Why Do People Put Flowers on Graves?

Claudia Dewald/E+/Getty Images

Flowers are often used as a symbol of beauty, peace, purity and life in a variety of traditions, including remembrance. Flowers left at a grave are meant to be a lingering, visual reminder of personal memories and well wishes toward the dead.

Ancient Roman traditions included flowers and trinkets around important grave sites. They were used to appease ancestors under the belief that the spirit continued to dwell around the site after death. Flowers have had functional roles in funeral traditions as well and were often used to mask the smell of death before preservation was a common practice. A U.S. tradition in the 1900’s of having the wake at home often took place in the family garden, surrounded by flowers. Flower colors can symbolize different sentiments: red flowers are more frequently left for loved ones or significant others, while white flowers are often used for those who passed away at a young age, to signify innocence.