Color changing rose bush

Whats Up When a Peace Rose Changes Color

What’s Up When a ‘Peace’ Rose Changes Color?

Q. My “Peace” rose was negatively affected by the cold bitter winter, but it did come back and is looking healthy. The problem is that it is no longer a Peace rose. It is now a “red” rose. What happened and what can I do about it?

—Sharon in Allentown, PA

A. Well, if I am correct in deducing what has occurred, the only thing she can do is to buy another Peace rose and treat it differently.

The ‘hue’ of a rose may differ a tiny bit in extreme conditions (especially in searing heat), but roses don’t completely change color. However, most roses are ‘two plants in one’—the desired blooming variety on top, grafted to the rootstock of a very different and really tough rose below. If the top part of the graft dies, the rootstock takes over. Roses are much tougher plants in general than people seem to realize, and the varieties used for the rootstocks are almost indestructible.

And she should consider herself lucky that her ‘new’ rose is red; it could have been white, which could have meant trouble. White flowers would mean it was probably the infamous ‘multiflora rose’. Once heavily marketed as a ‘living fence’, it’s still in use today, but only as a rootstock and only then because it might be the single toughest rose of any kind. But it is also really invasive. Birds eat the seeds—the rose hips that persist after the flowers have faded—and spread the plants in the wild. It’s all through my woods—and lots of other woods.

Yes, it does flower. Big sprays of small white flowers that have a wonderful scent—at least when there’s thousands of them open at the same time. Out where we live, they follow the lilacs and give the early evening air a gentle aroma in late Spring. But they are a thorny aggressive menace that respects no boundaries. If this new rose had bloomed ‘small white flowers’ I would have urged her to dig it up and trash it.

But I suspect that her red flowers are going to be much better behaved. One of the other most commonly used rootstocks is a red climber named “Doctor Huey”, and its early bloom time would coincide nicely with the date of her email, which was May 24th. Unfortunately, The Doctor only blooms once a season, where her Peace was a repeat bloomer—and a great, great rose.

My old friend Dr. Tommy Cairns from the American Rose Society talks about Peace as the rose against which all others should be judged. A so-called ‘modern’ rose, it was bred in France in the late 30s, with the first functioning bud eyes—the parts of the plant that nurseries can graft onto a rootstock—shipped to the Conard-Pyle company in September of 1939.

Yes; September 1939…out of France…

…As in Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman trying to finish the last bottle of champagne before the Germans take Paris. “Peace” was not the original name of the rose; in fact, it has had several different names over the years. But “Peace” was the one that stuck when rose lovers and hybridizers were reunited after the war and the rose became a living symbol of peace itself. It might have the best backstory of any plant.

And it’s absolutely gorgeous; to quote Tommy Cairns: “it possesses a high-centered noble bloom, pale yellow petals edged in light pink, glossy deep green leaves and a light perfume. Peace heralded the modern era of the large-flowered rose.”

I have many roses in my landscape. Peace is the most beautiful. It’s also tough as nails and blooms all summer.

So why did hers die?

One way you can kill the top of a grafted rose is to bury the graft in the mounds of mulch that have become so foolishly popular. Now, some gardeners in the Far North have to bury their roses in the winter; but like the similar grape vine protection we recently covered, that mulch has to be removed promptly at the end of winter. If the graft is buried when the plant starts growing again in Spring, the more vigorous rootstock—now inadvertently ‘planted’—will take over.

And these rootstocks are so vigorous they suck all the air out of the room.

But she also might have simply pruned off the Peace part. If you ‘whack’ your roses back to the ground and prune below the graft, there’s nothing left of the variety you wanted.

And yes, the hard winter might have killed it. But only if she, again foolishly, pruned it down so low in the fall that there were only a couple inches of “Peace’ left–a recipe for inviting death during a severe winter.

This is one of the 600 or so reasons I always warn people not to prune anything in the fall. Look at it this way: if you have a six foot high set of canes left standing at the end of the season and winter kills the top two feet, you just prune the dead parts off in the Spring and you’re good to go. But if you prune it down to six inches above the graft and winter takes the top two feet…

…Hello, Doctor Huey!


Roses that suddenly change color usually have suffered a dieback above the graft union.

(All-America Rose Selections)

Q: My rosebush for years had yellow roses, but this year the roses have turned a burgundy color. Any idea why?

A: That’s a case of the old died-above-the-graft trick.

