Roses are one of the most well known flowers in the world, and one of the oldest. Fossils have been found that show roses have existed for more than 35 million years! Most species are native to Asia, and the Chinese are believed to have started cultivating them more than 5,000 years ago.  Today, the rose is more widely grown than any other flower and there are over 30,000 varieties.

The genus Rosa, in the Rosaceae family,  includes approximately 150 species of roses.  They are perennials and most take the form of a shrub, though there are also climbing and trailing plants. Grown mainly for their large, showy flowers, roses are also popular for their fragrance and sometimes their foliage. Plants range in size from miniature to more than 20 feet and can produce flowers ½ inch in diameter up to 7 inches. The fruit of a rose is called a rose hip. Rose hips are a source of Vitamin C and are used in jams, jellies and teas.

Until the late 18th century, roses in Europe only bloomed once per season. Around that time, repeat-blooming roses were introduced from China. Europeans were eager to cross breed these new types with the varieties already available. Most of the roses we know today can be traced back to those imported from China. Until 1900, roses were limited in color to white and a range of pinks. A French man named Joseph Permet-Ducher discovered a yellow rose that could be cross bred. This led to roses in a wide range of colors, including apricot, salmon, copper and gold. Today, many more colors are available such as red, purple and near-black.

I always thought that roses and thorns were kind of like salt and pepper, night and day or hot and cold. There are so many stories and clichés that I was kind of disappointed to learn that roses do not really have thorns. In fact, the sharp points jutting from a rose stem are officially called prickles. Thorns are modified stems, deeply attached to the plant. Prickles are outgrowths of the outer layer of tissue on the stem, easily broken off. Roses and prickles? It just doesn’t sound the same to me.

Roses are hardy in zones 5-9 and sometimes zone 4. Be careful where you plant your new rose bush. They prefer well drained, rich soil that receives several hours of sun a day. There are a few climbing varieties that tolerate some shade, but almost all roses  want lots of sun. The plants will be dormant in winter and flower beginning in May.

Deadheading is important for roses. Removing the spent flowers encourages the plant to rebloom, keeping it healthier and more attractive. It also saves the plant from spending energy forming a seed pod (rose hip).  Always use sharp pruning shears to cut the stem at an angle. Some sources say to cut just above the first group of 5 leaves, and others say just above the top set of leaves. I’ll leave that decision to you. Also, if your roses are of the type that only bloom once, deadheading is not necessary unless you want to prevent rose hips from forming.

Pruning is also an important part of rose care. Regular pruning will remove dead wood, encourage new growth, and increase air circulation. The majority of pruning is done in the spring, but the type of rose you grow will dictate when to prune. One factor to consider is whether the plant blooms on new growth or the growth from last year. It’s worth your time to do a little research and find out when to prune and how much. Even if you are new to pruning, it’s better for the plant than just letting it grow wild.

Unfortunately, the only rose I have in my yard right now is a miniature rose with peach colored flowers. Since it is buried under a lot of snow, only time will tell if it will come back this year. I have never seen a rose I didn’t like and I would love to plant a lot of them, but my space is limited. Maybe someday…


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One Response to “Rose”

  1. Kem Says:

    I love roses, but don’t grow them out here. It’s so humid that black spot is a pretty big problem.

    In the marsh behind my parent’s house, there are swamp roses ( They’re really pretty, but only have 5 petals and look like apple blossoms.

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