Red Roses: Meaning, Symbolism, and Proper Occasions

Red infinity roses the yellow background.
© samaneh/

Written by Patrick Sather

Updated: June 13, 2023

Share on:


Red Roses infographic
Red Roses infographic

Nearly everyone knows what a red rose means. For centuries, red roses have served as a symbol of love, romance, and passion. While the meaning of red roses is almost universally understood, there’s more to these gorgeous red flowers than meets the eye. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the meaning behind the colors, combinations, and numbers of red roses. Plus, we’ll explore the history of these flowers and how they grew into such a recognizable symbol of love and romance. Roses are red, violets are blue, keep reading this article, and you’ll learn a thing or two!

Red Roses Meaning and Symbolism

Oh My! rose flower in the field. Scientific name: Rosa ' Oh My!' Flower bloom Color: dark red,

Red roses often symbolize love, romance, passion, and desire.


At their core, red roses symbolize love, passion, desire, and romance. They can also express gratitude, appreciation, congratulations, commitment, beauty, or devotion. That said, the meaning of red roses can change depending on the number, shade, color combination, or context in which they are given. 

 If you want to know the meaning of red roses, you must first differentiate between different shades of red. Each shade of red rose possesses its own unique meaning, as outlined here. 

Light Red Rose Meaning

Light red roses often mean love at first sight. People often give light red roses early in a relationship as a symbol of unconditional love or gratitude. When you give your lover a light red rose, you are letting them know that they have your attention and you’re serious about the relationship. 

Dark Red Rose Meaning

All red roses mean love to some degree, but dark red roses symbolize true passion. The deep red color of these roses conjures up sultry images and connotes desire and true romance. Gifting dark red roses lets that person know that you are fully committed to them.

Meaning of Red Roses Color Combinations

People often choose to mix and match red roses with roses of different colors. When you do this, you slightly change the roses’ meaning and the message you want to get across. 

For example, a bouquet of red and white roses means the union of two souls. This message makes this combination popular at weddings. 

Meanwhile, red and yellow roses can mean joy, happiness, and love. You might give someone red and yellow roses on a date night to let them know your affections are turning into love. The presence of yellow roses also makes this combination appropriate for friends or family. 

On the other hand, red and pink roses typically mean appreciation, affection, and happiness. The inclusion of pink roses with red roses lets the receiver know how grateful you are for them. For this reason, people often give pink and red roses on birthdays or anniversaries. 

Number of Red Roses Meaning

While not a precise science, the number of red roses given as a gift changes their meaning. Let’s explore the meaning behind a few of the most common numbers of red roses. 

Number of Red RosesMeaning
OneLove at first sight
TwoMutual affection or love
ThreeI love you
NineOur love is forever
TenYou are perfection
TwelveBe mine
FifteenI’m sorry
Twenty-fourI am yours
FiftyBoundless love
One hundredTrue devotion

History of Red Roses

Red roses. Closeup view of Rosa Oklahoma flower of red petals, blooming in spring in the garden.

Roses enjoy a long history stretching back millions of years.

©Gonzalo de Miceu/

Ancient History

Roses enjoy a long and colorful history. According to fossil evidence, the first roses emerged approximately 35 million years ago. The term rose refers collectively to over 100 species of perennial shrubs in the genus Rosa (family Rosaceae). Roses primarily originate from temperate regions in the Northern Hemisphere. Many species originally come from Asia, while others originated in North America, Europe, and northern Africa

Evidence suggests that garden cultivation of roses began in China around 5,000 years ago. In Ancient Greece, roses were often associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty, love, and passion. In one story, Aphrodite’s lover, Adonis, suffered a mortal wound from a wild boar during a hunt. As she ran to her lover’s side, Aphrodite pricked her foot on the thorn of a white rose. Her blood fell on the rose and turned it red, thus creating the first red rose. The Romans continued to associate red roses with love through their own goddess of love, Venus. They also extensively cultivated roses in the Middle East for use in celebrations, medicine, and perfume. 

Modern History

For the next few centuries, the popularity of roses waxed and waned. Shakespeare remarked on the rose in the following line, “Of all flowers, methinks rose is best.” This sentiment carried over into the 17th century when the demand for roses and rose water made it possible to use them as legal tender to repay debts to royalty. Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife, Josephine, built a large rose garden at her chateau in Malmaison. From 1804 to 1814, Josephine established the greatest rose collection in the world. Her collection contained over 250 species and varieties and significantly contributed to the rise of roses in Europe. 

The introduction of roses from China to Europe in the 19th century marked a turning point in rose cultivation. Over the next few decades, rose growers bred rose varieties together to create new hybrids, many of which remain popular to this day. This time also saw red roses grow in popularity as gifts and as a way to show affection. During the Victorian Era, prospective lovers would show their affection with red roses, as openly displaying one’s passion was discouraged in polite society. 

Proper Occasions for Using Red Roses

Red roses are a popular gift for many occasions

Red roses are a popular gift for many occasions.

©Aimur Kytt/

Before you go out and buy a bunch of red roses, pause and think about what meaning you hope to convey. After all, you may not want to give a bouquet of red roses to a platonic friend – such a gesture might cause them to second-guess your intentions. If you want to use or give red roses, you’ll need to choose the proper occasion. Here are a few situations where red roses are appropriate. 

Valentines Day

It should come as no surprise that roses rank as the most popular flower bought on Valentine’s Day. According to some estimates, nearly 250 million roses are grown for Valentine’s Day, the majority of which are red. That said, some people may see a red rose on Valentine’s Day as somewhat cliche or unoriginal. Before giving red roses on Valentine’s Day, put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Are they the type of person that appreciates classic romantic gestures? If so, then you can’t go wrong with the dozen red roses. On the other hand, if they see themselves as an individual and prefer unique gifts that go against convention, maybe try something more unusual like lilies, sunflowers, or ranunculus. 

First Dates

Nothing says “you’ve caught my attention” quite like a single red rose on a first or second date. A single red rose symbolizes love and desire and creates a romantic atmosphere that serves as a clear indication of your intentions. If you want to ask someone out or let them know your intentions, a red rose communicates your meaning perfectly. 


Red roses are not only good for first dates but also anniversaries. Over time, even the best of relationships can grow stale. Relationships take constant work and attention. Both partners must commit to keeping the romance and passion alive. Celebrating your marriage or partnership with red roses lets your significant other know that the flame of desire still burns strong in your relationship. 

Non-Romantic Occasions

Don’t think that you can only use red roses for romantic occasions. Depending on the context, red roses can perfectly sum up the meaning you want to convey. For example, people often give a bouquet of red roses at the end of a show, such as a theatrical performance, ballet, or opera. You can also give red roses to a loved one or use them as a flower arrangement at a funeral. After all, red roses symbolize love, which makes them appropriate when mourning a lost friend or family member.

Share this post on:

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.