Flower colors can have an effect on our moods and even our creativity. Each color has its own meaning, which is importantt to consider when planting a garden or arranging bouquets. Learn more about flower color and all the many ways to mix and match colors to decorate your landscape.
You may have heard someone say that the color of your vehicle may reflect something about your personality. For instance, driving a shiny red car or truck, regardless of make and model, suggests that you’re bold, dynamic, and outgoing. Choosing a vehicle in a neutral color like gray may reflect your practical side.
Oddly enough, flower colors can reflect certain traits too. Here’s a look at what the different colors of flowers mean.
Flower Colors and What They Symbolize
Here’s a closer look at the different colors of flowers and what each color represents. When you’re giving flowers to someone, you can even convey a particular message by the colors you choose.
Just as driving a yellow car is associated with being upbeat, flowers of this color are believed to spread joy and happiness. Yellow flowers are a symbol of friendship. Give these to people when you want to cheer them up. Decorate a room with a vase of these, and you’ll fill the area with positive vibes.
Common varieties of yellow flowers:
- Yellow Rose
Orange is a bright, bold color. So, it’s not surprising that fiery floral hues represent feelings of enthusiasm and excitement. These are fun to give for special occasions. Keeping a vase of orange flowers on hand will brighten your surroundings and maybe even boost your energy.
Common varieties of orange flowers:
Green is definitely a spring color. Green flowers are associated with renewal and rebirth. Despite the expression, “green around the gills,” this color can symbolize good health, too. Other “meanings” of green include good fortune and youthfulness.
Common varieties of green flowers:
- Bells of Ireland
- Green cymbidium orchid
Most of us associate a red flower with love, desire, and passion. A red rose seems like the appropriate flower to give on Valentine’s Day. However, there’s more to this floral color than romantic love. Red may also convey respect and courage.
Common varieties of red flowers:
- Red rose
Like red flowers, pink flowers often conjure up thoughts of love. But, in the floral world at least, pink has other meanings, too, such as gentleness and happiness. Because pink often symbolizes femininity, this pastel hue is a popular one in Mother’s Day bouquets.
Common varieties of pink flowers:
- Pink rose
A purple flower is a vibrant, vivid addition to landscapes and home decor. This “flower color” has been connected to royalty and success. It’s used to express tradition and admiration, too.
Common varieties of purple flowers:
Sometimes thought to be a derivative of purple, lavender is a color all its own. Youth, grace, and elegance are the traits reflected in this pastel tone.
Common varieties of lavender flowers:
Blue is a soothing color. Common “blue” traits include peace and tranquility. If you want to relax and release negative feelings, surround yourself with blue floral decor. Blue flowers are the ultimate natural element to help you de-stress.
Common varieties of blue flowers:
- Morning glory
White flowers are a staple in floral bouquets. When purposed for nuptials, they symbolize purity and innocence. You’ll see white floral arrangements in memorial services, too, as a way of expressing sympathy. To pay homage to a loved one’s passing, white daisies, carnations, roses, and orchids are common choices.
Common varieties of white flowers:
- White rose
Why Do Flowers Have Color?
Several factors impact flower color. Primary among them is pigment. Flowers “inherit” certain characteristics, such as pigmentation, through genes. The more pigments the flower has, the brighter the bloom will be.
Most floral pigments come from anthocyanin. Flowers show off these pigments in a variety of colors — red, white, blue, yellow, and purple. Though not as common, anthocyanin pigment can even give flowers a brown or black appearance.
Another source of pigmentation comes from carotenoids, which put themselves on display as reds, oranges, and yellows. These are the pigments that give fall foliage its fiery splendor. Many flowers get their colors from either one of these pigments, but others are “dressed up” in a combination of both.
Other factors contribute to flower color too, such as:
- How much light they get as they grow
- The temperature of their surroundings
- Soil pH
- Environmental stressors — droughts, floods, levels of nutrients in the soil
Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too, to some extent, is flower color. Most people can see just about every color in the visible spectrum. Interestingly, everyone perceives color differently, so flower colors can seem brighter to one person than they do to another.
