Flower Gifting Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

While most people generally appreciate receiving flowers as a gift, you could unintentionally offend somebody by sending the wrong flowers for the occasion. To keep your foot out of your mouth, follow these rules of flower gifting etiquette.


General Flower Gifting Etiquette

When you’re thinking about sending mixed flower arrangements, there are a few basic flower gifting etiquette rules you should follow to ensure that your present sparks joy.

Consider the Recipient

No matter what the other rules say, you should always consider the recipient. For example, while red roses are the most traditional romantic gift, they won’t mean as much if your partner’s favorite flowers are white lilies. Or, if your recipient loves to garden, they may prefer a plant over cut flowers.

You should also consider the size of the bouquet that would be best for your loved one. While bigger may be better, it could create frustration for somebody who doesn’t have room for a large arrangement. Sometimes a single flower or a small bouquet can make a bigger impact than something that takes up too much space.

Never send sympathy flowers when a family asks for donations in lieu of flowers. While you may not understand why somebody wouldn’t want flowers, you should respect their decision on how to honor the person they lost.

Finally, do some research first before sending flowers to somebody from a different culture. Flower-giving etiquette varies around the world. You don’t want to accidentally send flowers associated with mourning to somebody as a get-well gift, for example.

Choose the Right Flowers for the Occasion

Some colors and types of flowers are associated with certain people or occasions and would be out of place elsewhere. Red roses, for example, are stereotypically seen as romantic flowers and could cause confusion when given to a friend or coworker.

Sympathy flowers are usually white or pastel, so bold colors might look out of place, but those same bold colors might look great in a birthday bouquet. Always consider the occasion before selecting a flower bouquet.

Timing Is Everything

If you’re late to hear about an event or somebody’s passing, it’s OK to still send flowers, as long as they’re accompanied by a note explaining that you only recently heard the news. Without an explanation, late flowers may not be well-received.

If you’re thinking about sending get-well flowers, keep in mind that some hospitals don’t allow flowers, so better timing might be to send flowers to the person’s home the day after they get out of the hospital.

While flowers on a birthday, anniversary, or other special event are nice, flowers given out of the blue might be even more appreciated. Consider sending sympathy flowers a week or two after the funeral, to let the family know they’re still in your thoughts during the difficult grieving period.

Flower Gifting Etiquette by Occasion

Etiquette for flower-giving may vary depending on the occasion, so here are some tips for the most common situations that people give flowers for.

Romantic Flowers

While roses and carnations are traditionally seen as romantic flowers, it’s far more romantic to find out your partner’s favorite type and color of flowers and give those instead. It shows that you listen to them and care about what they really want.

It’s also usually best to send romantic flowers to a private location, like your partner’s home. Many people are uncomfortable with big public displays of affection, so sending romantic flowers to a workplace could make your significant other squirm under the looks from their coworkers.

Get Well Soon Flowers

Always check a hospital’s policy before sending get well soon flowers. Many intensive care units don’t allow flowers, and some hospitals don’t allow flowers in any room. It’s often best to send get well flowers to a person’s home after they return.

Sympathy Flowers

While you might choose next day delivery for sympathy flowers, consider sending them a week or two later, to let the family know you’re still thinking about their loss.

Many people also choose to send sympathy flowers to the funeral home to be displayed during the service. Remember to research the family culture first, as some don’t display flowers during funerals, and be respectful of a family’s wishes when they ask for charitable donations rather than flowers.

Holiday or Birthday Flowers

Every holiday has a different flower theme, and you should consider each person’s taste when selecting birthday flowers.

While pastel tulips are ideal for Easter, they look out of place at Christmas. Likewise, you wouldn’t send a poinsettia for Mother’s Day. Take a few minutes to research your recipient’s favorite flowers or the best flowers for each holiday to avoid a faux pas.

Gifting Etiquette by Culture

Every culture has their own flower gifting etiquette, and explaining all of it would be a whole other article. Instead, here are a few interesting tidbits from around the world:

In Egypt, flowers are only given as a wedding, funeral, or get well gift. Flowers are considered inappropriate for any other situation.

White flowers are considered funeral flowers in Germany, France, and other parts of the world.

On the other hand, purple is the most common flower color for funerals in many Central and South American countries.

Yellow flowers are associated with breakups in Russia and unfaithfulness in France.

Odd numbers of flowers are preferred in many cultures around the world, except for 13, which is considered bad luck in many places. 

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