can roses cross-pollinate and change colors?

June 8, 2011

Ok, either I'm hallucinating, have bad memory, or a strange rose plant popped into my garden on it's own accord - OR roses can cross-pollinate and change color. The rose bush I planted about 2 years ago had yellow flowers, but the bloom that just opened (and the color of the many buds that have not opened yet) are RED!

My neighbors have 2 red rose bushes, so that's why I'm thinking maybe it cross-pollinated mine. But googling the situation also brought in some info about if a plant had been grafted at some point, and that part died, then the other coloring would take over. And then also something about a spontaneous mutation of the parent plant.

Has anyone else had a rose plant do this? I'll be interested to see if I get any yellow blooms on it, or if will all be red. Also, I have another yellow rose on the other side of that same garden bed - wonder if it will do the same! Hope not - although the red is pretty, I really liked the yellow ones :^(


Comments (28)

  • dsieber

    Pollination affects the offspring (aka seeds) not the original plant. My guess the characteristics of the original plant had a little tendency for multiple colours of blossoms (some varieties intentionally try to get this). It maybe a "non-true" nature of your plant.

  • Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

    Well I think you're hallucinating, and that's the end of it! Have you been taking your meds regularly???

    First of all, the only thing that cross pollination affects is the SEED. It has nothing to do with, and can't change in any way, a growing plant. So that scratches that theory! (Tho you'll find beaucoup folks who will INSIST that that's what "changed" the color of their roses--and I think I've waited on ALL of them!)

    I've never heard of "spontaneous mutation of the parent plant," so scratch that theory--unless somebody else around here has ever heard of this---and has some sort of proof that it can occur!

    Now on to what's left! Yes! Many, if not most, of the roses sold today are grafted onto a root stock that's completely different than the variety you're buying. If the canes coming from the graft die, and the root starts to produce new canes, you wind up with the color of whatever the root stock is--usually red. It is possible that you could have canes from both above and below the graft still growing on your rose. If there are any yellow canes left, they may not bloom till a little bit later, so wait a month to be sure. If there are any yellow canes, go thru and cut out all the canes that have reverted back to the root stock. You may be able to tell even if they aren't blooming, which you have. Dig down till you find a round "knob" at the base of the old canes, and anything that's coming out from below that will be coming from the root stock. The graft may be just above the soil level, or may be buried, depending on who planted it! There's a lot of dispute about how they should be planted, but we always recommended planting with the graft right on/above the surface, which, apparently, makes it a little less likely that they will revert, and definitely makes it easier to see where your canes are coming from. If you have both red and yellow, you definitely want to cut out all the red to try to save your yellow canes. Buying "own root" roses eliminates this problem! Either they live or they die--but they don't "change color!" Buying own root roses, however, will limit your choice of varieties--tho I understand they're starting to produce more of them!

    Now! About those meds!!!


  • Dan _Staley (5b Sunset 2B AHS 7)

    The rootstock has sent up shoots. Look at the thickness of the stems and the lvs. Some or all of the grafted portion has died. Common.


  • dsieber

    Skybird you are correct on the rootstock (however I have found most of them are like wild roses and come out pink). But if the red is coming from above the graft it could be an non-true feature/defect of the original rose. I personally would be glad if I had a rose perform this trick.

  • cnetter

    The most common rootstock on roses is the US (other than for Florida) is Dr. Huey, which blooms deep red flowers just once a year in June. This is the most likely reason for the red blooms. I see Dr. Huey blooming all over the Denver area.

    Although I have had roses sport (mutate), but those blooms are usually white. I then take the sport as a cutting and see if it's stable. Interesting sports of roses that prove to be healthy and stable (not revert back to looking like the parent plant) are quite marketable. Some of my favorite roses came about from mutations.

    I have had roses self seed, one of which produced a very nice double version of Darlow's Enigma. Unfortunately it did it ten feet away in my iris patch.