Relationship Between Flower Color and Pollination
Pollination is the process that allows flowering plants to reproduce. In order for that to happen, pollen has to be transferred from the anther (make component of the flower) to the stigma (the female component).
This process leads to the formation of seeds necessary to produce plant offspring. In order for seeds to form successfully, pollination must occur when pollen transfers between flowers of the same species. Pollen is carried by the wind, water, and other animals and insects such as bats, bees, and butterflies.
Attracting pollinators is good for the health of your garden. When animals and insects visit a plant, they usually consume some pollen for protein. When they visit another plant or flower for a second helping of pollen, some of the material from the first plant falls on the second.
Pollination also occurs when a bee or butterfly takes a swig of nectar from a flower, picking up a few pollen grains in the process. When they sip nectar from another plant, they unintentionally transfer some of the pollen as well.
If pollen transfer results in successful fertilization, seeds develop, allowing the plant or flower to reproduce. If fertilization is only partial, the seeds may not be able to grow into new greenery. If pollination doesn’t lead to fertilization at all, then no new seeds can form.
Bees are the best pollinators around. These insect pollinators visit gardens in search of pollen and nectar. Pollen provides the balance of fats and proteins that bees need. Nectar is a bee’s “energy drink.” It’s loaded with sugars that give them plenty of fuel to carry out their tasks.
So how do you make your garden an inviting place for bees? Choose native flowers, as these are more likely to thrive and won’t require much upkeep. Keep in mind that hybridized flowers (those that are a cross between species) are usually sterile and therefore can’t reap the benefits of pollination.
Last but not least, consider the colors of the flowers you plant. Bees have excellent color vision, so they’re drawn to colorful collections of flowers. Blue, white, violet, yellow, and purple are the colors bees prefer most.
Seeing a variety of flowers and colors lets bees know that they have access to a wide variety of pollen types. Novice gardeners may not know that some hybrids are bred that way for their color, so make sure the seeds you buy aren’t cross-bred.
How Are Colors Selected for a Flower Arrangement?
Choosing flowers for creative arrangements has to do with color psychology, the effect colors have on our moods and energy levels. Our brains actually interpret color, assigning meaning to different hues.
The human eye is capable of seeing one million different shades. But no matter which ones you are looking at, they can be divided into two categories: warm colors and cool colors. Here’s what you need to know about each when you’re making your next bouquet.
The Psychology of Warm Colors
Warm colors — red, orange, and yellow — send a strong message, bringing out feelings of cheer and happiness. Red is a dynamic color associated with love and passion. It draws more attention than any other color.
Check out the florist section of your local grocery store in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, and you’ll see bunches of red blooms everywhere, along with vibrant fluorescent colors, often oranges and yellows.
Popular red choices for flower arrangements:
Orange is considered a playful, joyful color. Orange bouquets are a good way to uplift someone who’s going through a rough time. Because it’s also associated with vibrancy, orange is a great choice when you need floral decor for an early-morning gathering. Sometimes coffee just isn’t enough to energize us.
Popular orange choices for flower arrangements:
Yellow is a friendly, happy color. When you see T-shirts and other gear decorated with smiley faces, they are usually yellow. Symbolic of good health and respect, this color has a stimulating effect, encouraging a positive outlook. Give a yellow flower to someone as a token of friendship. Use yellow florals to decorate when you want to create an especially friendly atmosphere at your next get-together.
Popular yellow flower choices for arrangements:
- Garden roses
The Psychology of Cool Colors
Cool colors help you wind down. They provide just the right mix of relaxation and stimulation. Green is peaceful and calming, probably because our eye muscles don’t have to work as hard to perceive it. In a garden or bouquet, green helps balance out especially bold colors.
Green also represents freshness and good fortune. You can include green in a flower bouquet for a wedding or anniversary to convey best wishes for a new start.