Most roses are actually two plants in one – an above-ground part with desirable attributes and a root portion that’s durable and energetic in the growth department.

Rose producers attach the two parts in a process called “grafting.” The root stock fuses to the top part, and you get the best of both worlds – a strong grower with better blooms, nicer fragrance, etc. than the root-stock plant would’ve produced on its own.

The problem is when the top part dies. I suspect that’s what happened to your rose during this unusually cold, windy winter (and many others, for that matter).
The yellow-flowering top part of your rose likely died in the cold, and now the root section is pushing up its own new growth from the base (or at least from below the graft union).

That rose apparently was a burgundy bloomer.

There’s nothing you can do to return your rose to yellow. It won’t switch back – barring a miraculous return to life of the above-the-graft portion.

Your options are to either get used to your new burgundy rose or yank the whole thing and buy a new yellow rose.

  1. Start with a white rose. Choose one where the bud is just starting to open. If the bud is too tight, it may never open, and if the flower has already unfurled, it will not have sufficient time to absorb the dye before it starts to fade.
  2. Make a fresh cut in the stem. If you have a long stem rose, shorten the stem to about 8 to 12 inches, so the dye does not have to travel so far.
  3. Using a sharp blade or knife, divide the stem into vertical sections, one section for each color. Cut about 3 inches up the stem. Don’t make more than 3 to 4 sections or the flowers will be too fragile to survive.
  4. Mix your dyes using food coloring and water. Use a good amount of dye (10 to 12 drops) so that the pigment will be saturated enough to really color the petals. To get the full rainbow, you can use red, blue, and yellow dyes. They will probably mix a bit on their way up the stem, creating the full rainbow effect and making each rose a little bit different.
  5. You are going to need to leave each stem section in the dye mixture for several days, so place the dye into narrow containers such as bud vases or test tubes. Each color will go into its own container. You could also use plastic bags attached to the stem sections with rubber bands, and then stand them all up in a single container.
  6. Be gentle when bending the stem sections apart, and try not to leave them exposed to air and drying out for more than a few minutes. Place the rose out of direct sunlight while it is absorbing the dye. The cut flower is already under stress, and extreme heat or light will weaken it further.
  7. Now be patient. You may notice the petals changing color within a couple of hours, but leaving them in the dye for up to a week will result in the most dramatic colors. Make sure the rose is not left sitting in a dry container once the water/dye solution is all absorbed.
  8. Once the desired effect is obtained, you can cut off the split section of stem and place your rose in a vase of fresh, room temperature water and enjoy.

Changing Rose Color – Why Do Roses Change Color In The Garden

“Why are my roses changing color?” I have been asked this question many times over the years and have seen the rose blooms change color in some of my own rosebushes as well. For information on what makes roses change color, read on.

Why Do Roses Change Color?

While it may seem uncommon, color changing in roses actually happens more often than one would think…and for many different reasons. Determining the cause of your changing rose color is the first step to getting the plant back to its original hue.

Graft reversion

Many rosebushes are what are known as grafted roses. This means that the upper part of the bush, the part the blooms are on and color we want it to be, is perhaps not hardy enough on its own root system to survive and thrive in many climatic conditions. So this top part is grafted onto a hardy rootstock that is able to survive various conditions and different soil types. Dr. Huey is just one of the rootstocks used for grafting. Others include Fortuniana and Multiflora.

If the blooms have changed color dramatically, chances are the top part of the rosebush or grafted rose has died. The hardy rootstock, in some cases, will take over and send up its own canes and produce the blooms that are natural to that rootstock. Usually, the canes and foliage of these rootstock canes are far different than those on the top part of the rose. The change in the canes’ growth and foliage should be the first clue that the top part of the grafted rose has perished.

There are also times when the hardy rootstock gets overzealous and sends up its own canes even though the top part of the grafted bush is still alive and well. If some canes and foliage look different from the rest of the rosebush, take some time to follow them all the way down to the point where they come out of the main trunk.

If the canes seem to be coming up from way below ground or below the graft area of the rosebush, then they are from the rootstock. These canes must be removed at their point or origin. Allowing them to grow will sap strength from the upper desired portion and can lead to its death. By pruning off the rootstock canes, the root system is forced to focus on sending nutrients to the grafted rose. This is important in assuring the top part is in fine shape and performing as expected.

