When you think of gifting a bouquet of flowers, what springs to mind? For many people, it’s roses. These lovely flowers have long been among the most popular blossoms gifted to loved ones, family, and friends. And when you need to add a little cheer to someone’s day, yellow roses are often the flower of choice. These happy flowers are associated with friendship, joy, warmth, care, appreciation, and remembrance. But the meaning of yellow roses has changed over time. Read on to learn more about the symbolism and meaning of the yellow rose.
The Meaning & Symbolism of Yellow Roses – The Essentials
In the Victorian language of flowers and the Japanese hanakatoba, a yellow rose sent a message of jealousy. A gift of yellow roses could also mean a decrease in love or “try to care.” But today, yellow roses represent friendship, happiness, joy, caring, and appreciation.
About Yellow Rose Flowers
Yellow roses belong to the Rosa genus, which has around 130 species. The Rosaceae family’s genus contains shrubs, climbers, and trailing plants, many with protective thorns. Roses grow in many shapes, forms, and sizes. Some rose plants are many feet tall and bloom with huge flowers, and some roses are just a few inches tall and produce tiny blossoms.
Members of the Rosa genus have showy, fragrant flowers that grow in a wide range of hues. There are red, pink, purple, burgundy coral, orange, white, and, of course, yellow roses – almost every color of the rainbow except for true blue.
Many Rosa species are native to Asia and have been cultivated there for at least 5,000 years. Some species are indigenous in northwestern Africa, Europe, and North America. Roses are widely cultivated and grow in gardens, landscapes, and greenhouses worldwide.
Some of the most commonly grown species include R. carolinae, R. chinensis and R. rubiginosa. These species are widespread in landscapes and often used by florists.
Given this plant’s popularity, it shouldn’t be surprising that botanists and gardeners have developed over 40,000 rose hybrids and cultivars, encompassing almost every shape, size, and color. And while there are several “official” rose classifications, some common types include Grandiflora, floribunda, tea, climbing, old, heritage, and shrub roses.
Here are a few popular varieties of yellow roses:
- ‘Charlotte’ has soft, pale petals and intensely green foliage.
- ‘Golden Celebration’ is beloved for its intense fragrance.
- ‘Graham Thomas’ can be trained to climb up walls and trellises.
- ‘Julia Child’ is a floribunda rose that blooms multiple times per season.
- ‘Lady Banks’ is a long-lived climber; there’s an 8,000-square-foot specimen in Tucson, Arizona, that’s been growing in the same place since 1885.
- ‘Sun Sprinkles’ is a heat-tolerant variety that produces abundant miniature blooms.
- ‘R. x ‘Radsunny’ has bright yellow blossoms that fade to white.
The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Yellow Roses
Yellow Rose Meaning in Floriography
During the Victorian era, many members of the European upper classes were governed by strict societal rules. Speaking frankly about specific topics was frowned upon or even taboo. Instead, flowers were used to send coded messages. This trend was known as floriography or the language of flowers.
The practice is thought to have started in the 1700s in the Ottoman Empire. Here, women who lived in harems used flowers to send secret messages to one another.
Japan also had its own flower language, known as hanokatoba. Flowers had symbolism and meaning in other cultures, as well, from ancient Greece and China to India and beyond.
But in Victorian England, floriography really took off. Many books on floriography were published during the Victorian era. The language of flowers was quite large and complex, with different types and numbers of flowers taking on significance. Even the way flowers were gifted, received (e.g., taken with the left hand or the right), and worn (e.g., pinned upside down or right side up) had meaning. Color was especially important in floriography.
To the Victorians, yellow flowers were associated with various emotions and meanings. Hope, cheerfulness, happiness, joy, and optimism are some positive connotations. However, some yellow flowers weren’t quite as sunny. For example, a yellow carnation meant rejection or disappointment, and a yellow chrysanthemum meant slighted love.
