A Rose by Any Other Name – The History and Meaning of the Most Popular Valentine’s Day Flower

Roses2It was Romeo who said “A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet,” but long before he pondered the meaning in a name underneath Juliet’s window, the rose already had a long established presence in the pantheon of love and the history of civilization.

In existence on Earth for 35 million years and with 150 different species to bear its surname, roses are the most popular Valentine’s Day flower gifted between friends, lovers and at times even enemies.

The Ancient Greeks believed that the rose was the flower of love, created by Chloris, the Goddess of Flowers and Roses were grown by the Roman Empire to use, among other things, as confetti during parades. And it was in the seventeenth century that roses and rose water became so valuable that they were considered legal tender. The Chinese were the first to cultivate roses and it was the Chinese who also introduced modern rose cultivation to Europe.

The language of flowers was developed in Victorian-era England. The strict social customs and conservative attitudes lead to the development of floriography, a means of communication where people used different flowers or floral arrangements to express feelings through symbol that could not be communicated in speech.

Presenting roses to loved ones has a long history, but the meaning associated with the different types of blooms has faded over time. But nothing communicates a deeper shade of love than taking the time to choose the perfect flower with the perfect expression. Let’s take a look at the rose’s varied meanings conveyed through variations in color. Today, cross-breeding and innovations by florist have made available a vast array of rose colors; however, we will focus on the classic shades: red, white, pink and yellow.

The red rose continues to act as a symbol of passion between lovers new and old. While the fervor of the season might inspire you to go for a flamboyant bouquet, it is the single red rose that truly says “I love you.” If you’re looking for a different kind of rose this Valentine’s Day, sing the language of the red rose with the Rose Heart Solid Rod Pewter Wind Chime. Available from Outdora, the silver and red blooms will bring a musical reminder of your passion to your beloved’s ear.

If you give or receive a pink rose this Valentine’s Day season, take care. While the pink rose still expresses a certain fondness of heart, its pale color when compared to the red rose, also signifies paler affection towards the recipient. A pink rose might not send the intended message, but sometimes choosing a gift both practical and romantic can pose a challenge. Luckily, the two purposes combine in the Rose Thermometer, a subtle tribute to the flower of love without the fanfare or wilting of the typical bouquet. It might not measure the internal fire of your affection, but it will keep you and your Valentine prepared for whatever the future brings.

The yellow rose is a popular brightly plumed alternative to the red rose that traditionally communicates friendship or devotion. However, this bloom has a special significance in the hearts of Texans young and old as a symbol of true and undying love. This regional meaning grew out of the folk song “The Yellow Rose of Texas” that chronicles a young woman’s participation in Texas’ victory at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Finally, the white rose, a traditional sight at bridal showers, indicates virtue and chastity, much in the same vein of the white dress. This symbolism has been adopted by a few different non-violent resistance movements throughout history, including The White Roses who resisted the Third Reich in Nazi occupied Germany in the 1930s. Today, The White Rose Society carries on the tradition of the original group through non-violent opposition and the promotion of peace in the world. Find your own place to meditate on peace in the Whitehall Rose Pedestal for your garden. The subtle rose pattern and leafy stem of the shallow water bath offer a moment for reflection and appreciation of nature’s beauty along your garden path.

Whether you choose to present a single red rose to your dearest love this Valentine’s Day or pick out another flower to impart your undying affection, don’t send an unintended message with your floral selection. Look into the secret language behind your intended bloom to make the most of your Valentine’s Day arrangements.


Julia Shackelford works as an SEO content developer, blogger, web developer, and creative writer in Oakland, CA. When she’s not stomping around the Cali wilderness or writing, she works as a consultant and director on short films and educational game products across the Southwestern United States.

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