Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Red and white flowers

1.  Red and white flowers together not allowed, represent blood and tears.  Never take red and white flowers to anyone in hospital.  Very unlucky.  London, 1960s [Lambeth Horticultural Society, London, November 2015].

2.  Clackmannanshire in the 1950s and Caithness in the 1960s … Mum never liked red and white flowers put together – Wars of the Roses? blood and peace? [Thurso, Caithness, January 2012].

3. When my mother was in hospital they went really potty when someone brought in red and white flowers. That was Hants in 1974 [Westminster Quaker Meeting House, London, October 2009].

4. They say red and white [flowers] together are unlucky; I don’t know why [Maida Hill, London, November 2008].

5. I grew up in the Cotswolds … My mother was very superstitious … She wouldn’t put red and white flowers in the same vase as she said it was like blood and bandages! [Crewkerne, Somerset, January 2007].

6. [Newcastle-on-Clun area, Shropshire] red and white flowers should never be put together, this foretells death [Sandiway, Cheshire, October 2004].

7. In church decorations … red flowers with white gypsophila at Whitsun to symbolise fire and smoke [Harrow-on-the-Hill, Middlesex, October 2004].

8. Red and white flowers together: unlucky, represent blood and bandages [Barking, Essex, August 2004].

9. A man from Australia … said that when he had had to go into hospital he had had some red and white flowers brought in by a visitor, but the nurse would not allow it [Natural History Museum, London, September 1998].

10. I have just retired but I started nursing during the War. I found that red and white flowers in the same vase made some patients uneasy; they would mutter ‘Red and whte, someone will die’. If the colours were separated into a vase of red blossoms and one of white this was acceptable [Penicuik, Midlothian, April 1982].

Images:   main, Sunnyside Residential Home, Chard, Somerset, January 2015; upper inset, wreath from the Polish Airforce Association U.K. in St Clement Danes, the Central Church of the Royal Airforce, in the Strand, London, 14 November (the day after Remembrance Sunday) 2022 .

Observation:  At the Holditch Hall Flowershow, in west Dorset on 10 August 2019, the opener was presented with a buttonhole composed of two white and one red carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) and some asparagus fern (Asparagus aethiopicus), made by an elderly local lady; presumably she was unaware of this superstition.