It used to be that funeral flowers were traditionally sent directly to the funeral home, where they would then be displayed during the service or placed on the coffin. These days, many people prefer to send ‘sympathy’ flowers to the home of grieving loved ones, ensuring their flowers can be appreciated for longer.

Wherever you choose to send them, finding the right arrangement is the key.

Flowers are a touching way to share your sadness and let loved ones know you are thinking of them. There are many different types of arrangements, and varying cultures have different positions on flowers. To ensure you won’t offend, it’s always best to check about certain customs.

If you do not want to disturb the family at this time, you can always check with the funeral home to see if there is any particular custom they have been made aware of.

Choosing your flowers

When choosing your flowers, it’s a good idea to stick to tradition but to also throw in a personal touch. Funeral arrangements are typically made up of white flowers such as lilies, calla lilies and carnations, but if you know the deceased had a love of a certain flower then it’s much more personal to include this flower. Seeing that you have taken the time to consider what they loved reminds the grieving that they are not alone in their pain, and that you too held the person close in your heart. Remember, grief shared is grief lessened.

There are three main arrangement styles to consider when choosing funeral flowers - shaped arrangements, coffin sprays and vase arrangements.

Shaped arrangements

Funeral flowers can be shaped to form crosses, wreaths, and other specialised forms relating to the life of the deceased and their family. A circular wreath is the most traditional, so if you are not particularly close with the family this could be your safest option.

Coffin sprays

Coffin sprays are large arrangements that cover the entire coffin. Generally, these flowers are picked by those closest to the deceased, so if you would like to handle these important flowers, speak with the family first.

Vase arrangements

Vase arrangements can either come in their very own vase, or quickly be transferred to a vase where they can be placed on a table. If you plan to send sympathy flowers that include the deceased’s favourite flowers, this could be a good option.

Another option could be to send a plant, which could then be planted in the garden or by the grave site.


Meaning has been attributed to flowers for thousands of years, and most cultures use particular flowers to symbolise death. This language of flowers, or ‘floriography’ as it’s known, should play a part in the flowers that you choose.

Poppies: Poppies are symbolic of both sleep and death, and many people wear red poppies to commemorate soldiers and victims of war.

Lilies: Lilies are said to represent purity of the soul and eternal life. They are also thought to have healing properties, soothing the pain associated with grief. Calla lilies represent the beauty the deceased left behind.

Chrysanthemums: While chrysanthemums are often associated with the sun, many people (especially the French and Italians) choose white chrysanthemums for funeral flowers. Chrysanthemums symbolise a forever shining light.

Carnations: Carnations are commonly used in the base of wreaths, and represent truth, passion, and death.

Roses: Roses represent love, and can be used as part of a funeral tribute to express love for the deceased. Black roses (which are actually dark red) are popular in funeral flowers.  

Choosing group flowers

If you were a colleague of the deceased, played as part of a sports team with them or are friends with their other friends, you may choose to send a group arrangement. Group arrangements can make a much grander showing, and is a good way to create something spectacular without overwhelming the grieving. The best way to go about selecting group flowers is to nominate one person to make the selection, or take a vote on the flowers that should be included. You’ll also need to include a card with everyone’s signature’s, or sign with a group name.