Pink Roses: History, Types and Meanings

Pink roses are considered to be the most dainty of all roses (and I say that knowing that a color isn’t one specific type of rose). 

This is interesting because while they are no less hardy than other colors, people tend to treat them more gently when growing them, and reserving them as gifts for special occasions or as confessions of affection.

This may be due to the associations with traditional femininity and the ideas of delicate beauty, which can even inspire some protective qualities within us. 

You may find that you keep a more watchful eye over your pink roses than other colors, though these roses have survived for countless years without a lot of human intervention.

It’s an interesting concept: how differently we treat a plant according to how the color makes us feel, either consciously or not. 

Pink encourages feelings of affection and love, but not necessarily romantic love.

It’s probably the pink rose that’s the oldest of all, and they are considered to be the ancestor of many modern types of rose. 

It’s a testament to their popularity and the sheer emotion that the color provokes, that though we already have a vast amount of pink varieties, breeders are still cultivating new types of pink roses to be admired in gardens and as cut flower gifts.

The pink rose remains one of the most popular pink flowers that we cannot help but cherish.

Read on to discover the history of the pink rose, varieties you can grow in your own garden, and the meaning behind this enigmatic bloom. 

The History Behind the Pink Rose

Unlike the orange rose, which had to be bred into existence as it didn’t occur naturally, the pink rose has been around longer than human civilization has existed

Of course, they didn’t always look like what the popular varieties do today. Wild roses are the most similar, in which they have five petals, and a more visible central ‘eye’. 

The pink rose is thought to be the oldest species of rose. Archaeological evidence which dates back to 40 million years ago discovered a fossilized rose, with the pink petals still somewhat intact. 

If that isn’t a very cool fact, I don’t know what is. Some colors of roses we’ve actually bred into existence, like the orange rose, and the ‘blue’ rose, and the nearly black roses. 

It’s believed that the pink rose was the first one to be cultivated and hybridized. 

One of the main species which has helped found the modern roses that we know today is the gallica rose, or ‘Officinalis’. 

Before cross-breeding roses was really a thing, humans still used wild roses to produce rosewater and scent. 

The ancient Romans also grew them commercially, as medicinal aids, confetti, perfume, and  ingredients in cosmetics. 

During the Roman Empire, some farmers were forced to grow roses instead of the food they needed in order to meet the huge demand of the elite. 

The gallica rose features single or even semi-double flowers, and while the exact origins of the gallica rose is unknown, the 12th century Persians regarded it as a symbol of love, which is one of the earliest written records of this species. 

The gallica rose was introduced into France from the Middle East in the 1300s, by crusaders.

While roses had been grown deliberately for centuries, it wasn’t until the 18th century that breeding roses became widespread across the world. 

This is when the “Old Roses” became popular, and these are still grown today.

People began to breed roses to make them bloom throughout the year, and to discover new shades and petal formations. As it became easier to cross-breed roses, and we invented new methods, the number of cultivars got bigger, and bigger, and bigger.  

Here are just some of the fabulous possibilities of varieties you can grow in your own garden. There’s a rose for every space, and every position imaginable.

Pink Roses You Can Grow in Your Own Garden

Rosa ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’

‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ is not a well-known variety, but it deserves to be. It’s ideal for pots, rose borders, and anywhere that gets full sunlight. 

It grows as a medium-sized shrub, and produces blush pink flowers which have a fantastic fragrance, from the early days of summer and well into autumn.

Rosa ‘Bella’

If you’re after a much stronger pink, ‘Bella’ is a good option. This is a species rose, not the floribunda ‘Bella Rosa’, which is an easy mistake to make.

This rose produces flowers which bear around 7 petals, and because the plant is nearly thornless, it’s suitable for high traffic areas. 

Rosa ‘Boscobel’

A coral pink rose, this is a striking shrub rose which was originally bred by David Austin in 2012. The flowers are huge, and resemble the old roses, which have countless petals. 

They also have the added benefit of being heavily scented, carrying a myrrh fragrance with notes of almond and hawthorn. 

It gets to 3 ½ feet tall, and spreads about the same, making it perfect for borders and containers alike. 

Rosa ‘Eden’

‘Eden’ can reach up to 13 feet tall, and is a fairly new hybrid, introduced in the 1980s by Marie-Louise Meilland. The flowers are white and light pink, and the plant itself has a climbing habit, making it suitable for fences, walls, and the sides of houses. 

Rosa ‘Emily Brontë’

If you’d prefer a strongly tea-scented rose, ‘Emily Brontë’ is a good option. 

