The Proper Flowers To Leave at Gravestones

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Leaving flowers at your friend or loved one’s burial site is a traditional way to express care for someone who has passed. With so many different kinds of flowers, you may struggle to find the exact type to leave at the base of the headstone. Each flower symbolizes something different, whether in common semiotics or to your family specifically, so knowing the proper flowers to leave at gravestones before you purchase an expensive bouquet or wreath will help you find an offering with a greater purpose.

Common Gravestone Flowers and Their Meanings

Cultures across the world have associated naturally occurring objects with greater meanings, and flowers are one such symbol. If you’re considering leaving flowers at your loved one’s grave, these symbolic blossoms are an empathetic addition to any arrangement:

Scarlet Roses

Deep red roses may represent romantic love in life, but in death, they express the sentiments of someone still deeply grieving. If you haven’t finished mourning your loved one—as many commonly don’t—consider placing a solemn, crimson rose at their headstone or including it in your bouquet.


Though carnations are joyful, colorful flowers, they’re also common in graveyard floral displays. These fragrant flowers represent love in any context. Combine a carnation with a symbolic color to express the different types of love that exist.


As the name suggests, forget-me-nots in a display represent remembrance—though your loved one may have passed, they’ll never depart from your memory.


On their own, poppies signify remembrance and hope. However, after World War I, they also became a standard symbol for veterans. If you’re mourning someone who served in a branch of the military, consider leaving poppies at their grave to recognize their service.

Choose Your Own Flowers To Represent Your Loved One

These common symbolic flowers are an excellent way to begin your bouquet; however, if you want to make the bundle more personal, you can craft your own symbols. Some flowers are easy to choose for your loved one—perhaps they always had a vase full of tiger lilies on the kitchen table or loved the smell of lavender.

You may find it more challenging to find symbolic flowers for loved ones who lacked any interest in them. Consider the qualities of certain flowers—resilient wildflowers, such as zinnias and daisies, may represent someone who never gave up, regardless of the odds. Whether you choose the flower for its appearance or biology, the meaning you ascribe to it is more important than any common symbol.

Follow the Rules of the Cemetery

Finally, as you go about making your floral arrangement of the proper flowers to leave at gravestones, consider the rules the cemetery has in place for how to care for graves and what types of flowers they allow. They may not allow artificial flowers or vases that interfere with the groundskeeper’s job of tending the lawn. Also, be aware that the groundskeeper may throw away wilted floral arrangements, so be sure to retrieve any special mementos you may attach before losing them forever.