DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a female, is it inappropriate for me to give gifts of flowers to other females, or to males? What about potted plants, on occasions when I go over to someone’s house? Could I give a potted plant to a male as a gift, and should I casually mention that I won’t hold it against him if the plant doesn’t survive?
Do the same rules apply when giving flowers to little children? I think it would be nice to surprise a little girl with a cute bouquet for her birthday, or present a little boy or girl with a “botany project.”
Are there any colors/species that are totally inappropriate to give in any of these cases -- like, say, red roses for somebody else’s husband?
GENTLE READER: You caught Miss Manners. Up until that last point, she was going to admonish you for gendering the issue. Flowers are for everyone.
Flowers were once considered to convey coded language, and there is still some symbolism in a few of them (white lilies, for example, are generally associated with funerals), but a mixed bouquet can usually get around even that.
However, the floral industry and reality dating shows have indeed discouraged anyone from giving red roses to those who are not viable romantic interests. That would presumably include other people’s husbands. Fortunately, by your own assertion, they would not be able to take care of the flowers anyway.