Certain flowers, and their arrangements, are common at funerals, although not many know why. Generally known as “funeral flowers,” many of them have specific meanings that go back to ancient times.

Let’s look at flowers and flower arrangements for funerals, their histories, and what they represent.

Flowers and Funerals Go Way Back

Archeologists more than 50 years ago found burial sites in northern Iraq that used flowers thought to date back to 62,000 BC. Then there were the ancient Egyptians, who considered the lotus flower sacred. Because it can regrow in water, the lotus represented the resurrection, and so was used in funerals in hopes of bringing the deceased back to life.

The original use for funeral flowers was said to be to mask the scent of decay. It follows, then, that fragrances with the strongest scents were chosen for such occasions. Once the process of embalming became common, the purpose of flowers shifted toward a way to show sympathy and respect for the deceased.   

Flowers, Funerals, and Culture

When it comes to funerals and flowers, there are differences related to culture and geography.

In Russia, for instance, flowers given at funerals by attendees must be in even numbers. This is an extension of a long-standing tradition that calls for two flowers to be presented at military funerals: one for God, and the other for the fallen soldier.

In the U.S. Midwest, funerals would often employ the use of “flower ladies,” a group of about six women whose job it was to transport flowers from the funeral home to the “flower vehicle.” Later, at the cemetery, the group would be tasked with arranging the flowers.

What Kinds of Flowers are Common at Funerals?

There are certain flowers that are more frequently used at funerals than others:


Symbolizing restored innocence in a departed soul, lilies are No. 1 in terms of funeral popularity, especially for Christians, who widely believe that the Virgin Mary’s tomb is covered with white lilies. The latter flowers symbolize sympathy and purity.


These plants, which can grow up to four feet tall, can have multiple flowers each. They are commonly arranged at funerals in an elegant fan spray and have come to symbolize integrity and sincerity.


More commonly associated with romantic love and Valentine’s Day, red roses are also popular for funerals. It’s true: the red rose also symbolizes love, even platonic love, and grief. Because they also symbolize courage, roses are also frequently used during military funerals.

White roses, which represent purity, innocence, and a clean soul, are also common for funerals. Guests often give yellow roses at funerals to represent friendship, while dark pink roses symbolize the gratitude a guest or loved one has for all the deceased has done for them.


Known as mums, these flowers represent mourning and grief in the U.S. and Europe, making them popular for funerals. White mums are commonly used in funeral floral wreaths and are associated with honesty and positivity.

Mums in Asia, though, symbolize rebirth, and so are commonly given at baby showers in hopes for a healthy life for the newborn. After all, “chrysanthemum” in Chinese means “long time,” and the flower is used to represent longevity.


At funerals, orchids represent everlasting love for the deceased. They are commonly associated with funerals and memorial services due to their hardy nature and long lives. Because they represent sympathy and condolences, pink or white orchids are most popular for funerals. 

All told, flowers and funerals have been intertwined for many thousands of years – and remain so. They are always appropriate to show sympathy, respect, gratitude, and love.

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