Ask Ella: Do Different Colored Roses Have Different Meanings?
Different colors of roses have different meanings in different cultures, so for this week’s Ask Ella we wanted to celebrate the language of flowers and how it helps us to understand each other and express our feelings.
Roses are one of the most recognizable and universally-adored flowers in the world. We can use them to declare love, to express sorrow, to share joy, and simply to cherish one another. The tradition of giving flowers is a gesture as old as time, but it is believed to have come from an ancestral ritual of using plants as medicine– giving plants was a way to offer something to restore the recipients’ well-being. Among pre-historic tribes in Western Europe, leaves, stems, pollen, and herbs were collected by men and brought home after a successful hunt, where the women– typically the more domestic of the genders at this point in history– would prepare them as a part of a meal or use them to make dried herb preparations that would be used in worship or for medicine.
Flowers were the first home decorations and also the first “jewelry”– that is, a body adornment– employed by the human race. Roses, accordingly, were championed for their beauty, and often incorporated as “accessories”.
In the East, where women of child-bearing age were once forbidden to communicate with men, flowers become a courier of meaning. Men and women would give each other flowers, like roses, to express how they felt about one another. The number of flowers and color of each one mattered, as did the hand through which they were passed. A bouquet given by a left hand held different meaning than one given by the right.
If thorns were removed, it meant something different than if they remained intact– but the exact details of what, exactly, a thorny rose is meant to symbolize was lost in time– though one might favorable guess it was not a positive sentiment.
The language of flowers and the beauty surrounding their lore was very popular in France throughout the renaissance, and can even be traced to Queen Victoria, who used flowers as part of her daily social routine. Most beautiful and lovely among all the flowers was the rose, which has always been exchanged between lovers and friends, due to it’s heavy symbolism and the latent sentimentality of its beauty. There are thousands of words in various languages used to describe the rose, but the one that is most often associated with the flower is perhaps the most powerful: love.
Different colored roses, it follows, have different meanings. Here are the ones you are most likely to encounter:
The Red Rose
Red roses are most often associated with love. It is the “queen of the roses”, the most popular rose among florists and lovers worldwide, a symbol of earthly love and passion, and the most sensual of all varieties available at the farmers market. Red roses have come to be associated with the tradition of confessing love, appreciation, and affection– think Shakespearean romance– but this color also symbolizes courage, respect, and admiration. Cherry Love, Black Magic, and Freedom are all beautiful red rose varieties that we love here at GC.
The White Rose
The white rose has come to symbolize purity, and that which is clean and beautiful. This is a flower that suggests that the recipient is “heavenly”, that suggests a message from the giver that “I admire you”. It symbolizes innocence, clearness, and purity, and they may often be given to say “I miss you” or something akin to “you are an angel”. White roses also speak about love, but unlike amorous “Red rose love” this is a clean, bright, and constant love— one usually associated with weddings because it emphasizes the pure, immaculate, and unwavering transmission of devotion. Here at GC, we love the tibet white rose and the vendela cream rose.
The Pink Rose
Pink roses are a sign of elegance and sophistication. These are the flowers of sweet thoughts and gentle emotions– ones that express joy, pride, and gratitude. It’s always nice to give pink roses to daughters and little girls, because they have a very sweet connotation that is more affectionate than romantic. The simple garden rose is a great, classic pink rose. We also love the Pink Floyd rose (especially because it has such a great name!), as well as Hot Paris roses, which are– like everything else on this list– absolutely beautiful.
The Yellow Rose
Yellow roses express only the most positive emotions. They are associated with “caring”, freedom, and energy— often presented in the order of greeting, or to celebrate success and achievement. (In some parts of the world, yellow roses came to symbolize separation or divorce by the turn of the last century, but the true language of flowers has no relation to this meaning.) Yellow roses are beautiful because they represent the sun, life, and positivity. One of our favorites in this category is the Latina rose— but we’ve never met a yellow rose that we didn’t like.
The Orange Rose
Orange roses represent best wishes and warm feelings, as well as enthusiasm. They say, “I’m so proud of you!” and function well in Fall bouquets because they are visual associated with the colors of harvest. Free spirit is a great orange rose that we work with often at GC.
The Green Rose
The green rose is a new variety in the flower industry because it’s a hybrid– but it has quickly become a symbol of abundance, generosity, and fertility. According to psychology, the green color represents balance and stability, while the flowers connote prosperity and symbolize good luck. Super green rose is a beautiful variety of green rose– and with a name like that, it has to deliver.
Of course, all flowers are given with positive intentions, and if you’re like us you’ll probably want to mix and match. Still, it’s useful to recognize some of the basic “language of flowers” because this knowledge can imbue your arrangements with that much more meaning. Flowers are the language of love, respect, and hope– a beautiful exchange for both person giving and receiving. So the next time you plan on giving roses in any of these shades, think about how much more meaning to can add to the gesture by writing a little note about what they symbolize in the card– this way, you can attach meaning to the arrangement that will make it that much more special.