Beloved by many, roses are a favorite garden flower for their characteristic shape and cherished scent. Roses have been cultivated for millennia and have a vibrant history that dates back thousands of years. Although they are predominately thought of as a token of love, roses come in a wide variety of types and colors, and can mean many things.

Valentine's Day Red Roses Over Wood Background
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Characteristics of the Rose Flower

Rose History

Fossil evidence shows that roses have been around for about 35 million years, and have been purposely cultivated in the Middle East, Europe and Asia for the past five thousand years. In 1455 there was a war named after the flower, the Wars of the Roses, an English civil war where white roses symbolized the House of York and red roses symbolized House of Lancaster, both of whom were fighting for control of the country. The rose became a prized garden commodity during the 17th century and was even considered legal tender. Josephine Bonaparte, wife of Napoleon, was also really into the plant and collected many different varieties at her home estate, Château de Malmaison.

Rose Characteristics

Roses come in many different varieties. Although many of us are familiar with the traditional red rose, other hues including white, pink, dark mauve, yellow and varying shades in between, can be just as beautiful. All roses feature soft petals that are often doubled (meaning they have multiple sets of petals) and their stems are loaded with thorns. There are several different sizes, from tiny tea roses to larger varieties, and they can inhabit your garden as a shrub or as a climbing plant that is trained to scale trellises.

Rose Symbolism

A single red rose is the classic token of love, but other types of roses have their own way of professing different emotions. Pink roses, for example, can signify happiness or a desire to be believed. A white rose can symbolize innocence or purity and a yellow rose can signify a loss of love. A red rosebud can signify purity and a white rosebud can symbolize girlhood. By contrast, a bouquet of mature blooms can represent deep gratitude. In the early 20th century, the phrase "sub rose," meaning "under the rose," came into popularity and was used to say "secretly, privately" due to the ancient tradition where a rose was used during a meeting to symbolize the confidence of the participants.