Flowers, small as they may be, have a number of uses to humans and animals alike. While some people may feel that flowers are wasteful, thanks to their short lifespans, others recognize how valuable flowers are to nature. Some people grow gardens specifically for certain helpful benefits of flowers. Flowers even have commercial uses that many people may not know about.
One of the most well-known and popular uses of flowers is as decoration. Floral arrangements are popular for events such as weddings, holidays like Mother's Day and Valentine's Day, birthdays and funerals. Arrangements may also be placed around homes to spice up the decor. Drying out flower blooms and arranging them decoratively has proved popular for centuries.
Flowers and other plants have long since been used for medicinal purposes and they continue to be an important part of medicine in modern times. According to the Wildflower Information website, around 25 percent of the basic ingredients in modern medicine come from flowering plants. Flowering plants have been used to treat a variety of ailments, from cardiac trouble to menstrual cramping. St. John's wort, for example, was once used as a cure-all for multiple medical problems. Currently, St. John's wort is used to treat depression. Wild foxglove plants are used to treat heart disease. Before using floral extracts as a medical treatment, speaking with a physician is recommended to avoid consumption of a potentially poisonous flower.
Eating flowers has been part of our culinary history for just as long as using flowers for medicine. The petals, leaves or the whole plant of edible flowers have been used to flavor foods. Squash blossoms, for example provide a nice flavoring to several dishes. Some chefs garnish plates with rose petals or dandelion blooms to enhance the flavors of their dishes. Rose petals may also be candied for a sweet floral treat. Some flowers respond well to being infused in oil, vinegar or alcohols such as vodka. Honey is created using the pollen of flowers as cultivated by bees. As with medical flowers, using flowers in food should be handled with care to keep from consuming toxic plants
Fragrant flowers inspire many perfumes and fragrances. Roses provide essential oil for many different perfumes, while lilacs and lavender blooms prove popular for perfumes and other cosmetic uses. Some people even choose to make their own perfumes using alcohol and fresh blooms. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette notes that witch hazel, jasmine and Chinese perfume tree blossoms all work well as natural perfume. Flower petals may be used in potpourri blends to provide pleasant scents throughout the home. The flowers can also be put into satchels for freshening dresser drawers or closets.
Flowers can be used to either repel or attract certain wildlife, depending upon the type of flower. In order to keep deer away, for instance, gardeners plant flowers such as passionflower, bee balm and butterfly weed; many deer-resistant plants also act as rabbit deterrents. Squirrels steer clear of plants like marigolds and wild onion. Alternately, butterfly weed, bee balm and impatiens work well for butterfly or hummingbird gardens.
- Plantopedia: Browse flowering plants by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family, USDA Hardiness Zone or Origin