Red Roses: The Color of Love

On the Road, Seasonal, Traditions, Trivia
on February 5, 2005
Bill Lovejoy

Although most men buy their sweethearts red roses for Valentine’s Day, a 2004 survey by the Society of American Florists discovered that most women really prefer pastel-colored roses.

"If you ask a man what is his wife’s or girlfriend’s favorite rose is, he will say red. But if you ask the woman, she will say that it is white or pink or yellow," says Don Howell, operations manager at Pajaro Valley Greenhouses in Watsonville, Calif. "For instance, my wife likes yellow."

Nearly 70 percent of all roses purchased for Valentine’s Day are red, according to the poll. However, 62 percent of women surveyed by the organization admitted to preferring softer hues like yellow, pink, peach and white.

"There’s just no getting around it," Howell explains. "Valentine’s is a red rose day, and it is the only holiday like that. So because of that, we just can’t convince the men that their spouses aren’t as keen on the color as they are."

Americans will spend $12.8 billion on the holiday this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Flowers became the preeminent gift for lovers during World War II, when candy was rationed.

About 85 percent of the roses Americans now buy for their sweethearts come from other countries, mainly Colombia and Ecuador, where year-round warm weather and low labor costs make flower-growing cheap, says Jay Stawarz of the Michigan-based International Cut Flower Growers Association. (Indeed, roses are the most-imported of all the cut flowers.)

In 2003, there were 74 cut-rose growers in the United States with total sales of at least $100,000, compared with 83 growers in 2002, according to Rich Holcomb, a U.S. Department of Agriculture specialist. California has 40 major cut-rose growers, more than any other state, Holcomb says. The nation’s major rose growers had sales of 134.8 million stems in 2003, a 14 percent decrease from 2002’s 157.3 million.