Rose code: What your Valentine's Day flowers mean

Roses come in many forms on Valentine’s Day: long-stemmed, red, by the dozen, some even wrapped in supermarket plastic. While the rose’s association with Valentine’s Day is a long one, the red rose hasn’t always signified romantic love. Originally, St Valentine’s Day honoured two early Christian martyrs, Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, who both died for their faith in the first few centuries of the first millennium. Back then, the red rose was seen to symbolise the blood of Christian martyrs, not the passionate feelings it does today.

Valentine’s Day, and its symbolic red rose, has been associated with romantic love since the 14th century. The first reference to Valentine’s Day came in the 1380s in a poem written by the famous English poet Geoffrey Chaucer to mark the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia.

The feast day evolved into the modern celebration of romance we know today in the 18th century, when suitors would use the saint’s day to express their devotion to their paramours, usually with the exchange of cards, flowers and sweets. The day was so popular entire factories were dedicated to the manufacture of Paper Valentines, made from real lace and ribbons. By 1835 the annual festival was in full swing, with English romantics posting a staggering 60,000 Valentine’s Day cards that year.

Today Valentine’s Day remains a thriving industry. In Australia, romantic souls – mostly men – part with nearly $800 million on Valentine’s Day gifts, $90 million of that spent on flowers. What does your bouquet bounty on February 14 say about your relationship?

Red roses
24 long-stemmed red roses

A bunch of two-dozen long-stemmed (read: more expensive) red roses is the Rolls Royce of Valentine’s Day flowers. If you are the happy recipient of such a bunch this February, it’s safe to day your relationship is serious. It might be worth checking for a ring!

Red roses
A single red rose

It’s time to take the Tinder app off your phone. If you receive the classic Valentine’s Day gift of a single red rose, it means it’s time to make your romance exclusive. 

Red roses
Six short-stemmed red roses

While roses are lovely full stop, if your stems are a little on the short side this Valentine’s Day it could be because your partner left it to the last minute, after all the longer ones had been snapped up by better organised romantics. If however they come wrapped in telltale supermarket plastic, you might have snagged yourself a penny-pincher.

Yellow roses
Yellow roses

Yellow roses have come to signify friendship and joy. A bunch of yellow roses given on Valentine’s Day is a beautiful gesture sure to brighten your day, but don’t expect sparks to fly in that direction any time soon. 

White roses
White roses

White roses, traditionally symbolising purity and innocence, are commonly considered to be the bridal flower. A bouquet of white roses is an ideal Valentine’s Day gesture for a newlywed. 

Pink roses
Pink roses

Pink roses are code for thanks and affection. If you’ve gone above and beyond for a friend or acquaintance, you could be in line to receive a bouquet of pink roses come Valentine’s Day. 

Carnations
Carnations

The carnation is the birth flower for the month of January, and the perfect flower to give to your mother. Take another look at your relationship: is anything about it maternal? If you’re not his mum, perhaps it’s time to stop doing your partner’s washing. 

Orchids
Orchids

Among the world’s most unusual flowers, orchids are famous for inspiring fevered feelings among collectors. Since the 19th century, orchid hunters have explored the globe in their pursuit for exotic varieties of the striking flower, some even dying for their passion. If you receive an orchid arrangement this Valentine’s Day it’s likely that your lover found the flowers at the local florist, and not the jungle of Papua New Guinea, but it still means they think you’re pretty special.

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