If you were to look purely at the floral business, you would find that roses are the most popular flower bought as gifts for women. This is why roses are so expensive. I actually believe many women only like them because they are so expensive. Kind of a ridiculous cycle, if you ask me.
Obviously flowers are a matter of personal preference, and I have to admit, anytime they arrive as a complete surprise, no matter what they are, it is one of my favorite gifts.
Roses on Valentine's Day are so cliche, that at this point, though I'd appreciate it, it wouldn't mean as much as a carnation or a tulip on a non-holiday.
I like seasonal flowers on my table all the time, and usually cut them out of my yard every other week or so. I love daffodils and tulips on the table in spring. I have a rosebush that grows in a strange and unseen corner of our house, so whenever I see blooms on it, I snip them and bring them inside.
Otherwise, like the previous post says, flower preference is purely a matter of opinion.
In my experience I find that women love vibrant, very colorful, mixed bouquets of fresh cut flowers - fresh being the important word here. My wife's least favorite flower is Roses - so I'm off the hook for those over-priced offerings on Valentine's Day. However, Roses continue to be exceptionally popular in North America.
An example of fine flowers in a colorful bouquet would be something such as Gerbera Daisy, Meteor Asters, Florette Asters, Mini Carnations Roses, Hannah Asters, and Micro Pompoms, among variations of other types of flowers including Lilies. Of course it's all in the eye of the beholder so there is significant choice in flowers available in diverse combinations that will satisfy women's tastes.
For my daughter who is 33, her favorite flowers are tulips with Asiatic lilies being second in line. She has a husband who will bring her flowers at work with their little boy carrying the bouquet, and she simply melts. The magic is that it is unexpected, the just because of "I love you." For me at 64, roses and carnations are among my least favorite flowers as they remind me of funeral bouquets. I prefer a mixed bouquet of colorful, seasonal flowers even the lilacs and peonies taken from the garden in springtime. I also love perennial flowers such as coneflowers in purple, white and pink all in one vase which my husband picks. In truth, the flowers are less important than the message they deliver which says that someone cared enough to bring or send you flowers.
Flowers are totally a matter of opinion, but some have symbolic value. Carnations usually symbolize friendship. Roses can symbolize different things based on their colors. Yellow roses are given to friends, and red roses to those we love. Amazingly, there are a lot of other meanings of roses. Of course, it does not good unless the person you give the rose to knows what it means. Most people know about red and yellow. Here is a site about the meaning of rose colors.
This is a good opportunity for me to admit how clueless I am about flowers. I once bought my wife yellow roses on Valentine's Day. That didn't go over very well. Now I know that those are not appropriate for a wife. Other than that, I still don't know much. When an occasion calls for flowers I usually just try to find the brightest looking bouquet I can at the grocery store. I'm terrible at this.
thank you for the answers!