The flowers are interesting as the closer to the center the petals get, the richer the color becomes, until the soft pink turns into a rich apricot. 

It also has the benefit of growing upward, but in a bushy manner. 

Rosa ‘Ispahan’

An old rose, these lovely pink blooms only flower during the season, but they are worth the wait. It prefers shady areas, and can reach 5 feet tall, and spreads to around 4 feet wide. 

‘Ispahan’ produces gorgeous half-open flowers, and has a distinctive scent. While the breeder is unknown, we know that it was bred around the year 1832. 

Rosa ‘Kazanlik’

One of the first Damascus roses, ‘Kazanlik’, or ‘Trigintipetala’ was introduced in 1612. 

Each flower bears around 30 petals in a double bloom, in a light pink. It’s also a popular rose used in perfume for its heady fragrance. 

Rosa ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’

One of the first bourbon roses which was hybridized in 1881, by Garçon, this is a gorgeous rose which carries a ‘true’ scent. The blooms themselves are large, and are popular cut flowers with their deep shades of fuchsia. 

There is a trade-off with ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’, though. While this is a very beautiful rose, it’s quite vulnerable to black spot and rust, more so than other cultivars. 

Rosa ‘Mortimer Sackler’

If you’d prefer a climbing rose with an unusual flower, ‘Mortimer Sackler’ is the rose for you. This plant produces light pink roses in huge sprays, which happens over a long flowering season.

It also has the benefit of smelling like an old rose, with a hint of citrus, but without the particular vulnerability to disease. It’s ideal for any surface that’s at least 6 feet high, as this climber can get to 12 feet without much trouble at all. 

Rosa ‘New Dawn’

‘New Dawn’ also goes by the name ‘Everblooming’, due to the prolific flowering habit this gorgeous plant has. 

And while it does produce a sea of flowers, and it is a fast-growing plant, it might be surprising that this plant needs partial shade in order to thrive. 

The flowers themselves are pale pink, which mature to a lovely white. 

Rosa ‘Orchid Romance’

This lovely rose is a repeat bloomer, and produces citrus-smelling flowers in shades of vivid pink, which pale as they get older. It was created in 2011 by William Radler. 

Rosa ‘The Lady of The Lake’

This rose is a bee magnet, and as a rambling rose, will happily grow up arches, pillars, or walls or fences which are 10 feet tall or higher. 

The flowers themselves are semi-double, and while they are pale, they have a fragrance that’s anything but. 

Rosa ‘Zephirine Drouhin’

‘Zephirine Drouhin’ was bred by Bizot in 1868. 

Also known as ‘Charles Bonnet’, this lovely rose is ideal for large spaces that need a lot of color. 

It produces huge deep pink flowers, and gets to a maximum height of 5 meters, so it’s not suitable for containers or small spaces. 

The Meaning Behind the Pink Rose

While as a species, we’ve loved flowers since as long as we’ve been on earth, pink roses are still pretty top of the list, and they were the first roses in cultivation.

While we recognize cultures throughout history across the globe for very different things, such as the ancient Romans, the ancient Greeks, the Victorians, and the Middle East, they all loved pink roses. 

It’s an affection that’s carried through the ages, and this enigmatic flower has meant widely different things to different cultures.

Both the ancient Greeks and the Romans considered the pink rose to be a symbol of the goddess of love, Aphrodite, or Venus, as well as a confession of love where words might fail them. Pink roses are also linked to a first love which inspired a lot of passion. 

To the Victorians, pink roses conveyed a warm affection for someone, though that didn’t necessarily mean romantic affection. 

The shade of pink also helps clarify the meaning. A hot pink rose is used as a confession of your feelings for someone, or your appreciation for something they’ve done for you.  

Paler pink hues symbolize grace, gratitude for someone, and happiness. They can also symbolize a very new love. 

It’s interesting to note that although we’ve been growing roses for thousands of years, the symbolism behind the pink rose has never really changed. 

They still represent love and affection that other people and indeed nature inspire within us, as well as serving as confessions to those feelings we can sometimes struggle to put the right words to. 

In some places, roses are considered a vital part of life, and even as a food source for the leaner months, where the petals and hips are preserved for winters. These roses symbolize vitality. 

Roses have been part of many cultures throughout the world for thousands of years, and it would be difficult to imagine a world without them.

While we cannot pinpoint exactly what it is about these gorgeous roses that provokes such emotion and passion within us, it’s a safe bet that we’ll continue to grow them, develop new varieties, and love them for years to come.

If you cannot get enough of pink flowers, why not try Top 55 Pink Flowers For Your Garden?

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