Plant sport

I have also had rosebushes send up canes from the graft area with similar cane and foliage, yet the blooms have a different color, such as a medium pink blooms all over the bush, except for one or two canes. On those canes, the blooms are mostly white with just a hint of pink and the bloom form is a bit different. This can be what is called a “sport” rosebush, similar to sporting in azalea shrubs. Some sports are hardy enough to keep going on their own and are marketed as a new rose with a different name, like the climber rose Awakening, which is a sport of the New Dawn climbing rose.


The temperature can also affect rose bloom color. In early spring and later towards fall when the temperatures are cooler, many rose blooms will be quite vibrant in their color and seem to hold both color and form for several days. When the temperature gets very hot in summer, many blooms will have lost a color saturation level or two. Many times, these blooms are smaller too.

It is hard for the root system to push enough fluids all the way up to the top of the bush during high heat, as much of the fluid is used up before it can reach the developing buds. As a result, color, form and size will suffer in varying degrees. Some roses can take the heat better than others and still have good color, form and fragrance BUT the number of blooms produced will usually be affected.


Some diseases can change the bloom appearance on roses, causing the blooms to be distorted, off color and of messy form. One such disease is botrytis blight. This fungal disease can cause the blooms to be messy or misshaped, and the petals will have flecks of darker color or spots on them. To gain control of this fungal disease, begin spraying the affected rosebushes with a suitable fungicide, such as Mancozeb, as soon as possible.

Keep a good eye on your roses, as spotting a problem early goes a long way to curing the problem quickly and with less damage.

Rainbow roses: are they real?

Rainbow roses are very popular due to the surge in interest in other differently coloured fruit and vegetables, such as purple carrots and white strawberries. These flowers are a little different from regular English red, white, pink and yellow roses. Blooming in rich, vibrant colours, these rainbow rose bouquets definitely stand out to say the least!

Each rainbow rose shares bright hues, but are unique because of the petals. Besides roses, other cut flowers such as chrysanthemums, carnations, hydrangeas and orchids can also be rainbow coloured in the same way.

The pictures of rainbow roses haven’t been doctored, and the roses haven’t been painted. They have, in fact, been artificially coloured through the flower’s intake of water – splitting the stem into different cups of dyed water to achieve the rainbow effect.

As they are unnaturally coloured, they don’t last as long in a vase as regular roses, as the dye affects the plants’ ability to photosynthesise and survive. You cannot grow rainbow roses naturally from bulbs are seeds, despite seller claims on eBay.

If you’re interested in making your own rainbow roses at home, follow the steps below.

About rainbow roses

The process to achieving rainbow roses is uncomplicated, and has been experimented with for more than a millennium, however some companies are attempting to patent the process. Most recently, in 2004, two Dutch companies, River Flowers and FJ Zandbergen created a rose that was made up of rainbow coloured petals.

In scientific terms, this simple but effective process in carried out using the transportation system located within vascular flowers. The xylem tubes located in the stem of the rose pump colour to the leaves and petals, when the flower is dipped into dyed water. When the petals have absorbed the coloured water – the water itself evaporates leaving the colour behind. The outer layer of the petals themselves (of a white rose) are transparent so the colour shows up beautifully.

In terms of varieties, research showed that the best variety for achieving rainbow roses is Vendala, a cream coloured Hybrid Tea from the Netherlands, Colombia and Ecuador – this variety is said to absorb the different colorants evenly. Other roses that can be used to achieve this process are La Belle and Avalanche. However, these do not achieve as bright a rainbow as Vendela. In terms of colour, combinations are fairly limitless, however black and white are impossible.

How to make your own rainbow roses at home

Step 1: pick your rose

Ideally use a white rose for this DIY venture. If white is not available, go for a light coloured rose such as pale pink. As well as the original colour having an effect on the final product, so will the stage the flower is in, as it affects how fast or slow the dye takes to the flower. Tip: If the rose is at or near blooming stage it will take the colour more readily.

Step 2: cut the stem

To prepare the rose, you must cut the stem. It is important to ensure the stem length is correct at this stage to ensure that the rose(s) sit properly in their container, otherwise the rose may become top-heavy and bend. The height of your rose(s) should be just taller than your vase(s) that you plan to colour the rose(s) in/present them in.

