love and devotion
(Photo: Moheen Reeyad, and released under the free license CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
Gelsemium
Name: Yellow Jessamine
Scientific Name: Gelsemium sempervirens
Meaning: Grace and elegance
(Photo: By KENPEI – KENPEI's photo, CC BY-SA 3.0, )
Purple Iris
Name: Bearded Iris
Scientific Name: Iris germanica
Meaning: I have a message for you
(Photo: By Penubag – Own work, Public Domain)
Lemon blossoms
Name: Lemon blossom
Scientific Name: Citrus limon
Meaning: Discretion
(Photo: Davidbena, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)
Hellebore
Name: Hellebore
Scientific Name: Helleborus x hybridus
Meaning: Scandal
(Photo: Tim McCormack,  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
Pelargonium Peltatum
Name: Ivy Geranium
Scientific Name: Pelargonium peltatum
Meaning: Will you go to the dance with me?
(Photo: Stojanoski Slave – Silfiriel, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
Pink striped carnation
Name: Striped Carnation
Scientific Name: Dianthus caryophyllus
Meaning: Refusal
(Photo: Andy_Mabbett, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)
Digitalis Purpurea Vingerhoedskruid
Name: Foxglove
Scientific Name: Digitalis purpurea
Meaning: A wish
(Photo: By Matthijs van den Berg – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, )
Buttercup
Name: Buttercup
Scientific Name: Ranunculus sp.
Meaning: Riches
(Photo: under the license Creative Commons Zero)
Flowers of Malus
Name: Apple blossom
Scientific Name: Malus domestica
Meaning: Preference
(Photo: Krzysztof Golik,  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)
Rhododendron
Name: Pontic rhododendron
Scientific Name: Rhododendron ponticum
Meaning: Danger
(Photo: By Agnes Monkelbaan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, )