Carnations have come to represent Mother's Day since Anna Jarvis delivered 500 at the first celebration in 1908.

Many religious services held later adopted the custom of giving away carnations. This also started the custom of wearing a carnation on Mother’s Day. The founder, Anna Jarvis, chose the carnation because it was her mother’s favorite flower. In part due to the shortage of white carnations, and in part due to the efforts to expand the sales of more types of flowers in Mother’s Day, florists invented the idea of wearing a pink carnation if your mother was living, or a white one if she was dead; this was tirelessly promoted until it made its way into the popular observations at churches. Other less traditional flower options may include roses, a live blooming plant, flower leis, or a bouquet of a variety of different flowers.