    But, I still think what you got is blooming root stock.
    Back when I was a member of the Denver Rose Society, we always recommended burying the graft/bud union at least a couple of inches unless you wanted to mound soil or mulch every fall to protect the graft from winter damage or death which will lead to the rock stock being more likely to take over. Also, it was thought that the grafted stock might form roots of its own if the graft was buried. It used to frustrate us that the instructions on packaged roses often showed the rose being planted with the bud union above ground. (Don't know if the packages still have this, I haven't planted a packaged rose in decades.) Many folks would call the consulting rosarians, asking the same questions you are, saying they planted the rose according to the instructions. Their unprotected graft died in the winter, and Dr. Huey root stock took over.

    I always bury my graft to protect it since I don't have the time to pile mulch over the bud union. I have way too many roses to do that.

  • mstywoods

    Pfew! Looks like I'm not crazy (and I don't need meds , Skybird :-p) afterall!!

    I have never planted roses before, and have only had minimal experiences living in places that had them growing in my yard - so I'd never heard of this happening. To tell you the truth, I just plopped it into the ground and didn't pay attention to (nor read anything about it on the label) exactly how I planted it :^o.

    What did happen last spring was that I thought it had died over the winter. The canes were brown and brittle with no signs of growth. So I bought another yellow rose to replace it, but when I started to dig it up I found shoots coming up just under the surface. So I covered it back up and planted the new rose elsewhere. This rose in question never bloomed last year, although did get plenty of leaves and stalks. I didn't cut it back as far last fall, and with the fair winter we had and lots of rain, it has grown like gangbusters this spring!

    So sounds like indeed it must have been a grafted rose, and the Dr. Huey root stock is what grew last and this spring, and not the apparently grafted yellow part. What is the reason for grafting to this root stalk - hardiness?

    I still wonder if maybe I'll still get some yellow, because some of the stalks look thicker than the others and the red buds/blooms are on the lower branches which look a little smaller. It will be an interesting plant to watch this year!

    Thanks for all the great info!!


  • david52 Zone 6

    Speaking of roses, the deer heard visited here the other evening, nipping off Every. Single. Rose. Bud. In. The. Garden. Along with all the lower leaves off the fruit trees.

    "Silly rascals" I said to myself.

  • Dan _Staley (5b Sunset 2B AHS 7)

    That's very considerate of you, David, to provide tasty and nutritious meals for the wildlife. ;o)


  • cnetter

    mstywoods, the primary reason for grafting roses onto rootstock is speed and volume in getting desirable roses to market. The rootstock is vigorous and quickly grown to a good size where the top is then lopped off and a single bud eye of the desirable rose is grafted on. This bud eye becomes the graft or bud union we talked about above.
    Reproducing roses this way enables a lot of roses to be made from canes of desirable stock since one cane can provide quite a few bud eyes. The vigor from the rootstock enables the bud eye to grow into a good size rose pretty quickly.
    Own root roses are often done by taking a piece of rose cane and rooting it. I've also known people who propagated roses by tissue culture too. It then takes longer to get a rose the same size as a grafted one. But as far as I can tell, after a few years both own root and grafted roses end up with similar vigor and size. I've rooted possibly thousands of roses over the years. Some of these I had grafted versions of the rose as well and over time they seem to behave pretty much the same in most cases. David Austin roses seem to throw up more canes from the base when own root. Same with most OGRs. Hybrid Teas were pretty much indistinguishable after three years or so.
    In the case of Florida, where there is a root nematode problem, grafting is done for hardiness. The roses there are often grafted onto Fortuniana root stock which is resistant to these nematodes.

    Anybody want to take cuttings of roses and try root them, now is a good time. I've got lots and lots of non-patented and old garden roses just coming into bloom.

  • Dan _Staley (5b Sunset 2B AHS 7)

    Memories come back...growing up in Michigan, we'd root roses from cuttings because back then, winters were worse and you never knew what would survive, so that was a cheap way to go. In CA before I quit roses that was a good way to go there as well. IME the old roses were much better than some of the new teas and you'd always go somewhere with a way to bring home a surreptitious cutting from an old rose you liked (there are some wonderful roses at Empire Mine SHP that I spread around admired a lot), the Austins were just coming out when I stopped doing roses, but I liked what I saw in that time. At any rate, what cnetter said.