Step 3: divide the stem

Divide the stem into sections using a sharp blade to create multiple sections. Tip: Use a sharp knife to achieve this or else the stem may simply tear and damage the rose. The cut should extend from the bottom of the rose without reaching within 2.5cm (1in) of the base of the petals. Divide the stem into four equal sections (if you cut too many you may weaken the stem). The number of sections you cut determines the number of colours in your rainbow rose.

Step 4: add the colour

To add the colour, mix several different food colourings into separate cups of water. Match the number of colours to the number of sections in your stem(s). You can control how bright you want your colours to be by how much food colouring you use. When picking your container(s) go for ones that are narrow and sturdy. Place each stem section into each container. Do so with extra care as the stems will be very delicate, and too much force risks braking them on accident.

Step 5: wait and enjoy

You will begin to notice the colours changing as early as 30 minutes after setting up, but for a vibrant look allow the rose(s) to bathe in the dye pools for a few days. It may take up to a week before the colours are notably vibrant.

Buying rainbow roses

You may have seen seeds to grow these roses on a number of online marketplaces – but don’t be fooled: you cannot grow rainbow roses from seeds. Do not be tempted by the offers and recommendations on reputable marketplaces, it simply isn’t possible to grow them as natural roses in your garden from seed.

It is impossible to purchase rainbow roses in seed form as the process of creating rainbow roses is not a product of genetic engineering or cross-breeding which can be duplicated. Each rainbow rose is made individually.

Roses have a bad rap for being high maintenance, time consuming and, let’s face it, a wee bit old-fashioned. But these gorgeous blooms will make you want to throw on some cute gardening gloves and get to work creating your own secret garden retreat.

Photo credit: Pixland / 360 / Gettyimages

What’s in a name?

We tend to speak about roses in general terms, but in reality there are over 150 different species. Classified in the genus Rosa, the flowers come in many different shapes and colors, including red, pink, purple, yellow, orange and white. The delicate flowers are frequently fragrant. Prickly stems offer natural protection to this woodsy perennial (and are reasons to rock some cute gardening gloves to protect your mani).

War of the roses

Tackling roses can be intimidating for newbie gardeners. Roses have a reputation for being difficult to grow, and those who fall for growing the prickly beauties can develop a love for the hobby that borders on obsessive.

But roses don’t have to be difficult.

The trick is to pick the right rose bush for the right location. While it might be tempting to scoop up a gorgeous rose bush you spotted at your favorite home improvement store, the truth is, those plants might not be the best choice for your region. Do a little research in advance to avoid headaches later.

Pick your plant

Local nurseries should be able to tell you which species grows best in your climate and help you identify the most ideal location to plant your pretty blooms.

When it comes to planting roses, the old gardening adage of “dig a $50 hole for a $5 plant” most definitely applies.

White, pink and purple roses to try:

White roses


Image source:
  • Category: Floribunda rose
  • Color: White blooms that fade to pink
  • Flower type: Medium bush (climbing form also available)
  • Fragrance: Light to medium

Introduced in 1958 by German rose breeder Reimer Kordes, Iceberg is one of the most popular types of roses. The bush flowers continuously from summer to fall, and the pure white flowers can sometimes turn a slight pink color late in the season.

White Dawn

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  • Category: Climber
  • Color: White
  • Flower type: Showy shrub or climbing rose
  • Fragrance: Very fragrant
  • Bloom time: Midspring to frost

The pure white blooms contrast beautifully against the glossy dark green leaves of this hardy rose bush. The full white blooms are similar to those of gardenias and make a nice alternative to more traditional rose shapes. Since they continuously bloom, White Dawn roses are a good landscape choice.


Image source:
  • Category: Floribunda rose
  • Color: Creamy white
  • Flower type: Upright
  • Fragrance: Subtle fruity scent
  • Bloom time: Early to late summer

Moondance is a larger rose plant, growing 5 feet high by 4 feet wide. The upright blooms on longer stems make it a great option for a cutting garden. Encourage reblooming by removing spent blooms throughout the season.

Pink roses

Sexy Rexy

  • Category: Floribunda rose
  • Color: Pink
  • Flower type: Double, clustered
  • Fragrance: Lightly fragrant
  • Bloom time: Continual blooming summer to fall

Considered one of the most profusely blooming roses, Sexy Rexy originated in New Zealand and was introduced in 1984. It’s considered tall for a floribunda and can be used as a shrub or hedge. Plus, the name is super fun to say.


