The writer Gertrude Stein’s line “a rose is a rose is a rose” is sometimes interpreted as meaning things are what they are.
But if you peel back the petals, figuratively speaking, roses reveal themselves to be full of intrigue. Not only are there more than 120 commercial varieties of roses, rose colors carry different meanings that lend themselves to widely varying intents.
Here are 10 colors and their myriad meanings:
Red: The most popular Valentine’s Day flower by far, red roses represent “love and admiration” of the romantic kind, ideal for a spouse or long-term partner.
“This may have started with Greek and Roman mythology—it was told that the red rose was created by the goddess of love, Aphrodite,” according to Parade. “The legend states that her tears and the blood of her lover, Adonis, watered the ground where roses appeared.”
Burgundy: Suggesting a passion even deeper than red roses, but also associated with loyalty and commitment.
Lavender: House Beautiful calls lavender “enchanting and magical” and arguably the most romantic roses of all. “They’re great for a budding romance.”
Orange: Friendship that is turning romantic. It’s an energetic and uplifting color, too, that can cheer up someone who is ill.
Yellow: Friendship, making it great for Galentine’s Day or generally brightening someone’s day.
Deep Pink: Gratitude and appreciation, deep pink is a gentler option than red, according to Reader’s Digest.
Medium Pink: Congratulations! “So if you have a daughter or friend who just accomplished something significant, medium pink roses could be the perfect gift,” Parade noted.
Light Pink: Appreciation or innocence, “perfect for giving to a friend or daughter ‘just because’ or with a ‘thinking of you’ note,” but also “a girlfriend in a new and budding relationship.” Meanwhile, House Beautiful said light pink roses also represent self-love, “making them a great gift to give yourself.”
Purple: Dual meanings: passion and infatuation, signifying the beginning of a romantic relationship; royalty, majesty and honor, appropriate for someone held in high regard.
White: Traditionally used in weddings and standing for “innocence, new beginnings and truth,” according to Parade. They are popular at graduations and baptisms.
Clearly, “a rose is a rose is a rose” is inaccurate when it comes to rose colors.
Whether you’re gifting roses for Valentine’s Day or another holiday, a special occasion, or some other reason, you’ll want to make sure that the color you buy sends the appropriate message.