Flower Facts Flower Information Meaning & Symbolism Roses

Roses Meaning & Symbolism: What Roses Signify

Close-up of classic red roses

The rose is known as “the queen of flowers,” and much of the rose’s symbolism reflects its regal title. Roses symbolize love, royalty, beauty, sensuality, secrecy, and mysticism. They are also associated with achievement and perfection.

Roses are prized around the world, among the most beloved and popular flowers. Their fragrance is instantly recognized, but complex and distinct between varieties. The rose’s meaning is intertwined with the thorns on most rose stems, a price to pay for the pleasure of such a sublime flower. Each aspect of rose symbolism contends with the presence of thorns, giving all the rose meanings deeper significance.

About Roses

It’s believed that roses were first cultivated in southern China around 500-400 BC. Most of the roses grown today are hybrids and selections related to the native species originating in China. But the history of roses dates back much further, with fossil records that show that roses existed in Europe, Asia, and North America some 30 million years ago.

There are three main types of rose: Old Garden Roses, Wild Roses, and Modern Roses. Most of the roses found in today’s gardens are Modern Roses, which are bred for large flowers and continuous blooming throughout the season. 

What do Roses Symbolize? 

Roses have a rich history around the world, a history full of symbolism. Rose flower meaning varies depending on cultural significance, the color of the bloom, and the number of roses given.

Love

No other flower is as symbolic of love than the rose. In Greek mythology, the rose was beloved and considered sacred by Aphrodite, the goddess of love. That connection with romantic love was paralleled in Roman mythology, associated with Aphrodite’s counterpart, Venus. 

Roses have a time honored place as a symbol of love  in literature and poetry. The rose’s symbolism as a metaphor for the art of romantic love is illustrated in poems like the French “Romance of the Rose,” and Robert Burns’ “A Red Red Rose.” In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare gives the rose’s symbolism a deeper, more layered meaning, with the verse, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Romeo evokes the romantic symbolism of the rose by associating it with the two lovers, and extending it to illustrate the arbitrary nature of names. As the rose remains the same, so does their love, despite the animosity between their families.

Power/Royalty

Roses were often a motif of military significance. The War of the Roses in 15th century England signified a series of civil wars between the House of York, represented by a white rose, and the House of Lancaster, represented by a red rose. Ultimately the two houses were joined by marriage, creating the House of Tudor, represented by the Tudor Rose.

Secrecy

The term “sub rosa,” meaning “under the roses,” has been a symbol of secrecy dating back to ancient Greek and Roman mythology and the god of silence, Harpocrates. Harpocrates was given the gift of a rose to keep the secrets of the gods. It became customary to exchange military and religious secrets underneath a ceiling of roses, and later rose symbolism adorned the ceilings of meeting and banquet rooms to encourage free and open discussion. Roses often feature as a motif of  entryways and ceilings of guest rooms and other places of expected confidentiality.

Meaning and Symbolism of Rose Colors

Roses are bred in a large variety of colors, each with a different meaning. This guide will help you choose the right rose flower meaning to send your message.

Red Roses

Red roses are universally known as symbols of passionate love and romance. But the shade of red can signify even more about what kind of love you’re expressing. Deep red roses are associated with a desire for commitment, while brighter, lighter red symbolizes hot passion and desire.

Pink Roses

If you want to show your admiration and gratitude, say it with pink roses. They’re perfect to give to a dedicated teacher or an inspiring friend. As with red roses, different shades of pink can fine tune the message. Hot pink is a sign of recognition and admiration, and pale pink is connected with grace, joy, and gratitude.

Peach Roses

Peach roses also symbolize gratitude, combined with authenticity and genuineness of feelings. They’re commonly used for work related celebrations like promotions and important deals and partnerships because they signify loyalty. Peach roses are a popular neutral color choice.

Yellow Roses

Warmth and happiness are symbolized by sunny yellow roses. They’re known as a friendship flower, and a bouquet of yellow roses evokes the joy of true friendship. This is despite their Victorian Era use as a symbol of jealousy. Fortunately, most of the negative flower associations in floriography have been left in the past, and yellow roses are now associated only with lightness and joy.

White Roses

White roses are symbolic of purity and grace. They’re popular as wedding flowers, connected with new love and lasting loyalty. Ivory roses symbolize purity and grace, but without romantic meaning, so they would be a good friendship flower, while pure white roses signify romance.

Orange Roses

Like their softer peach counterparts, orange roses are perfect for office and work settings. Orange roses convey admiration and enthusiasm and are great to motivate someone beginning a new job or project.

Purple Roses

One of the rarest rose colors, purple rose symbolism is of love at first sight and enchantment. Their rarity at one time made them flowers only for royalty to enjoy, and so have always been associated with majesty as well as the magic of enchanted love.

Blue Roses

Blue roses don’t exist in nature, and thus are symbolic of mystery and unattainability. They represent unrequited love and the acceptance that your love won’t ever be returned.

Green Roses

If you want to encourage hope during a difficult time, green roses will strike the right tone. They symbolize rejuvenation and stability, fertility and balance. 

Black Roses

Black roses have dual symbolism, originally representative of death and passing on, but recently having come to symbolize the death of the old and birth of the new. Black roses represent the complexity of endurance, death, and hope for the future.

Roses by the Number

The number of roses you give can send as much meaning as the color, in an ages old custom that associates the number of roses in a bouquet with deeper meanings.

One rose means love at first sight, or renewed love.

  • Two roses signify mutual affection.
  • Three roses mean simply: “I love you.”
  • Six roses signal infatuation or desire.
  • Nine roses symbolize eternal love.
  • 10 roses means what else? Perfection!
  • 12 roses, a perfect dozen, says “be mine.”
  • 13 roses has two competing meanings. A baker’s dozen either means forever friends, or a secret admirer.
  • 15 roses expresses remorse and apology.
  • 20 to 50 roses, usually red, express varying versions of grand or sincere love, except 25, which means congratulations.

Rose Fun Facts

In several cultures, rose symbolism is associated with death. In Hungary, roses are a popular funeral flower. In Mexican tradition, yellow roses are funeral flowers, and the other rose colors are heavily steeped in symbolism and superstition. In China, both white and yellow roses are for funerals.

Red roses in particular are symbolic of passionate love around the world, but have a distinct and unique history in horse racing. In the late 1800s, a tradition began of adorning the horse that won the Kentucky Derby race with a garland of 554 roses. The Derby was dubbed the “Run for the Roses,” honored in a pop song of the same name in 1980.

Kenya is a rose growing capital of the world, famous for vibrantly colored blooms. The climate and rich soil create the perfect conditions for rich, saturated colors and abundant blooms. While Africans tend to be conservative in giving flowers, they do appreciate rose flower meaning, giving flowers for special occasions and supplying many of the roses we give around the world!

Mark the Occasion with Flower Symbolism

Flowers are always a delightful way to celebrate someone, and really make them feel special, but when a little extra effort is put in to what the bouquet says, the payoff is undeniable! You’ve seen all the ways you can use rose symbolism to express some pretty complex meanings, so it should come as no surprise that other flowers, like orchids and lilies, have fascinating symbolism as well. There’s a wealth of information at your fingertips to create the perfect bouquet with just the right message. Whether you’re ordering rose bouquets online, or exploring the symbolism of a unique bouquet of your own creation, your order from The Bouqs will arrive directly from the farm to your door, for the freshest, longest lasting flowers.

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