  • Category: Landscape rose
  • Color: Soft candy pink
  • Flower type: Fully double blooms
  • Fragrance: Lightly fragrant
  • Bloom time: Continual blooming

Big clusters of candy-pink blooms cover this shrub rose, which turns to orange rose hips in the fall. The flowers are approximately 2-1/2 inches and the shrub grows to about 4 feet. This is a good option for hedges or mass planting.

Strawberry Hill

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  • Category: English rose
  • Color: Pure rose pink
  • Flower type: Double/full bloom
  • Fragrance: Fine myrrh fragrance
  • Bloom time: June-September

The Strawberry Hill rose was bred by British rosarian David Austin and named after Horace Walpole’s Gothic castle outside of London. The informal structure of the bush, along with the slightly arching branches, makes it a good planting option for the back of a border.

Purple roses

Ebb Tide

  • Category: Floribunda rose
  • Color: Deep purple
  • Flower type: Double blooms with old-fashioned form
  • Fragrance: Spicy clove fragrance
  • Bloom time: June-September

The color and size of Ebb Tide roses vary greatly depending on temperature — a common trait for purple roses. The blooms are the largest and darkest shades of purple in cooler weather. Intense summer heat can sometimes turn the flower color to a lighter lavender shade, which still looks lovely.

Angel Face

  • Category: Floribunda rose
  • Color: Lavender
  • Flower type: Large and upright
  • Fragrance: Sweet citrus
  • Bloom time: Early summer-midfall

These lovely lavender blooms are especially large, averaging 3-1/2 inches. The plant grows upright and bushy, approximately 3 feet by 3 feet wide. The petals flare out slightly and can sometimes form a deeper purple color on the tip. This is an excellent cutting flower choice.

William Shakespeare 2000

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  • Category: English rose
  • Color: Crimson to purple
  • Flower type: Double/full bloom
  • Fragrance: Traditional rose scent
  • Bloom time: Late spring/early summer

This English rose was bred by David Austin and introduced in 2000. The color is described as a “velvety crimson changing to purple.” The flower has a fragrant traditional rose scent. The shrub is highly disease resistant and great for producing repeat flowers.

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Types of Rose Trees

The rose tree or rose standard is an eye-catching horticultural contrivance. According to Rose Magazine, rose trees consist of at least three parts grafted together: a hardy rose rootstock, a rose cane to serve as the trunk and a showy hybrid rose on the top. To ensure the best show, the hybrid rose should be disease resistant, hardy and a re-bloomer. Tree roses are vulnerable to cold temperatures, especially at the graft areas known as bud unions. Winter protection involves laying the plant on its side in a trench and mulching with leaves. Staking is often necessary to support the fragile trunk. Despite the extra work, tree roses will always capture attention, whether in a rose garden or as a focal point on a patio.


Rose trees that measure 36 inches or more from soil level to the top of the trunk are classified as standards. Although harder to find commercially, some rose trees may reach 48 to 60 inches. Growquest, a California nursery, recommends adding 2 feet to the trunk measurement to estimate total height. The hybrid rose grafted to the top of the trunk may be a shrub rose, a grandiflora type, floribunda, hybrid tea or a miniature rose. Iceberg, Bonica, the patented Knock-Out rose series and the Betty Boop floribunda are varieties that work well in the rose tree form.


A miniature rose tree is a standard rose that is only 18 inches tall. Weeks Roses, a wholesale rose grower, uses miniature roses such as Gourmet Popcorn and the yellow and pink Rainbow’s End for this type of tree rose. Christian Bedard, a hybridizer at Weeks Roses, recommends using miniature rose trees in rock gardens and for a spot of color in small spaces.


Patio rose trees are standards that are 24 inches tall. Weeks Roses uses floribunda and shrub rose varieties such as the red shrub rose Home Run and the yellow floribunda Julia Child for their patio trees. As the name suggests, patio rose trees are great for patios and other limited spaces.


Weeping rose trees are 4- to 6-foot standard forms grafted with a spreading ground cover rose such as the Red Meideland rose or the deep pink China Doll. Climbing roses such as the pink Renae take the cascade one step further, often draping close to the ground. Rose trees of 48 and 60 inches are used for this purpose.

Two Colors

Growers graft two similar rose varieties on a single 36-inch trunk to achieve a bi-color affect. The white shrub rose Iceberg and the Brilliant Pink Iceberg on a single stem is an example of such a pairing. Extra staking of the slender trunk is required to support the weight of two grafted roses.


