11 Things You Didn’t Know About Roses

Impress your rosarian friends with your knowledge

Rose bushes with yellow rose clusters hanging over wall

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Roses are one of the most popular and recognizable flowers in the world. Facts about roses always seem to interest people since they have a point of reference; they have either seen, smelled, or held one. For instance, what does getting or giving black roses mean? Or, more commonly, what type of Rosa is easiest to grow?

Some rose facts are more obscure but still fascinate flower aficionados. Also, it's interesting to find out the types of flowers that have "rose" in their name but are not roses at all. Read on to learn all these neat facts and factoids, including what qualifies you to be a "rosarian" and the origin of the word "rosary."

  • 01 of 11

    Rose Color Meanings: What Do Black Roses Mean?

    Picture: Rosa 'Almost Black' is a deep burgundy color.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Black roses do not exist naturally, although plant developers have managed to darken the color on some selections. The flower pictured here is Rosa 'Almost Black.' As you can see, the cultivar name is fanciful, as it's just a dark red color. Florists can alter the appearance of flowers by dipping the stems in dyed water, making them suit the occasion (think: green carnations on St. Patrick's Day).

    So, what do black roses mean in terms of flower symbolism? You can have multiple meanings for black roses. And if you plan to send someone a symbolic message, include other clues, so your message is not misunderstood.

    Below we offer a few of the possible meanings of black roses. They can symbolize:

    • Death (actual)
    • Death (metaphorical: for example, the end of something; a significant life change)
    • Revenge
    • Resistance
    • Mourning, despair
    • Mystery
    • Evil (as in the dark side of our psyches)

    Some people may also buy or send black roses for a few other reasons:

    • The color is cool, bold, and elegant in its minimalism
    • They are admirers of Gothic fashion or similar subcultures or lifestyles

    To answer, "What does getting or giving black flowers mean?" you must consider the circumstances and the sender. It can go so many different ways. So, if someone has sent you black roses—someone you know to be a lover of that color because it's modern or eye-catching—it might not have anything to do with revenge, wanting to end a relationship, or evil intent.

  • 02 of 11

    What Colors Do Roses Come in?

    Picture of a multicolor rose. The "Mardi Gras" multicolor rose is a mix of orange and pink, with a b

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Naturally, roses are white to red and everything all along that spectrum of color. Shades of yellow, orange, purple, and even brown and green are more exotic due to domestic cultivars; they are not found in wild roses. Black and blue are the only significant exceptions; to get those colors, florists have to dye them. Pictured is a bi-colored example.

    Roses were likely first cultivated in China in 500 B.C., making their way to Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Rosa gallica​ was believed to be the ancient species at that time, which comes in shades of red, pink, white, and purple and marbled combinations.

  • 03 of 11

    Are Roses Difficult to Prune and to Care for?

    Candy Oh! Vivid red rose flowers, in closeup.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Roses are often perceived to be demanding plants. But is this fact or fiction?

    In his introduction to "Success With Roses," Graham Clarke remarks that many varieties "have been bred specifically for resistance against some common pests and diseases." He also asserts: "Even pruning bush roses does not need to be as precise now as was once thought." To back up this statement, Clarke points to trials that have demonstrated that "if you go over a rose with a hedge trimmer, you end up with as much flower as if you had spent hours" on elaborate pruning.

    With so many varieties, it's hard to generalize. Some roses are finicky, but some roses are pretty easy to grow. The rose pictured is one of the low-maintenance types, called "Candy Oh! Vivid Red." If you're worried that your thumb is not green enough for rose care, this rose is the type you'll want to grow. Candy Oh! is a "landscape rose."

  • 04 of 11

    What Types of Roses Are There?

    Picture of an orange rose. A bicolor flower as the photo shows, this orange rose is an AARS pick.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    There are different ways to classify roses. According to the American Rose Society, there are three main groupings: species (wild roses), old garden roses (existing before 1867), and modern roses (only living after 1867).

    Here are a few common categories that the experts use, such as:

    • Hybrid teas: Perpetual hybrid garden roses crossbred with tea roses
    • Polyanthas: Garden cultivars derived from hybrids of R. multiflora
    • Floribundas: Garden roses crossing hybrid teas with polyantha roses
    • Grandifloras: Typically large garden roses; a cross between hybrid teas and floribundas; 'About Face,' pictured, is a grandiflora

    Some looser classifications include how a particular group of roses is used, like common qualities among a specific group. For example, "landscape roses" are hardy and easy to care for and are favorites in low-maintenance landscaping. The popular 'Knock Out' hybrid is another example of the landscape type. Other popular varieties are miniature or mini flora roses, growing about 15 to 30 inches and developed from hybrid teas and floribundas.

    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    What Type of Plant Is a Rose Considered to Be?

    Picture of Rose Hips

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Rose plants are technically classified as shrubs. But as with many plants, you can categorize them in other ways. Some people refer to roses as herb plants, reflecting their use in culinary preparations. For example, rose hips (pictured) are edible and high in vitamin C. Rose petals are also edible. Roses are also famous for scenting perfumes.

    Rose hips are the attractive fruit of the plant, adding visual interest to the plant in mid-fall after the bloom period has faded. It is typically red to orange but ranges from dark purple to black in some species. They may be rounded, hassock-shaped, or (in the case of Rosa moyesii) flagon-shaped.

  • 06 of 11

    Are All Roses Shrubs? What About the Climbers?

    This picture shows a Himalayan musk rose. It's good for growing up arbors.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Botanists classify all roses as shrubs. A shrub is defined as any plant that arises from the ground without a single woody trunk separating the roots from the branches. Some types don't look like typical shrubs: namely, the trailing kinds. Trailing roses are commonly called climbing roses and produce long 8 to 20-foot canes that need the support of a trellis or arbor.

