The hero of our story comes home from a long day of good deeds. His heart starts to pound quickly as he nears his front door. There’s something on the mat. Something he’s all too familiar with it. It’s a rose, but no ordinary rose. It’s a single, black rose, sharp and terrible in its implication. He’s been marked for death by one his enemies.
What are black roses?
I once saw a television show (many years ago) where the above scenario happened. The show was forgettable — I can’t remember the name — but that scene stuck with me. Black roses have many meanings, and death is indeed one of them. More on that in a bit.
The thing about black roses is that they’re not actually black. They’re typically very dark red, purple or maroon. But “black” just sounds so much more dramatic doesn’t it? And people love drama, so these guys have been named “black”.
These roses are very unique from the other varieties. Whereas cabbage roses, purple roses, blue roses, the traditional red rose etc. all have bright, joyful colors (or at least deep romantic ones), black roses are more stark and austere in their beauty.
What do they mean?
These dark flowers are deeply symbolic and very diverse in their meanings. Like the flower itself many are dark, but you may be surprised to learn that not all of its meanings have a negative connotation.
The most obvious symbolism of these blooms is of death and mourning, bereavement, loss and mortality. Black roses at a funeral or given to someone who has just lost a loved one is common in some parts of the world.
Hatred, revenge or betrayal is another typical symbol of these flowers. A single black rose sent to an ex-lover who has wronged you is not just an action taken in film!
Then there’s its symbolic representation of mystical expectation, which is why it’s often used in black magic and rituals (again, on and off screen).
When a friend or loved one goes off to war, giving the solider a single black roses is also a gesture of sorrow and concern. The same is true for anyone leaving a journey where their return is not guaranteed.
As I said, though, not all black rose symbology is negative. In Gothic symbolism it’s very much a positive thing to get one of these dark flowers. Goths celebrate the darker side of life and would find joy in the gift of a black rose (but not too much joy, of course).
Also, the Irish used a black rose a symbol of courage and determination when they were battling the British so long ago. “The Little Black Rose” (Róisín Dubh) was their nationalistic marching tune, so to speak.
The anarchist movement (and other antidisestablishmentarianism movements–say that three times fast) make use of the flower to represent their cause, though its use in this respect is more rare.
Famous Uses Of The Black Rose
In Andrew Lloyd Weber’s unforgettable Phantom of the Opera, a single black rose is used as a symbol of the Phantom’s extreme and undying love for Christine.
The Irish rock band Thin Lizzy created a album in 1979 titled Black Rose: A Rock Legend.
The black symbology of this rose has also been used in a number of vampire films and TV shows with a variety of meaning.
How To Create Black Roses
Although you can breed black roses (again, not really black, but very dark in color), how to do that is beyond the scope of this article.
The fastest, easiest way to create black roses is to dye them.
- start with fresh cut white or light-colored roses (this may sound counter-intuitive, but if you want a true black rose its best to start with an absence of color)
- remove the thorns from the roses
- put a mix of black floral dye in water (the more dye you use, the darker the flower will be); you can use food coloring, but floral dye is safer and less damaging for the plant
- cut the stems from the roses
- wait at least 3 or 4 hours after getting the flowers from the florist before you put them in the dye, as stressed roses will absorb the water more quickly
- once that time has passed, put them into the water
- wait another 3 or 4 hours, then remove the roses and cut the stems again — this will remove any repaired tissue and accelerate the process of absorption
- it can take a full day to get a deep black color
- once you’re happy with the color, remove the dye color water and replace it with fresh, clear water
- if possible, put the vase into a slow cooker and keep the temperature around 100ºF (38ºC); the warmth helps prevent blotches and uneven dying