You might want to think twice before sending your mother-in-law a bouquet of lavender roses for her birthday. According to Ellie Hsu, rose expert and co-founder of farm-direct flower delivery service Flower Muse, “Different flowers carry different meanings, and roses have long been used as a symbol of love with more nuanced messages based on the color of the bloom.” She adds, “Since Victorian times, the ‘language of flowers’ was used to express sentiments in an age when open dialogue was not as easy as sending a text or snapchat!”
Before we launch into the specifics of floral hues, it’s important to distinguish between two types of roses: “Most roses used as cut flowers in the floral industry fall into two general groups: standard roses and garden roses,” explains Hsu. “Standard roses are the roses that you can find anywhere and most fall into the class of hybrid tea roses,” says Hsu. “These roses continually bloom (as opposed to only once per season), making them the prime choice for commercial rose farms. They have been bred for larger bloom size and better vase life, and all have the classic rose shape—a rounded cupped bloom that is formed by overlapping circular petals.” Hsu adds, “Standard roses come in practically every shade of the rainbow except for a true blue color (unless you don’t mind a dyed blue rose!). Red roses are by far the top selling rose color, but you can find everything from bright white all the way to purple and multicolor roses too.”
“Garden rose is a very general term, but it refers to mostly hybrid roses that have more of the characteristics of Old Garden Roses. They are hardier plants (able to withstand a cold winter) and many (not all) garden rose varieties have fragrant blooms and a petal count that is generally denser than your average standard rose,” Hsu explains. “You’ll also find some garden rose varieties have ruffled petals which give the bloom a fuller look that you don’t find with standard roses. Garden roses are perfect for a romantic style. The ruffled shapes have a more playful and free-flowing effect that gives a soft and warm feel. For an extra special treat, opt for David Austin roses, particularly in soft peach or pink hues for a delicate and graceful look.
Once you’ve chosen which shape suits the occasion, read on below for the breakdown of what each color really means…
1. Orange: desire and passion
Hsu says, “Orange roses with their fiery bright color symbolize a burning desire and is used to message blazing hot passion!”
2. Red: Love and Romance
“This is why red roses are the classic color at Valentine’s Day as an expression of love and devotion," Hsu explains.
3. Lavender: enchantment
“Lavender roses are often sent to express love at first site," says Hsu.
4. Pink: elegance and beauty
“Pink roses can carry additional meanings depending on the hue. Darker pink connotes gratitude and appreciation; lighter pink translates to grace and gentleness. Pink roses are perfect for a best friend, mother-figure, or even co-worker to express your admiration," suggests Hsu.
5. White: purity, new beginnings, remembrance
"White roses can symbolize an eternal love, so you’ll find it used at weddings to symbolize the new love between a couple," says Hsu. "But it is also used at funerals and memorials to represent sympathy and enduring love."
6. Yellow: joy and friendship
"In Victorian times, it was a symbol of jealousy, but today it carries a positive meaning and is the perfect color to use to send a message of congratulations, a get well soon, or a simple thanks for being my friend," explains Hsu.