Dedicated to America’s favorite flower: the Rose!
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The Language of Roses

by Gus Banks

This time of year roses are often given as presents. Many people who know we are growers of roses often ask us what a particular rose color means. They want to insure their choice of roses carry the right meaning.

Roses are one of the oldest of flowers and with their age come a long history of meaning. Their early usage had meanings. The rose was used by early Christians as a code for their faith. Red roses symbolized the blood of the martyrs and white roses the purity of Christ.

In the second half of the 15th century during England’s War of the Roses the red rose was the symbol of the House of Lancaster and the white rose was the symbol of the House of York. After years of fighting the two houses are joined by marriage and the roses combined into a red and white rose known as the Tudor rose. This became the traditional floral emblem of England.

“The Language of Roses” is really a subset of the Language of Flowers. The idea of flowers conveying different meanings originated in Persian harems in the 15th century and was brought to Europe in the 18th century. During the 19th century Victorian period, this floral code became very popular and people would send messages in bouquets to each other. Since each flower, color, and number had a specific meaning, conversations between lovers could take place without a single word being used. Roses were and continue to be the perfect gift to convey your emotions.

Rosebuds denote youth and beauty; red rosebuds mean “pure and lovely,” while white rosebuds symbolize girlhood or “too young to love.” The moss rosebud stands for confessions of love. And rose leaves symbolize hope.

The position of the rose also had meaning. Some of the meanings are:

Bent to the right – ~l~,

Bent to the left – ~you~,

Ribbon knotted on the left – message from the giver,

Ribbon knotted on the right – message about the recipient,

Accepted with right hand – agreement, affirmative,

Accepted with left hand – disagreement, negative,

Worn over heart – love,

Worn in hair – caution,

Worn in cleavage – friendship, remembrance.

The number of roses sent has several meanings. Single roses stand for simplicity, and in full bloom mean “I love you” or “I love you still.” A bouquet of roses in full bloom is an expression of gratitude. Two roses together on a single stem indicate engagement and upcoming marriage. A rose without thorns conveys love at first sight. In full bloom it means “I love you” or “I love you still,” and a bouquet of roses in full bloom signifies gratitude. A rose in full bloom placed over two buds creates a combination signifying secrecy. Tea roses mean that you will be always remembered. Hybrid tea roses mean “I’ll remember you always” and sweetheart roses symbolize just what their name implies. A crown made of roses signifies virtue and reward. Larger numbers of roses have their own meaning. Twelve roses indicate gratitude. Twenty five roses indicate congratulations and 50 roses mean unconditional love.

Gus Banks (jrsyrose[at]verizon.net), ‘The Language of Roses’, February 2014, The West Jersey Rose Rambler. Terry Palise (cpalise[at]verizon.net), ed. The West Jersey Rose Society.

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