Roses and Their Meaning


Throughout the centuries roses have been used to communicate messages of love, friendship, and admiration. By knowing the meanings of each color and combination of roses, as well as other important details, you can send these traditional messages to your friends and loved ones.

A Victorian Tradition

The tradition of sending symbolic flowers peaked in Victorian times when suitors had to be very careful about how and where they approached a lady. Often small bouquets of flowers called tussie-mussies were sent to speak of deep, and secret, feelings. If the initial bouquet was accepted the courtship could proceed. As the relationship changed, the rose colors and types of the flowers changed as well.

Not only were the colors full of meaning, but the type of rose, certain combinations, and the stage of bloom also spoke volumes to the recipient. Additional flowers added more information. If a yellow iris was included in the bouquet, for example, it indicated that a fiery passion was included in whatever else was symbolized in the rose bouquet. Even the number of roses was significant.

Example Image Rose Number Meaning
One red rose
One red rose "My only."
Two roses
Two roses "We are a couple."
Three roses
Three roses "I love you."
Six roses
Six roses "I miss you."
Ten roses
Ten roses "You are perfect for me.
Thirteen roses
Thirteen roses "You have a secret admirer."
Fifteen roses
Fifteen roses "I am sorry."
Fifty roses
Fifty roses "I love you unconditionally."
One hundred roses
One hundred roses "I am devoted to you."
One hundred eight roses
One hundred eight roses "Will you marry me?

Once the recipient had the arrangement in hand, she could communicate back to the giver by what she did with the roses. If the flowers were held to the lips the answer was, "Yes." If a petal or two was cast off and thrown away the answer was, "No." Alternatively, a leaf may be sent back to the suitor to convey the message, "You may hope."

The Meaning of Location and Decoration

The flowers were brought to an art form in the intricately detailed bouquets of the Victorians. Even the location and decoration of the rose had great meaning:

Example Image Location/Decoration Meaning
Bent to the right
Bent to the right "I"
Bent to the left
Bent to the left "You"
Ribbon knotted on left
Ribbon knotted on the left Message from the giver
Ribbon knotted on right
Ribbon knotted on the right Message about the recipient
Accepted with right hand
Accepted with right hand Agreement, affirmative
Accepted with left hand
Accepted with left hand Disagreement, negative
Worn over heart
Worn over heart Love
Worn in hair
Worn in hair Caution
Worn in cleavage
Worn in cleavage Friendship, Remembrance

Colors of Roses and Their Meaning

Roses come in a wide variety of colors and each one has its own special meaning:

Example Image Rose Color Meaning
Red "I love you."
Red rosebud
Red Rosebud Simple love, purity, loveliness
Amaranth red
Amaranth Red Longstanding desire
Cardinal red
Cardinal Red Sublime desire
Carmine red
Carmine Red Deceitful desire
Fiery red
Fiery Red Flames of passion
Withered red
Withered Red Rose Love is over.
Burgundy "You have an unconscious beauty."
White Purity, spiritual love
White rosebud
White Rosebud Girlhood and innocence
Yellow Joy, happiness, friendship. There is some indication that historically they represented decreased love and infidelity. Victorians used them to represent jealousy.
Fully open single yellow rose
Fully open, single yellow rose "Do you still love me?
Coral Desire
Orange Fascination
Light pink
Light Pink Admiration
Dark pink
Dark Pink "Thank you."
Lavender Love at first sight
Pale colors
Pale Colors Friendship
Pale peach
Pale Peach Modesty
Black Roses Mourning, end of a relationship

Multi-Colored Roses

Roses with two or more color combinations, either in the rose or in the bouquet, also have singular meanings:

Example Image Color Combination Meaning
Red and white
Red and White Unity
Red pink and white
Red, Pink, and White Trinity
Red and orange
Red and Orange Congratulations
Yellow tipped with red
Yellow Tipped with Red Friendship turns into love
Lavender and white
Lavender and White "Let's try again."
Peach and pink
Peach and Pink Sweetness
White and yellow
White and Yellow Harmony
Orange and yellow
Orange and Yellow Passionate thoughts
Mixed color bouquet
Mixed Color Bouquet "You are everything to me."

Other Rose Symbols and Facts

Learn more about roses with these fun facts:

  • A withered rose bouquet means, "I have no interest in you."
  • Roses that are sent every month mean, "Your beauty is ever new to me."
  • Tea rose
    Tea rose
    Tea roses signify remembrance.
  • A bouquet of mature blooms symbolizes gratitude.
  • Two roses intertwined signify engagement and marriage.
  • A fully opened rose with two buds in a bouquet implies a secret.
  • A bouquet of all white buds means that someone loves you, but you are too young for them.
  • A single rose of any color other than red, says, "Thank you."
  • A thorn represents danger.
  • It is the birth flower for June.
  • It is the symbol of the fifteenth wedding anniversary.
  • State flower
    Wild rose, the state flower of Iowa
    Varieties of the rose are the state flower of the following states: Georgia, Iowa, North Dakota, and New York.
  • In Rome, when someone did not wish to be disturbed, a rose was placed on the door.
  • Roses were once used in place of money by the wealthy.
  • The white rose is worn on Mother's Day for those whose mothers have passed away, while the red rose is worn on Mother's Day for those with mothers still alive.
  • Cleopatra met Marc Antony in a room that was filled knee-deep with rose petals.
  • The oldest living rose is thought to be one-thousand years old. It flourishes on the wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany.

Using What You Know

Once you know the language of roses, and their meaning, you can create tussie-mussies of your own to speak your heart to your family and friends. Enjoy the beauty of these popular flowers in your home. Roses are a beautiful gift, with or without a meaning attached.

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Roses and Their Meaning