  • mstywoods

    Fastinating! Well, I'm still waiting to see if a few of the larger canes that have no buds on them will eventually come out with some yellow flowers. The bottom half, with much smaller thickness of canes, is flowering away in red! That would be really cool if I got both colors on one plant :^) Possible?

    The rose I planted on the other side of the garden has buds on it, and I believe I detect a hint of yellow. So yeah, still have one at least!!

    Thanks for all the great info.

  • cathylester24

    I transplanted a red rose bush (already there, but too close to front door, when I moved in) to another location in the yard, and it has bloomed all white! The canes were fairly skinny, and the roses weren't as large as the rest in the same area, but I assumed it was the location that kept the whole bush smaller. Since moving it to the fence line (near a thriving white Lady Banks I planted a couple of years ago), it's begun to grow very well, but it's definitely not what I expected!

  • mstywoods

    HI cathylester24. Yea, it's quite a surprise when the flowers come in a totally different color!! LOL. Guess yours did the same - the new flowers are from the root plant, and the crown/grafted rose is gone. I'm happy with my red one since it grows in so well, but glad my second yellow rose I planted is still staying yellow :-D


  • Rainbow Zen

    Twenty five years ago I planted several different types of roses. One is a type that rambles, grows to about four feet high, puts out runners, spreads rampantly & produces great masses of small pure white flowers (with very little fragrance) and no hips at all. The other grows quite tall, well over seven feet high, & produces masses of large strongly fragrant hot pink cabbage-looking roses and large rose hips. Both types have flourished with very little care and spread into some of the more inaccessible areas of my property, where they've entirely escaped tending and gone their own wild way for years. Recently I finally a cut a path thru the wilderness to discover I now have some rambling roses that grow about four feet high, put out runners, and produces small fragrant white flowers w/ hot pink flecks and little rose hips. Something genetic and interesting went on out there over the last quarter century while no one was watching... call it what you will.

  • Rainbow Zen

    P.S. The small rambling roses are a common type, and I got them from a local nursery. I don't remember the name or type of the pink roses, but they were imported from England

  • Mary-Anne Duncan

    My friend gave me two rose bushes one in pink and the other one was orange. I planted them together side by side. Both rose bushes now have pink and orange roses growing on the same bush.

  • Sumit Mohapatra

    i am not that sure but this change happen to come after i started my first crossing Experiment

  • onlyonepragya

    I have exact same thing going on at my house!!

  • Carla M. Spacher

    My baby rose bush has always produced orange-red flowers. This year some are violet-purple and the lower ones are orange-red.

    Last Spring, I planted some flowering ground cover in that pot. Could that have affected it?

  • tsanders86

    For the lady who said you should take your meds ,I take mine every day and my yellow roses now pink l.

  • lab brat

    Well I purchased light pink roses and now they are hot pink. My complaint is tiny compared to others, so I guess I'll keep quiet about how I planned to dig them up and return them. I'll just sit back and wait on the next color.

  • tsanders86

    I had mine for 5 years before it changed, so I can not take it back

  • Christina Kinvig

    So pleased to find this a nd Marj's question about a baby rose suddenly appeaaring in garden. This happened to me this month. I have 3 iceberg rose trees that were planted about 10 years ago and I found a baby rose plant in front of one of them and couldn't believe how it could have got there. I have put in a separate pot and look forward to seeing it flourish and check that it is related to the parent plants which BTW cost around $49 to buy!

  • Jennifer Hubbard

    my 4 year old Rose's are doing this too. Orginal Rose's are long stem yellow Rose's and new shoots from ground are multiple pink/red color. It's the first time I've seen this.

  • Dana Mathews

    Red rose bush is now producing pink roses & mixed pink/red roses.

  • Dana Mathews

    Spoke to the grower & she said that these bushes were grafted. Still strange to see the ones that are mixed, half pink, half red. But they are beautiful.

  • mmmm12COzone5

    I agree. Very pretty.

  • HU-187708968

    My violet pink rose went dormant for a year producing barren canes with no bulbs. Another winter came and went. I decided to give the rose another chance. Bulbs emerged as dark red and dark red blooms emerged as small, like tea rose variety. Very bizzare!

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