​​What Colour Should Funeral Flowers Be?

​​What Colour Should Funeral Flowers Be?
Learn which color and type of funeral flowers to select for a service or to give to a mourning family. Our guide explains funeral flower etiquette.
4 minute read

Daniela Fortino

How to choose flower type and colour as a gift to a grieving family or for use at a loved one's funeral

Flowers are a common addition to funeral services. They are often provided or purchased from a funeral home, but it is also common for funeral guests to bring flowers for the deceased and their family. It can be challenging to choose the right type and colour with all the flower options available. This article will discuss which flowers are ideal for use at funerals.

History of funeral flowers

The exact origin of using flowers at a funeral is unknown. However, the tradtion might date back to as far as 62,000 B.C. This is based on research by Dr. Ralph Solecki in 1951. During Solecki's excavations in the Shanidar Cave in Northern Iraq, he discovered pollen and flower fragments at burial sites. He determined that these were likely placed deliberately at the burial site.

Another significant example of flower use at a funeral dates back to 1874, after the death of President Andrew Johnson. His body was not embalmed and was in a less than favourable condition at his funeral, so the casket was closed, and fragrant flowers were placed on top to help hide the odour.

Also in the 19th century, a “flower lady” role was incorporated into funeral practices. The flower lady had a similar function to a pallbearer. However, instead of carrying the casket throughout the funeral and procession, she would carry flowers. This role was considered significant, and flower ladies were appointed with care and consideration.

Today, using flowers to conceal the odour of a body is no longer a concern given modern preservation technologies.

Instead, flowers are used more for symbolism and expression. For many, flowers serve as a way for loved ones to express their love and support towards the deceased and their grieving loved ones.

Flowers can also serve as a way to remember the deceased by picking a flower or flower colour that was significant to them.

Flowers also add beauty, warmth, and brightness to a space. Surrounding grieving loved ones with beautiful colours and lovely scents can help brighten up an otherwise dark or depressing time. Regardless of the use and symbolism of flowers, they have become a staple at most funeral services.

Choosing a funeral flower arrangement

Whether you are purchasing flowers for a funeral or would like to send flowers to a grieving family, there are some things to consider. The two most prominent ones are colour and type.

Flower colours at a funeral

Different flower colours have different meanings and significance. Below is a list of some of those meanings.

  • Red flowers signify beauty, strength, respect, devotion, admiration, and love. Red is also a very vibrant colour that can add some brightness to a funeral.
  • Blue flowers represent condolences, sadness, and mourning. Blue can also express peace, hope, and well wishes.
  • Pink flowers signify compassion, sympathy, and innocence. Pink can also suggest remembrance, making it a common colour for funeral flower arrangements.
  • Orange flowers signify excitement, happiness, joy, enthusiasm, and warmth. This is mainly due to it being a bright and bold colour.
  • Purple flowers signify admiration, beauty, respect, dignity, and sorrow. This may be a somewhat dark colour for a funeral, but it serves as an accent colour or is paired with similar colours such as pink and red.
  • White flowers signify purity, innocence, sympathy, reverence, peace, and eternal love. This is one of the most traditional and common colours used for funerals or sympathy flowers.
  • Green flowers signify rebirth, renewal, nature, and wellness. This is not often one of the most common colours for funeral flowers, but it is a great way to bring more colour into arrangements.
  • Yellow flowers signify happiness, joy, friendship, warmth, and hope. Like orange flowers, yellow is bright and vibrant, which helps bring brightness to an arrangement.

Types of Flowers at a Funeral

In addition to flower colours, a few flower types are commonly used at funerals that have different meanings and significance. These include:

  • Roses. In general, a rose signifies love and respect. However, the symbolism can change slightly depending on the colour. The colours take on the symbolism mentioned above, but specific colours may also be better for a particular relationship. For example, red roses symbolize deep and lasting love, so this would be more suitable for the death of someone close to you. In contrast, a yellow rose may be better suited for the death of a friend.
  • Carnations. These are another popular flower choice. They last a long time and are quite fragrant, making them ideal for multi-day funeral events. Similar to roses, the significance changes slightly based on the colour. Carnations come in many colours, which can help people to express their feelings more accurately.
  • Lilies. This is one of the most common traditional flower choices. Lillies are synonymous with the soul of the deceased and innocence and renewal. But, again, different colour lilies have slightly different meanings and purposes. For example, white lilies are often a good choice for religious services. They symbolize purity and virtue or  the soul’s return to a state of innocence. Pink (stargazer) lilies symbolize sympathy and are a good gift to the grieving family.
  • Chrysanthemums. These flowers are a great way to bring brightness and warmth to a funeral service. However, the significance can vary depending on background and beliefs. For example, white chrysanthemums symbolize grief in China, Korea, and Japan. In Europe, the roles of these flowers are almost exclusively for funeral arrangements or to be placed on graves.
  • Gladioli. These flowers represent strength, integrity, and character. This can make Gladioli an uplifting and positive addition to funeral arrangements.

Intention behind a gift of flowers is most important

The primary purpose of the funeral flowers is to remember and honour the deceased in some manner. The symbolism of flower colour and type can be a great tool to help family and friends convey and express their feelings towards the deceased. However, this does not need to be the deciding factor for flower choice.

Picking out flowers is a personal task, and the most significant consideration in that choice should be your intention. Flower symbolism can serve as a guideline, but the choice is ultimately up to you.

Have a question? Ask our experts

Have a question about funerals, cremation or end of life choices? Ask our experts at Eirene via email at support@eirene.ca or click here to contact us.