Double-decker rose trees are standards with 2 roses of the same variety grafted one above the other to create a full, cascading effect. The double-decker may have several inches of space between the two hybrid rose grafts, too. Height is usually 48 inches. This type of rose tree will need extra staking for support.

Pom Pom

Star Roses, a brand of roses from the wholesale nursery Conard-Pyle, has a pom-pom-style rose tree. According to the catalog, growers use miniature roses such as the pink Sonia Sunblaze grafted on to a 48-inch stem.

Polar Joy

The Polar Joy rose tree is a new variety that is hardy enough on its own without needing a rootstock or trunk from other roses, according to Midwest Gardening

Flowers That Change Colors

Our gardens are always changing. It’s not just that our flowers bloom and die; many also change colors during their often short lives. Watching them go from pastels to richer, warmer shades, and then age to soft, muted colors, makes for an irresistible show.
As rose-lovers know, some roses change colors unexpectedly. A bush that produced vibrant pink blooms one year can bear peach or apricot blossoms next season. Or a plant with pink, yellow, and crimson roses on the same bush can suddenly yield only the crimson ones.
These kinds of changes can happen when a grafted rose sprouts from below its graft union, the swollen-looking spot where the rootstock was joined to the scion (the top part of the plant that produces the leaves and flowers).
Rootstocks, which are typically hardier or stronger than the scions anyway, take over, especially if the upper branches are killed by cold weather.
Some color changes are due to natural mutations. The developers of Knock Out roses once spotted a single branch with light pink blooms on a red Knock Out bush. They grafted the odd branch—called a sport—onto other rootstock to create a new, shell-pink variety, Knock Out ‘Blushing.’
Weather can cause color changes, too. Intense sunlight and high temperatures can fade flowers, while cool weather can intensify colors, making them richer and deeper.
Colors also vary as a flower ages. The buds on a ‘Joseph’s Coat’ rose, for example, are usually cherry red. As they open, they take on coral tones and reveal gold centers. As the flowers mature, they turn red again. Hydrangea ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ opens white flowers with pink centers that gradually turn deep, strawberry-red. If left uncut for a winter garden, they mature to the color of parchment.
Of course, we can manipulate hydrangea colors, too. If we raise the pH of the soil (that is, make it more alkaline) blue flowers turn pink. If we lower it (increase the soil’s acidity), pink flowers turn blue or blue-lavender. This doesn’t work with white hydrangeas, however.
Even stress can alter the colors of flowers like peonies and iris. In addition to too much or too little sun, different amounts of water, or transplanting them may make a plant work harder to produce new roots or leaves, diverting some of the energy it would usually put into petal colors.
The colorful patterns on beautiful tulips are the result of viral infections . The viruses cause the colors to “break” into attractive stripes, speckles, and featherings. Today, commercial tulip growers deliberately introduce some infections to create peppermint-stick patterns and other mosaics.
Bulb growers have also developed a series of “color changing tulips” that can be planted in fall for a dramatic springtime show. The flowers look quite different when they mature. Here are few varieties to try:
‘World Expression’ – This tulip starts out a soft, buttery yellow with rose-red “flames” at the base of each flower. As they age, the petals whiten and the reds intensify.
‘Suncatcher’ – When planted in fall, ‘Suncatcher’ develops sturdy stems for a spring cutting garden. The bright yellow base of each tulip is splashed with cheerful, cherry red.
‘Banja Luka’ – This tulip’s large, firecracker red and yellow feathering stand out in the garden. The blooms open in mid-spring and last a long time.
‘Caramba’ – Stripes and swirls of hot pink and white make each ‘Caramba’ bloom slightly different from the rest. Plant the bulbs in autumn for mid-spring flowers.

How Does a Rose Bush Get Two Colors?

Jardins de Villandry – Rose jaune et rose image by albillottet from

Most rose bushes have uniformly colored flowers. Some roses bushes, however, display flowers of several colors. Sometimes the flower itself is bicolored, sometimes a cluster of flowers displays a range of colors and sometimes the flowers on one branch are colored differently from those on the rest of the bush. This color variation happens in three major ways.

