Sympathy flowers used to be limited to roses, carnations, gladiolus and chrysanthemums. Things have changed and now any flower is considered acceptable. The constraints are more on how the flowers are arranged rather than on what flowers are used. The arrangements are conservative, restrained and somber. White is used quite often, although colored flowers are used as well. Wreaths, casket sprays and blankets are typical funeral arrangements.
Floral arrangements meant to be viewed from a distance need to be large and have large flowers. Small flowers get lost in the arrangement. Tall spiked flowers such as gladioli and snapdragons extend the arrangement upward and to the sides. Larkspur, delphiniums and foxglove are also tall spiked flowers.
Large flowers include Asian and Oriental lilies. Casa Blanca lilies fully opened reach 6 inches across. Peonies are from 4 to 6 inches wide and tree peonies reach 12 inches wide. Amaryllis, also known as the Bella Donna lily, comes in white, as well as red and pink, and is 6 inches in diameter. Other large flowers include hydrangea, bird of paradise, anthurium, and orchids.
Carnations and roses are often used for floral funeral arrangements and wreaths as the flowers have tall sturdy stems, are long lasting and easy to arrange. Chrysanthemums are a standard for all types of funeral arrangements. Casket blankets and sprays are often made with these three types of flowers.
Smaller floral arrangements meant to be sent to a home rather than a ceremony, funeral home or church, include small-scale flowers. These arrangements are often more colorful than arrangements for the funeral itself. Hope and friendship are meant to be conveyed as well as sympathy. Small-scale flowers include roses, liatris, delphinium, stock, carnations, mini carnations, alstroemeria and daisies.
Live plants combined with cut flowers are appropriate and popular. The live plants signify that life goes on and the cut flowers add color. Religious statuary is sometimes used in the arrangements.
Different flower colors--as well as different flowers--have certain meanings. A funeral arrangement should convey sympathy, understanding, respect and hope. Blue denotes peacefulness and serenity. Purple means dignity and pride. White shows reverence and humility. Red means love as well as passion. Yellow is friendship. An arrangement of white and red roses would convey love and reverence. Yellow and blue would mean serenity from a friend.
One color arrangements are acceptable for funerals and sympathy flowers. Alisa GordaneerIf, the author of "FabJob Guide to Become a Florist," suggests red, white and blue arrangements if the deceased was a veteran, brightly colored flowers if a gardener, or using the deceased favorite flowers regardless of tradition.