Research Thursdays: The Colour of Roses

I love research. As a writer this is a good thing. We research plane crashes, stab wounds, and how to kill someone with a sword, to name a few examples. If anyone looked at our internet history, they’d be thoroughly disturbed. (Unless they were another writer who knew about our work in progress!)

Today’s post will be about the colours of roses and their symbolic meanings.

A recent Sunday Scribbles prompt was ‘Rose.’ My main character was pining for his flatmate, and he used blue roses in various quantities to try and show his feelings. The roses were originally going to be red, as per my #flashfichive tweet earlier that week:

flashfichive twitter based on colour
‘In the centre of the mantelpiece, pinned to a cork-board, was a red rose. Not the strangest thing his flatmate had collected for a case, but perhaps the most baffling.’

The prompt was ‘write lines inspired by a colour.’ It tied in nicely with my Sunday writing prompt!

Upon further research I decided blue roses were more relevant to the story. Different colour roses mean different things. This could be an interesting thing to experiment with in romance stories, but the sending of roses doesn’t always have to be romantic!

During Victorian times, when societal norms and etiquette didn’t always allow people to speak freely, it became popular to use flowers to send messages. The messages were not always romantic, although they often were. Guides were published, flower dictionaries, to explain the meaning behind flowers and their colours. This post focuses on roses.

The Classic Red Rose:


Red roses symbolise deep romantic love and beauty. In a romantic relationship, a bunch of roses, 36, says your partner is crazy about you. In someone you’ve just met, a single red rose can symbolise love at first sight. Neither of these were appropriate for the character in my story. He’s not a romantic, and he doesn’t see his crush as beautiful. 

Orange Roses

Orange roses symbolise romantic passion and enthusiasm.

The Yellow Rose:

Nowadays, yellow roses symbolise platonic friendship. If you’re madly in love with someone, don’t send them a yellow rose! If you want to congratulate a friend, yellow roses are perfect. In Victorian times however, a yellow rose symbolised suspicion: If you gave someone a yellow rose, you were accusing them of cheating!

Pink Roses:

Pink roses symbolise appreciation and gratitude. They’d make a great thank you gift!

The Mysterious Blue Rose:

In my recent Sunday Scribbles post, my character pins various quantities of blue roses to his noticeboard. Blue roses symbolise mystery, and the idea that something is unattainable. My character finds, no matter how much they get to know each other, his flatmate is a mystery. He also believes his feelings are unrequited.

SS featured image rose
‘It all started with a single blue rose, pinned to the cork board above the fireplace.’

The number of roses used in my story have meaning too. Six roses symbolise infatuation and a desire to be with his flatmate. Thirteen roses suggest a secret admirer. Finally, after he upsets his crush, there are fifteen roses on the board, which symbolises an apology. My character thinks he’s making his feelings obvious. He really isn’t!

Blue roses are not natural: They are man-made, using dyes, and are pretty expensive!

White Roses:

White roses are a symbol of purity and innocence. They can also symbolise new beginnings.

Purple Roses:

Purple is, historically, the colour of royalty. Roman emperors wore a purple toga, made using a dye made from snails. It’s no surprise then that deep purple roses can symbolise royalty. Other shades of purple signify mysticism and magic!

Image: Snail. The snails were boiled to create the dye!

The Green Rose:

Green roses symbolise calmness and peace, much like being in a wood or grassy field is calming. They grow naturally, but are sometimes dyed for St Patrick’s day.

Black Roses:

Yes, black roses exist too. They are, like blue roses, another example of artificially created roses. Black roses are not the kind you want to give or get as a Valentines gift.* Their symbolic meaning is death, or goodbye.

*Unless you want the relationship to end…

The number of roses gifted is also significant. It isn’t all about how wealthy your suitor is!




Love at first sight.* In a relationship: ‘You’re still the one.’


Plain and simple, ‘I love you.’


Infatuation. Desire to be close.


‘I think you’re perfect.’


‘Be mine.’


They secretly admire you, or want to be friends forever.


They’re grovelling. 15 roses is an apology!


‘I’m yours.’




Unconditional love.**


‘Marry me.’


‘I’ve loved you every day this year.’***

*The existence of which is up for debate.
** Or, I have so much money, what’s £50/$70 on flowers?
*** I think this one’s sweet. True love should be all year round, not just for Valentines day.

There are many stories you could tell using roses, not all of them romantic. The best idea I had whilst writing this post was: If someone sent another person 15 black roses, they could be saying sorry for murdering a family member. Yes, that’s my imagination running completely wild again. I’m sure you can think of something more cheery!

There’s symbolic meaning behind other flowers too, if you’re interested in learning more.

scales divider copy

I hope you’ve enjoyed this latest insight into the research behind my writing. I hope I’ve inspired some story ideas with this post, or provided some useful insights 🙂

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve researched for your writing in the last month? Have you ever received a rose that wasn’t red?

Past posts in the series:

How to light a candle in the middle ages.


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