Colors of roses and their meanings

June 02, 2002

"Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose."

Gertrude Stein wrote that in 1913, apparently about artist Sir Francis Rose, one of whose paintings was hung in her Paris drawing room.

But a rose - the flower - also is a rose, and the many-petaled blossoms have been around for a long time.

Rose fossils date back 3.5 billion years.

The flower was written about by the Sumerians in 3000 B.C. The Greek poet Sappho wrote "Ode to the Rose" in 600 B.C., calling the rose the queen of flowers.


Colonists brought the rose to North America, making it the longest cultivated plant in the New World.

In 1798 Napoleon's Josephine created a rose garden with 250 rose varieties - all that were known at the time.

Roses have been hybridized - new varieties created by crossing two others - since 1867, and hybrid tea roses have dominated the rose market since 1920. They still are the most popular roses.

But a rose also is more than a rose, than a rose, more than just a pretty flower. In 1986 the rose was designated as the national floral emblem of the United States, and a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress has declared 2002 to be the Year of the Rose.

Roses are loaded with symbolism, so be careful if you plan to give them. You might be saying more - or less - than you intended:

Red - love, respect

Deep pink - gratitude, appreciation

Light pink - admiration, sympathy

White - reverence, humility

Yellow - joy, gladness

Orange - enthusiasm, desire

Red and yellow blend - gaiety, joviality

Pale blended tones - sociability, friendship.

- Sources:, the Web site of All-America Rose Selections, a nonprofit association of rose growers dedicated to the hybridization, testing and introduction and promotion of roses;

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