Rose Color Meanings

Make Your Valentine Gift Stand Out From the Crowd

Image of Rosa 'Ruffled Cloud'.
Rosa 'Ruffled Cloud' is in the Floribunda group. It's so deep a pink that it can sometimes appear red. David Beaulieu

When giving cut flowers as Valentine gifts, the discriminating shopper adheres to a time-honored formula that takes into account rose color meanings. The formula matches a flower's color to its intended meaning as a gift. The language of flowers (so-called "floriography") extends beyond roses, but we probably invest the most time and money in giving the latter -- so you might as well take your game to the next level by knowing the various rose colors mean.

Valentine's Day is primarily a lovers' holiday, and red is traditionally reserved for lovers. Red enjoys an iconic status, even though other colors have their place on the holiday. Our close family members may also be treated to red posies for Valentine's Day (because a secondary meaning of red is respect), but we avoid this color choice for friends on Valentine's Day -- that would simply convey the wrong meaning. The following are the meanings traditionally ascribed to the most popular roses, according to colors; use this list as a guide when selecting your Valentine's Day gift:

  • Red means romantic love (the Valentine's Day gift par excellence).
  • Purple, coral and orange challenge red as the main color for Valentine's Day. The rose color meanings for these three are as follows:
    • The specific purpose of purple is to signify that the giver has fallen in love with the recipient at first sight. The same message can be sent based on the number of roses that you give; specifically, giving a solitary red rose symbolizes love at first sight.
    • Meanwhile, coral signals desire.
    • And orange, along with apricot, connotes enthusiasm. Peach is more ambiguous, as it can signify sympathy, fascination, or gratitude.
    • Peach and apricot are pretty close color-wise, so do not rely on these colors, alone to convey your intended message. Supplement such a gift with a well-crafted note on a card. Both the giver and the recipient would have to be pretty astute about colors in order for the meaning of peach or apricot to be conveyed effectively.
  • The meaning of yellow is joy and friendship.
  • We express our gratitude and appreciation with pink.
  • Feelings of admiration and sympathy find words with roses that are light pink in color.
  • Its purity naturally enough lends to white the meaning of reverence and humility.

View this photo gallery to see some of the types of roses available, by color.

What about "black" roses (that is, flowers that have been sprayed or dyed black at the florist shop)? Unless you are a Goth or are trying to be funny, it is best to stay away from sending black: the interpretation is too iffy. In the article, What Black Roses Mean, which presents interesting facts about roses, it is noted that black's symbolism includes death-related themes.

But the formula for rose color meanings listed above will work well for colors other than black. Just follow the formula that matches the colors with the corresponding meanings, and you can't go wrong as a gift-giver.

If your loved ones are plant-lovers, consider buying them bushes (something they can plant outside later) for Valentine's Day, rather than cut flowers. Miniature bushes are often available at the local florist shop; once Valentine's Day arrives, spring flowers and spring planting can't be far behind. Are you apprehensive about planting these beautiful bushes because of their hard-to-grow reputation? This article on growing roses will allay your fears.

Here is another gift idea for Valentine's Day: a gift certificate for other plants with fragrant flowers. And for an early taste of spring, why not force some forsythia and use it to decorate your Valentine's Day table?