Valentine’s Day Flowers Decoded: What Your Bouquet Says About Your Relationship

We’ve barely rounded the corner from New Year’s and already Valentine’s Day is creeping up. While red roses are the clear floral frontrunner for February—more than 257 million were produced in 2014—they certainly aren’t the only option for romance. Maybe you’d like your favorite fella to think outside the long-stem box this year. Or, perhaps you’d like to do something a little different for that someone special in your life.

We asked Jill Selinger, manager of adult education at Chicago Botanic Garden, to give us the inside scoop on some alternatives to red roses, and tell us what each flower symbolizes.

  • Pink Carnations: These often-overlooked flowers have a nice fragrance and last longer than roses. Selinger says carnations represent “love of a woman or mother.”
  • Cut Tulips: Beautiful and reminiscent of spring, tulips signify a declaration of love or new romance.
  • Sweet Gerbera Daisies: A declaration of innocent love, these cuties can last up to two weeks when kept in shallow water with trimmed stems.
  • Elegant Gardenias: A messenger of love, the gardenia is a long-lasting plant and boasts a “magnificent, intoxicating scent,” Selinger says. A single blossom looks lovely floating in a bowl of water.
  • Precious Primroses: Symbolic of young love (and aren’t we all young at heart?), primroses can be transferred to the outside garden once warmer weather arrives.
  • Hardy Cyclamen: Aside from being long-lasting with beautiful foliage, this pretty bloom expresses deep love and sincerity.
  • Exotic Orchids: Fragrant and long lasting, orchids provide a beautiful and enduring reminder of Valentine’s love.

If your idea of Valentine’s Day means one dozen long-stem red roses and nothing else will do, then advise your sweetheart to order well in advance to ensure that no one is disappointed. The staff at Glenview’s Hlavacek Florist recommends ordering sooner rather than later, because demand soars in the days leading up to Feb. 14. Selinger, who previously worked at a flower shop, recalls desperate men trying to buy flowers on Valentine’s Day and frantically exclaiming, “What do you mean you’re out of roses?!”