The Year Of The Rose

The National Garden Bureau has named 2017 "The Year Of The Rose". Here's a little bit of history on our favorite flower:

The U.S. National Flower first appeared around 35 million years ago and are part of the Rosaceae family which is very important for our food supply (think apples, strawberries, etc…). They are more than 150 species of roses but less than 10% have been used in breeding.

Roses have been associated with people since the earliest recorded history. The oldest record from China dates back from more than 7,000 years ago, and their popularity has never faded since.

Modern Roses hybridization started in Western Europe in the 18th Century, and today there are more than 11,000 existing varieties of hybrid roses, with more being bred every year. Thousands of people around the world enjoy breeding roses as a hobby, and they are more than 100 commercial rose breeders worldwide.

The rose industry is divided in 3 main areas, the Fragrance industry, the Fresh Flower/Florist industry and the Garden industry.

The Fragrance industry uses mostly 2 species grown specifically for that purpose. R. Gallica and R. Damascena. The industry is concentrated on the Mediterranean basin where the climate is ideal for their culture. It takes 10,000 pounds of rose petals to make 1 liter of Rose oil, one of the most widely used component in making perfumes.

The Florist rose industry produces more than 1 billion stems a year on more than 30,000 acres of greenhouses worldwide. The industry started in Europe and the U.S. near the main urban centers in the late 19th Century and has moved into areas with climates better suited for their production. Columbia and Ecuador in South America, Kenya and Ethiopia in Africa and now China and India are the major producing areas, although there is a small but growing trend in the US to produce locally grown fresh flowers again.

Last but not least, Garden roses have been front and center in the garden since the Middle age where they were widely grown for their medicinal qualities. The industry today is largely concentrated in developed countries mostly (U.S., Europe, Japan, Australia…) but there are big developments in newly industrialized countries, and especially in China.

There are many classes of roses, which sometimes can lead to some confusion. The most commonly sold in the US are:

  • Hybrid Tea Roses, which are the classic, long stemmed varieties
  • Grandiflora, which are very similar to Hybrid Tea, but they usually have several blooms on each stem
  • Floribunda, which are more compact and multi flowered
  • Miniature roses, which are smaller specimens, often grown in containers as gifts
  • Climbing Roses, which are self-explanatory
  • Landscape and shrub roses

Landscape roses are now the main driver of the industry in North America. Once considered as a hodge-podge of varieties who did not fit any of the other categories, they have lead a revolution in the landscape that started in the 1950’s with the work of Dr. Buck at Iowa State University in the US, and has led to great commercial success since. The Meidiland® in the 1980’s, Flower Carpet® in the 1990’s and 2000’s and now The Knock Out® and Drift® series who are mainstays of the industry.

Today the rose market in the U.S. is estimated at about 35 million units sold each year, and growing again after years of decline.

About half of the total is Landscape roses, and among the other classes, Hybrid Teas are about 60%, Floribundas 30% Climbers 15% Miniature 5%. There is also a small but significant production of heirloom/heritage roses produced mostly by boutique nurseries with a very dedicated customer base.

At least half of the roses on the market today are produced on their own roots, and the traditional grafted roses are mostly produced as 2 year plants budded on Dr. Huey understock in Arizona and California.

Bare root roses are about half the production, the balance coming from plug and liner producers or container growers. While a significant number are still sold in dormant packages, more and more are grown as retail ready bud and bloom. Most common container size are 2 and 3 gallon, but a large amount of the landscape roses sold by mass merchants are produced in 1 gallon, while the landscape trade likes the larger 3 to 5 gallon sizes.

Most of the most popular modern hybrids are protected by U.S. plant patents and cannot be propagated without prior consent from the breeders.

Major producers of bare root roses are Star® Roses, Weeks Roses, Certified Roses and Bailey Nurseries. Other distributors and introducers are also becoming more significant. (Flower Carpet, Proven Winner Color Choice®, Easy Elegance®..)

In North America the main trends are for more uses and lower maintenance, for more own root production and a renewed interest in traditional Hybrid Tea providing they are fragrant and more disease resistant than existing cultivars.

Garden roses are still the number one garden plant in most countries and that trend will continue due to the continuous advances in breeding which keep bringing superior genetics in what is already the Queen of the Flowers.


*This article was written by Jacques Ferare for The National Garden Bureau. To see the orginal article, visit

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