Popular green choices for flower arrangements:
Blue has such a calming effect that it lowers blood pressure and breathing rates. This color can promote tranquility and mental clarity. Lighter blues are soothing, while deeper shades symbolize trust. A blue flower arrangement makes a good get-well gift.
Popular blue choices for flower arrangements:
- Blue delphinium
- Morning glory
- Blue roses
Another cool color is purple. Hundreds of years ago, fabric died in this color was expensive and difficult to come by, so it has come to symbolize loyalty. It’s associated with creativity and spirituality, too. Also symbolizing power and luxury, a purple floral arrangement is a smart choice for someone facing a significant life change, including a milestone birthday.
Popular purple choices for flower arrangements:
Flower Color Theory
When you’re planning a garden, you can, technically, go with any floral color scheme you want. But understanding a few principles about color can help you achieve the style that works best for you.
Likewise, if you’re decorating the patio for an outdoor party, certain colors contribute to a more festive atmosphere. If you’ve ever taken an art class or bought paint, you’ve probably seen a color wheel, which you can use to mix and match colors. Similar principles apply in the floral world. Here are some basic guidelines centered around the flower color wheel.
Neutral colors can be used with any other color and won’t change the effect you’re after. Neutral colors include white, gray, silver, black, and certain shades of brown. In the garden, you can coordinate flower colors with other elements — natural or otherwise, such as man-made decor, bark, planters, and fences. In the garden, green is neutral too.
White and silver show up well first thing in the morning and in the evening. If you’re going to use your garden the most at these times, be sure to include those colors.
Monochromatic color schemes are the easiest to incorporate into a garden. All you have to do is combine various shades of the same color. These patterns do give you some flexibility to blend colors. One type of monochromatic scheme calls for red with a blend of orange, pink, and yellow. Beds of hibiscus often fit this description. Other popular choices are white, black, or violet.
Another option is to mix colors. This is where the color wheel can really help. One way to combine colors is to use analogous colors, those that are next to each other on the color wheel, such as orange and yellow or green and blue. Analogous colors blend well together.
For more contrast, try complementary colors, which are opposite each other on the wheel. Complementary pairs are violet and yellow, red and green, and orange and blue.
Another option is the color triad. Triads are created by drawing an equilateral triangle that connects three colors on the wheel. Red, yellow and red form a triad, as do violet, orange, and green. Triads add boldness and variety to your outdoor landscape.
Colors may also be classified as dark or bright. Dark colors (purple, blue, and pink) make gardens look larger while creating a calming atmosphere. Bright colors (red, yellow, orange) make spaces look smaller and call attention to them.
What are some other ways to attract pollinators to your garden?
To keep bees and butterflies coming back, avoid using pesticides. They’ll kill pollinators as well as pests. If you really want to use a pesticide, select one with the lowest toxicity you can find, and only apply it as directed. Additionally, planting flower clusters of the same species will draw more bees than individual flowers scattered throughout. If you have enough room, plant clusters that are at least four feet wide.
Plant in sunny areas, especially if there are structures nearby that can block the wind. Bees don’t like strong gusts. Have several plant species flowering at the same time to give bees a little variety. Plant flowers of different shapes and sizes. North America is home to thousands of species, so you’ll have plenty to choose from.
Can you paint or dye flowers?
Yes. You can use a variety of methods. The easiest way is to dip white carnations (with the stems trimmed) in cups of water with a few drops of food coloring mixed in. You can also spray-paint or dip the flower petals in fabric dye. Whether you’re using fresh or dried flowers, there are so many ways to be creative with this. You can even tie-dye the petals. Florists use specialty dye to create colored flowers.
What are some examples of black or very dark flowers?
Often thought to represent sadness, black flower varieties include:
- Black lily
- Black Dahlia
- Chocolate cosmos
- Black roses
- Black Orchid
- Black Magic Hollyhock
- Calla Lily
- Bat Orchid
- Black Velvet Petunia
- Queen of the night tulip