Red: Love and RomanceSvetaP/iStock
One of the most universal of all symbols, the red rose represents true love. It has also appeared throughout history and across cultures as both a political and religious symbol. (Get our free Valentine’s Day guide packed with dozens of quick tips and sweet ideas for an amazing V-Day celebration.) Perfect for: Freaking out your first date; covering beer stains; wooing a hunky bishop.
Yellow: Friendship, Joy, Get WellSvetaP/iStock
Throughout history, yellow has been closely associated with the sun, making these roses excellent for cheering people up. Yellow roses send a message of appreciation and platonic love without the romantic subtext of other colors. The color represents feelings of joy and delight. Perfect for: Tormenting your ex; worshiping Sekhmet or your solar deity of choice; picnics in the 1930s.
Lavender: Enchantment, Majesty, Love at First SightSvetaP/iStock
The color purple has a traditional association with royalty. In this regard, shades of lavender roses suggest an air of regal majesty and splendor. Perfect for: Encouraging crazy bosses; patronizing The Queen; dinner with Kanye.
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Pink: Love, Gratitude, AppreciationSvetaP/iStock
Pink carries with it the connotation of grace and elegance, as well as sweetness and poetic romance. Dark pink roses are symbolic of gratitude and appreciation, and are a traditional way to say thanks. Light pink roses are associated with gentleness and admiration, and can also be used as an expression of sympathy. Perfect for: Sick secretaries; the platinum blonde in your life; this well-mannered horse.
White: Purity, Innocence, Sympathy, SpiritualitySvetaP/iStock
Early tradition used white roses as a symbol for true love, an association which would later become the hallmark of the red rose. Also known as the bridal rose, the white rose is a traditional wedding flower. In this sense, white represents unity, virtue, and the pureness of a new love. White roses are also associated with honor and reverence, which makes them a fitting memorial for a departed loved one. Perfect for: Your wife (first day of marriage); that weird neighborhood kid who always wears a cummerbund; your wife (last day of marriage.)
Orange: Desire, Enthusiasm and PassionSvetaP/iStock
A literal mixture of yellow and red, orange roses were seen as a bridge between friendship symbolized by yellow roses and love represented by red roses. They can be an expression of fascination, or a gift to say 'I'm proud of you.' Perfect for: Halloween honeymoons; minor academic achievements (first A-, graduation from butcher academy, etc.); subtly hitting on married people.
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