Down in the Garden: The Language of Houseplants

While it may be common knowledge that red roses mean love, yellow friendship and that lilies indicate comfort during times of grief, did you know that not just floristry flowers, but all plants have individual meanings?

For example, the popular Fiddle-leaf Fig says “I understand” and to say “I love you”, gift the beautiful Flaming Katy or, obviously, Heartleaf.

This week let’s explore the meanings and energies of the botanical world so that you can select your next houseplant based on the meanings attributed it.

Place it in your home or workplace to boost the vibe you are looking for or say it with plants when making your next gift to a friend loved one, maybe mum.

Much like ‘The Language of Flowers’, these meanings are based on ‘The Doctrine of Signatures’, an ancient memory aid used in herbal medicine, aromatherapy and flower-based therapies to understand the properties of a plant based on its appearance, characteristics and environment.

The people of the Victoria era throughout Europe used this ‘plant language’ to convey secret messages to each other during a period of social modesty and homes were adorned with floristry that spoke volumes about the gatherings and the hostess.

The Language of Houseplants Today

This list shares with you a selection of pot plants that are popular today, easily obtained and for the most part, on the easier side to maintain.

All make good gifts and to ensure your message is understood, you might like to include the meaning of your houseplant on your gift card.

“I love you”, “Thanks for being my friend”

Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum) – desire, delay, bind, capture, obtain, prosperity.

Flaming Katy (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) – friendship, grounding, resilience, advancement, reinforcement, stability.

Heart Leaf (Philodendron hederaceum) – love, happiness, passion, growth, devotion, appreciation.

“I’m sorry”, “I wish you calm”

Air Plant (Tillandsias spp.) – acceptance, calm, mindfulness, clarity, communication, adaptation, ending obsession.

Fiddle-leaf Fig (Ficus lyrate) – harmony, balance, understanding, relationships, partnerships, quiet.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii) – peace, dedication, cleansing, purification, healing, balance.

“Get well”, “Stay safe”

Instead of saying this with flowers, you could try plants.

One of these would also help in workplaces connected with healing.

Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis miller) – survival, comfort during grief, restoration, renewal, regeneration, healing.

Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum tectorum) – eternity, purification, calm, clarity, protection.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) – intention, flexibility, creativity, technology, truth, healing, strength.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) – mindfulness, protection, creativity, healing, independence.

“You can do this!”, “Let’s start again”, “I wish you success”

Arrowhead Plant (Syngonium podophyllum) – inspiration, new ideas, beginnings, youth, inspiration, argument and stress reduction.

Bamboo Palm (Rhapis excelsa) – determination, direction, decision, willpower, progress, action, success, movement.

Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) – change, move, education, development, transformation, revision.

Elephant’s Ears (Alocasia x amazonica) – opportunity, freedom, fortune, rebirth, destiny, growth.

Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum raddianum) – direction, protection, expression, purpose, self-knowledge, sensitivity.

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) – focus, study, restoration, action, exuberance, interest.

“Be careful” “I’m here for you”, “I understand”

Begonia (Begonia spp.) – transition, warning, creativity, removal of negativity, endings.

Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus) – positivity, wellness, breath, self-respect, protection, preservation.

English Ivy (Hedera helix) – connection, fidelity, fertility, protection, tenacity, immortality.

Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis spp.) – communication, compassion, shield, consciousness, peacefulness, sensuality.

“Good luck”

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) – luck, abundance, truth, protection, direction.

Chain of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii) – Devotion, love, wishes, luck, fertility, home & family blessing, romantic commitments.

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata) – luck, abundance, finances, contentment, accomplishment, independence.

“I’m proud of you”, “Congratulations”

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior) – pride, work, longevity, pride, self-respect, protection.

Fruit Salad Plant (Monstera deliciosa) – growth, opportunity, expansion, honour, action, plans.

Golden Cane Palm (Dypsis lutescens) – victory, alignment, strength, abundance, reward, success.

Birthday Month Houseplants

Just as there are Birthstones and Birth Flowers, so there are Birth Houseplants.

These are a few of the better-known ones and would make the perfect gift for anyone born during that month.

January: Arrowhead Plant (Syngonium podophyllum), Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis spp.)

February: Desert Rose (Adenium obesum), Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

March: Staghorn Fern (Platycerium spp.), Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)

April: Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis miller), Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus)

May: Jade Plant (Crassula ovata), Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

June: Fiddle-leaf Fig (Ficus lyrate), Heart Leaf (Philodendron hederaceum)

July: Fruit Salad Plant (Monstera deliciosa), Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)

August: Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior), Tail Flower (Anthurium andraeanum)

September: African Violet (Saintpaulias spp.), Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

October: Air Plant (Tillandsias spp.), Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)

November: Begonia (Begonia spp.), English Ivy (Hedera helix)

December: Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera truncate), Elephant’s Ears (Alocasia x amazonica)

Most of the houseplants that find an early grave are unfortunately those which are gifted by well-meaning friends and often purchased simply because they are in flower and look pretty but, they are sometimes not suitable for the environments they are going into.

When you are giving a plant to another person, take into account their level of gardening expertise, the time they have available and the lighting of their home or workplace.

Mention these to the person you are purchasing your plant from and they will be able to better direct you to a houseplant that will live happily with the environment and person they are being gifted to.

How to Have Thriving Plants

To set you on the path of keeping plant you may have been gifted happy you need to give them the environment that best matches their origins and to do this light, temperature, water and food requirements need to be met.

Diseases and pests also will be something to watch for and attend to.

A Few Common Care Problems that you can easily fix include revising position, watering and feeding.

Light related care issues: Thin, straggly growth can mean not enough light while too much light will cause leaf drop.

Wilting, yellow or burnt foliage can indicate overheating of plant or too much light.

Temperature related care issues: If the temperature is too high it can cause wilting and small leaves, while too low yellow foliage, bud drop, deformed leaves, fast and uneven growth all indicate temperature is not right being either too high or low.

Watering related problems: Leaf drop, and leaf curl are all indications that your plant is getting too much are not enough water.

Usual red leaf colouring, bud drop and flowers not forming will mean underwatering while corky patches or rotting roots mean that the plant is getting too much water, or the pot is sitting in water in its saucer and it’s not suitable for it.

Fertiliser issues: new leaves are yellow with green veins indicates low iron.

Pale leaves, slow growth and few or no flowers usually means under feeding.


It’s a good time to take hardwood cuttings and if any of your perennial herbs are looking well past their prime for the season, cut them right back to ground level.

Some of the plants you can get into the garden at the moment includes Asian greens, artichoke, asparagus, broad beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, cauliflower, mid and late season onions, peas, spinach, silverbeet, turnips, leek, alyssum, carnation, columbine, lupin, pansy, polyanthus, primrose, wallflower.


Curious Creators, a Central Coast Collective have a couple of events on this weekend at their Pop-Up Activation at Parkhouse & Kibble in Gosford that would be of interest to the botanical inclined.

Plant Talk by Harry’s Complete Gardens. A talk on how gardening can strengthen a community & how plants changed Harry’s life.  10 – 11am Saturday 8th May. This is followed by a Plant Sale until 5pm.

Mother’s Day Dried Flower Crown Workshop. Learn how to make your own stylish crown made from dried flowers and recycled materials. 11am – 12pm Sunday 9th May.

Both of these workshops are held at Parkhouse & Kibble, 124 Donnison St, Gosford. Bookings are a must:

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden coordinator and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 – 10am every Saturday on Coast FM.

Send your gardening questions, events and news to: