Language of Roses
and Rose Symbolism
(The Meaning associated with Rose colors
and other Rose symbols)

by Catherine Marien © Reproduction Prohibited.
Lilly's Rose Garden - Ideas for planning and designing your Rose Garden


The Rose in Literature
Botany of Roses
Roses around the World
Since Antiquity, roses have been associated with feelings. A red rose means "I love you", but a yellow rose stands for jealousy and infidelity. A white rose symbolizes purity, while the rosebud suggests young and innocent love and the moss rose, voluptuous love. In the language of flowers, each rose type, rose color and rose part have a different signification.

Rose symbolism
In ancient India the cosmic rose, known as Tripurasundari, symbolizes, at the same time, the beauty, the strength and the wisdom of the divine Mother.

In the temples of the Sumerian and Egyptian priests rosicrucian (cross and rose) symbols were already used many millenniums before the Christian era.

In Hinduism and Buddhism, the form of the rose evokes the cup of life or the center of Mandala, a configuration of geometric shapes, which symbolizes a meditational path to Nirvana.

Rose colors and their meanings

White Roses:
The white rose is associated with birth and is the symbol of virginity and innocence. It stands for chastity, perfection and reverence. White roses are traditionally associated with marriages and new beginnings.

In the West the white rose is the sign of the virgin and the red rose is the Goddess in her full sexual maturity. According to a Christian legend a bush of red roses turned white, when the Virgin Mary put her coat to dry on it. Another German legend has the red rose becoming white when washed by the tears of Mary Magdalene. Further credence to this legend is given by the fact that the old roses usually faded around July 20th, St. Mary Magdalene's day.

A Jewish folktale tells us that a maid of Bethlehem, Zillah, was beloved by one Hamuel. As she rejected his romantic advances he accused her of being a demoniac and she was condemned to be burnt. But the fire did not kill Zillah and white roses grew in its ashes, symbolizing innocence and purity.

Red roses:
Red roses are used to say "I love you," and are symbolic of unconditional love. They also stands for courage and respect. Red roses express deep feelings of love to a very special person and should therefore never be offered on a first date or to a person with whom one is not intimate.

Red & White striped roses:
Red and white striped roses or white Roses with red edges express unity and togetherness. A typical rose is "York and Lancaster" which commemorates the end of the Wars of Roses between the House of Lancaster (red rose) and the House of York (white rose). See: historic and symbolic roses.

Pink roses:
Pink symbolizes grace, sophistication and elegance. Pink roses are expressions of platonic love and friendship. The pink rose is often given as an expression of beginning love or admiration, as it has a gentler meaning than their red counterparts.

Yellow roses:
Yellow roses express jealousy and infidelity. They may also evoke a finishing love. According to the legend, the Prophet Mohammed, while away fighting a war, was tormented by the idea that his wife, Aisha, was being unfaithful. He asked the archangel Gabriel for help. Gabriel suggested that when he returned home Mohammed should ask his wife to drop whatever she was carrying into the water as a test. If she was faithful, it would stay the same colour and prove her unconditional love. Mohammed finally returned from his battle and Aisha rushed to greet him, carrying a huge bouquet of red roses. She was surprised when he commanded her to drop them into the river, but obeyed and the roses turned saffron yellow. Eventually, Mohammed forgave his favorite wife but, for some, the yellow rose remains a symbol of infidelity."

More recently, yellow roses have been associated with friendship, but this newer meaning was probably an invention by rose producers to promote this color, as no underlying legend or tale seems to corroborate this symbol. The original symbolic meaning being that of jealousy and infidelity be very carefull to whom you offer yellow roses as it may be interpreted as if you are saying: "I am not worthy"!

Lavander Roses:
Lavander and mauve roses are said to be close to the unatainable blue and therefore characterize mystery.

Blue and black not being true rose colors, their meanings are not typically associated with roses, but rather with other flower species.

Rose types and their meanings

The Musk Rose, says "you are charming".

The Multiflora rose pays tribute the purity of youth

The centifolia rose celebrates feminine grace.

The Burgundy Rose signifies simplicity and beauty.

The China Rose, grace or lasting beauty.

The Damask Rose, celebrates purity

The Tea rose is a token of gallantry and kindness

The English Rose affirms feelings not devoid of carnal desires

The Daily Rose, a smile.

The Dog Rose, pleasure mixed with pain.

A Faded Rose, beauty is fleeting.

The Japan Rose, beauty your sole attraction.

The Moss Rose, voluptuous love.

The Provence Rose, says "My heart is in flames".

Rose bouquets and their meanings

A Dozen Roses:
A dozen being the perfect number in many ancestral cultures, a dozen roses stand for love and gratitude. It reinforces the message of the color of the rose chosen.

Two Dozen Roses:
A double dozen is twice as perfect and means "I belong to you", or it may refer to the 24 hours in a day and say that "you think about them every hour".

One hundred roses:
One hundred roses refer to the number of years in a century and mean eternal or unchanging and unconditional love.

A Single Red Rose means I love you.

Single Rose in any color expresses simplicity and gratitude.

See also:
Historic and symbolic roses
Roses named after famous people

External Links:
Stories and Legends about Flowers
Just Roses
Dictionary of Phrase and Tale
Denver Rose Society
Unless otherwise specified photos on this page © Alessandro Carocci Buzi and Lilly's Rose Garden.