What about yellow roses? To the Victorians, a gift of yellow roses could send several messages — and they weren’t very joyful. Yellow rose meanings included:
- “Try to care”
- “A decrease in love”
Yellow Rose Meaning in Hanakotoba
In the Japanese flower language of hanakotoba, yellow roses have a similar meaning. Known as Kiiroibara, yellow roses also symbolize jealousy.
However, in other traditions, yellow flowers have very different meanings and symbolism. In several cultures, yellow flowers are associated with spiritual enlightenment. For instance, to Buddhists, yellow flowers symbolize spiritual growth, letting go of things that don’t matter, and generosity. In China, yellow flowers are associated with the sacred, and in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India, the yellow flowers of the Cassia tree hold special significance.
Yellow Rose Meaning in Ancient Greece and Rome
Roses, in particular, have long held positive connotations across many cultures and eras. To the ancient Romans, roses signified status and wealth. Elites used these fragrant flowers as perfume and in luxurious baths. The ancient Greeks associated roses with love and the goddess Aphrodite.
Yellow Roses in Art and Literature
Yellow roses have featured prominently in art. For instance, the French artist Gustav Caillebotte’s first foray into still-life paintings was his Yellow Roses in a Vase. Roses are featured in the paintings of Joseph Mallord William Turner, as well as Gustav Klimt. And, of course, there’s the folk song “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”
Yellow Roses and the Zodiac
Roses are associated with the zodiac sign of Taurus. Yellow flowers are associated with the birth sign Leo, making yellow roses a regal and appropriate gift. They’re also the official flower of Friendship Day.
The Meaning of Yellow Rose Tattoos
A tattoo of a yellow rose can send several messages. These may include joy, optimism, positivity, happiness, and remembrance.
The Meaning and Symbolism of Yellow Roses Today
Today, the negative messages associated with yellow roses in the Victoria era have been overtaken by positive meanings. In modern times, a gift of yellow roses stands for:
- bonds of friendship
Suitable Gifting Occasions for Yellow Roses
Yellow roses are the perfect gift when you want to bring cheer to someone’s day. Yellow roses send a message of happiness and optimism. They’re an excellent choice for a birthday or to say thank you.
A gift of these joyous flowers is the perfect way to say, “job well done!” They’re a good choice for co-workers or someone celebrating a graduation, a new job, a new baby, or accomplishing a milestone.
Yellow roses can also send a message of remembrance. This makes them an excellent floral gift for someone moving or reconnecting with a childhood friend. And, of course, yellow roses are the flower of Friendship Day!
Overall, yellow roses are the right choice when you want to brighten anyone’s day and let them know you’re thinking about them.
Yellow Rose Flower FAQs:
What does a yellow rose symbolize?
Across cultures and eras, yellow roses have held a range of meanings; to the Victorians, they stood for jealousy, a decrease in love, and a plea to “try to care.” But today, yellow roses send positive messages of joy, hope, friendship, caring, warmth, happiness, optimism, remembrance, and cheer.
Are yellow roses lucky?
Yellow roses are lucky flowers. They’re associated with positive symbolism, and their bright color brings sunshine and happiness into anyone’s day.
Is a yellow rose a flower of love?
The yellow rose can be associated with platonic love, caring, and friendship. It’s a perfect flower for friends but doesn’t send a romantic message.
What do yellow roses mean in a relationship?
Yellow roses send a message of care. They let someone know you’re thinking of them, that you’re proud of them, that you wish them well, and that you feel warmth and friendship towards them.
How long do yellow rose flowers last?
Cut yellow roses should stay fresh for about a week. You can extend the life of cut roses by changing the water often, adding flower food to the container, and trimming stems on a diagonal.
The Final Word
Yellow roses are rich with symbolic meaning. These cheerful flowers send a message of warmth, caring, and affection, making them a perfect gift to brighten someone’s day. Yellow roses are strongly associated with friendship, joy, and optimism. A gift of sunny yellow roses lets someone know that you’re thinking of them and sending good wishes their way. Yellow roses are an excellent choice for saying happy birthday, thank you, congratulations, and “I’m thinking of you!”
For more, see our in-depth guide to the best types of native North American roses.
Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.