    Although they are not true climbers, some roses are called climbing roses while others are called rambling roses. Rambling roses usually flower once, whereas climbing roses usually repeat flower throughout summer and autumn. Also, climbing roses are less vigorous, although they produce larger flowers, while ramblers are more prolific, appearing in sprays.

    Pictured, Paul's Himalayan rambling musk rose grows over a garden arbor. This plant begins blooming in the first weeks of June in growing zone 5. Rosa multiflora, another rambling type, is an invasive plant from Japan.

  • 07 of 11

    Hawthorns Are in Their Extended Family

    Hawthorn flowers
    Ashley Cooper / Getty Images

    A fact about roses that should impress anyone, even experts, is that roses belong to the Rosoideae subfamily, including raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Rosa is their genus name, and Rosaceae is their family name, but there are six subfamilies, including hawthorn. Roses and hawthorns are thorny flowering shrubs, and hawthorns produce scarlet red berries reminiscent of rose hips.

    Some of the plants in the other subfamilies are among the most widely recognized in the plant world, including hawthorns (pictured) and the following:

  • 08 of 11

    Besides Looking Pretty, What Function Can Roses Serve in Your Landscaping?

    Picture of rose bushes grown so as to hide a chain-link fence.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Because they're low-maintenance, landscape roses such as the 'Candy Oh! Vivid Red' are sometimes planted on bankings to help control soil erosion. These shrubs are vigorous and have a root system that effectively holds back soil on a hill.

    Roses often serve as hedge plants. These bushes are legendary for their thorns, and thorns help to discourage intruders. Pictured is an example of a rose hedge, and in this case, the plants also hide this chain-link fence.

    Rosa rugosa is a salt-tolerant plant, so if you have a beach house, these shrubs should make a thriving addition to your seaside plantings.

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    A Rose by Any Other Name?

    Japanese rose
    Nakano Masahiro / Getty Images

    Shakespeare's famous line about roses questions the superficial significance of names. Most roses are fragrant flowers. But would they smell any less sweet if called by another name? More and more modern roses have less fragrance than in years past. Since roses had been having significant problems with disease, they were crossbred to be more disease resistant. But when tinkering with genetics, the gene for disease resistance overruled the fragrance gene, leading to more disease-resistant roses but less fragrant ones. The discovery of gene markers and gene editing tools promises to return fragrance to the forefront.

    Some names can be deceiving, especially if you're looking for one thing and end up with another. For example, some plants have "rose" in their names but aren't the real McCoy. Kerria japonica (pictured) is commonly called a "Japanese rose" but doesn't belong to the genus Rosa. At least it is a member of the rose family. Rose of Sharon is even more confusing since it belongs to an entirely different plant family: mallows.

  • 10 of 11

    The Rose's Cultural Impact

    Close-Up Of Yellow Flower
    Nicole Anic / EyeEm / Getty Images

    No other flower has permeated our culture as much as the rose has. Some standard cultural, historical, and globally recognized rose-related references underscore this flower's prevalence:

    • Music: "Ramblin' Rose," "Yellow Rose of Texas," Guns N' Roses
    • Movies: "Rosebud" in "Citizen Kane," the enchanted rose in Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty, and the bath of rose petals in "American Beauty"
    • Idioms: sub rosa (confidentially), "rose-colored glasses," "come up smelling like roses," "no bed of roses," "stop and smell the roses"
    • Literature: "The Romance of the Rose" medieval poem, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" from Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," William Blake's "The Sick Rose"
    • History: War of the Roses, the Rosicrucian Order ("rosy cross" fraternal organization), symbol of the Socialist Party, "Bread and roses" (a political slogan of the American women's suffrage movement)

    So, what is the significance of the term "rosarian?" It means "a cultivator or aficionado of roses." You don't necessarily have to be a rose breeder to be a rosarian; you can have a particular interest or rose hobby to use the term.

    And, if you have ever wondered about the word "rosary," it seems to be related to roses. How does a set of Roman Catholic prayers (or the string of beads used to count those prayers) have anything to do with roses? Etymology.com states that "rosary" derives from the Latin rosarium, which means rose garden. The Virgin Mary is also closely associated with roses. Since the rosary is a series of prayers (including the "Hail Mary" prayer), it is used figuratively to mean a "garden of prayers."

  • 11 of 11

    Combinations and Placement in Your Landscaping

    White fence and roses
    DianaLundin / Getty Images

    As with any other plant, precisely where you plant roses in your landscaping goes a long way in determining how happy you'll be with it. When planning your plantings, consider your hardscape, like the fence (pictured) and the softscape or the plants. This picture illustrates how the bright red and green colors stand out well against the white background.

    What other plants will you combine with your roses? You can address this question on more than one level. In her book on companion planting, "Roses Love Garlic," Louise Riotte famously claimed that roses and garlic should be planted together since the latter fights black spot, a common rose disease.

    More typically, your flower choices will be dictated by the landscape color scheme you are looking for. So, if you like red and yellow together, it makes sense to consider red roses with the yellow flowers you want. When making plans for companion planting, you need to also factor in:

    • Does the other plant bloom at the same time of year?
    • Is it cold-hardy in your region?
    • Are the sunlight, water, and soil requirements the same for both flowers?

    A good reference book for planning combinations is Tony Lord's "Encyclopedia of Planting Combinations." This book puts all the information at your fingertips without needing to research all these different factors on your own.

Article Sources
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  1. Boutigny, AL., Dohin, N., Pornin, D. et al. Overview and detectability of the genetic modifications in ornamental plantsHortic Res 7, 11 (2020).