Flower Color Change

Many roses change color slightly as they age. When a rose bush has many flowers, including both newly opened and old blooms, at the same time, it often appears that the rose bush has several different colors of roses. Some roses have been bred to emphasize this color shift. Rosa Seven Sisters has clusters of roses in shades of pink, with the darkest ones carmine and the lightest ones a pale pink-mauve. Rosa Joseph’s Coat is another cultivar that presents a range of colors in its clusters of rose flowers, ranging from yellow through orange and crimson.

Bicolor Roses

Other roses have been bred to have two colors in each flower. Typically, the inner petals are one color and the outer petals are a different color. The most famous cultivar of this type is probably Rosa Peace, with its yellow core and pink outer petals. A small number of roses have some petals that are bicolored and show color change from the center to the edge of the flower. Rosa Dream Come True, an award-winning bicolor rose, is yellow blushed with deep, ruby red.


Roses can be grown from cuttings and from seed, but most roses sold commercially are grafted. This means that a cutting from the preferred cultivar is joined to another rose, typically one that is older and has good root hardiness. The rose bush will bloom with flowers the shape and color of the cultivar. Sometimes, however, the original bush grows a new branch, and the flowers on the new branch will look like the blooms of the original rose. Theoretically, it would be possible to graft roses from two different cultivars to the same root stock, so that the rose bush would bloom in two different colors.

Response to Growing Conditions

Like other flowering shrubs, roses respond to a variety of growing conditions. A change in light, water or soil nutrients can cause a change in the color of the rose flower. Typically the change is subtle, but some rose bushes can change rather dramatically from one season to the next.

Rainbow Rose

The “rainbow rose” sold by some florists will never be seen growing in a garden. The vivid colors are produced artificially after the flower is cut. Rosa Vendela is the cultivar grown for this process, and its flowers are naturally cream colored.

Unusual Roses

First and Foremost

True rosarians may want to consider old garden roses with particular historical significance. ‘The Apothecary’s Rose,’ for example, is one of the oldest known rose varieties and has been in cultivation since the Crusades. ‘Quatre Saisons,’ a Damask, is recognized as the oldest repeat-blooming European rose. ‘La France’ has the distinction of being the first Hybrid Tea, ushering in the era of modern roses.

Bottled Beauty

The supremely fragrant ‘Kazanlik,’ a Damask, has commercial importance as the main rose grown for producing attar of roses (fragrant oil used to make perfume).

Color Me Interesting

Many roses have unusual color or distinct markings that make them unique. Some varieties have spotted, freckled, or striped blooms; others provide multiple colors of flowers on the same bush. Broaden the color palette in your garden with russet, buff, gray, or dark purple blossoms. For enticing color combinations, try bi-colored roses or those with a “reverse” the inside petal is a different color than the outside.

For Crested Moss (left) and The Green Rose (right), it’s the flower sepals that draw the most attention. The rich pink blossoms of Crested Moss open from unusually mossed sepals that give the buds a frilled appearance. The blooms of The Green Rose, on the other hand, are entirely made up of sepals; technically, this rose lacks true petals.

Unusual Roses

Notable Old Garden Roses

Multi-Colored Blooms

  • Flutterbye (yellow bicolor)
  • Joseph’s Coat (red bicolor)
  • Mutabilis (yellow bicolor)
  • Pleasant Valley (pink bicolor)
  • Rainbow Knockout (pink bicolor)
  • The Magician (yellow bicolor)

Handpainted Roses

Colorful Fall Foliage

Roses with Trailing Habit

Spotted/Freckled Blooms

  • Cramoisi Picoté (red bicolor)
  • Dorcas (pink bicolor)
  • Euprates (pink bicolor)
  • Freckle Face (pink bicolor)
  • Freckles (pink bicolor)
  • Marbrée (red bicolor/pink bicolor)
  • Spanish Rhapsody (pink bicolor)

Striped Blooms

Bloom size greater than 6″

Roses of Unusual Color

Strong Bi-Color/Reverse

  • Betty Boop (red bicolor)
  • Cherry Parfait (red bicolor)
  • Double Delight (red bicolor)
  • Gemini (pink bicolor)
  • French Perfume (yellow bicolor)
  • Handel (red bicolor)
  • Iced Raspberry (red bicolor)
  • Léonidas (red blend/russet)
  • Lynn Anderson (pink bicolor)
  • Nicole (pink bicolor)
  • Night Light (dark yellow/yellow bicolor)
  • Rosy Dawn (yellow bicolor)
  • Sassy Cindy (red bicolor)
  • Typhoo Tea (red bicolor)

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