The Enchanting Purple Rose: History and Meanings

Roses are captivating in any color, but purple roses elevate the flower’s beauty to another level entirely. 

Purple is a velvety color which simply oozes grandeur, royalty, and mystery. It hints at the depth of passion this rose can inspire, and what it can deliver as a message to a loved one.

Purple roses contrast beautifully against the green foliage, allowing you to appreciate all aspects of the plant all the more. 

Purple isn’t a shade that occurs in natural roses – like orange roses, they have been bred into existence by humans. Unlike orange roses, there isn’t a definite date or hybrid that documents the first purple rose.

Read on to discover more about the mysterious purple rose, and the different varieties that bear purple blooms.

History and Origin of Purple Rose

By the 1800s, people were becoming more and more adept at breeding roses. 

That’s not to say that they hadn’t before this period in time, but industrialization allowed for more innovation. It also provided the technology needed to produce better quality roses and to satisfy the ever-growing demand of what was possible.

As soon as new varieties were created, people wanted more of them, and ones they’d never seen or heard of. 

Purple roses first came into existence as a result of crossing European varieties with those native to China. 

The anthocyanins (a fancy word for the red, blue, and violet natural pigments found in plants) and the carotenoids (yellow, orange, and red pigments) combined eventually produced purple roses. 

While the blue rose (see also Blue Rose: Origins, Meanings, and Facts) remains out of reach for now, efforts to create it has led to the creation of other purple varieties, creating a truly vivid and wide spectrum of purple roses available.

Roses themselves lack delphinidin, which produces blue. You may notice that the word looks similar to delphinium, which produces some of the most vivid blue flowers available. 

When delphinidin is incorporated into the rose gene, it brings out the existing warm pigments found in the rose, making it harder to create that elusive blue. 

What Are The Different Varieties of Purple Roses?

Rosa ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’

A hardy rose which is easy to grow, ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’ produces large double blooms, with a contrasting yellow eye. It also produces a heady scent.

This rose is perfect to grow along the borders of your property and downstairs windows, as it bears very prickly stems, deterring intruders. It also does well as a hedge and tolerates shady positions, so you can plant it into the back of a border, for the flash of purple to shine through. 

‘Roseraie de l’Hay’ also produces rose hips in winter, which gives your garden much-needed color in the cooler months, as well as providing food for the birds. 

Rosa ‘Odyssey’

A floribunda rose, ‘Odyssey’ grows clusters of large lilac flowers, (see also Lilac Flower Meaning and Symbolism) with pink and yellow stamens at the center. It produces both single and semi-double blooms, adding variety into your planting scheme.

It thrives both in the middle of a border and in containers, and grows to a maximum of 3 feet high after a few years, as the plant matures. 

Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’

An old rose, this plant produces deep reddish-purple blooms with closely stacked petals, and emits a strong fragrance.

It’s a Gallica rose. Gallica roses are very old varieties of roses, and were originally grown by the Romans and the Greeks.

They feature huge blooms with around a hundred petals, depending on the cultivar, and are hugely fragrant, as well as being useful in medicine.

It grows into an upright hedge with stems that arch and need support as they get heavier, so this rose is good to have near a wall or a trellis to add height and color into your garden. 

‘Night Owl’ Rose

This climbing beauty can grow up to 5 meters tall, and has nearly thornless stems, so it’s a good choice for any tall structures that need a splash of purple. The roses on this plant smell a little like cloves, and feature dark purple blooms which get lighter into the center of the plant.

It was developed in 2005 by Tom Carruth. 

Rosa ‘Rose du Roi’

An older hybrid, this rose was created by Comte Lelieur de Ville-sur-Arce in 1812. If a dark purple is too deep a shade for you, try ‘Rose du Roi’. The roses that this plant produces are a dark, cherry-red with hints of purple. 

It bears nearly no thorns, so you can plant it near walkways or paths without getting attacked on your way. 

Rosa ‘Pure Poetry’

A hybrid tea rose, this variety produces ruby red to purple flowers. While the blooms are a classic hybrid tea-shape, they resemble an old-fashioned rose as they open.

This plant has strong stems, so they’re a little more wind resistant, but you should still plant it somewhere sheltered to protect the blooms from heavy wind. 

Rosa ‘Ebb Tide’

Featuring captivating blooms in a rich, plum purple, this plant has both the grandeur of an antique rose with stacked petals, combined with the modern disease resistance. 

If it wasn’t beautiful enough, it also produces a strong fragrance full of spice. 

It’s shorter than most floribunda roses, but makes for a stunning display both in pots and borders.

‘Ebb Tide’ also produces rose hips, and when it matures, reaches just over 2 feet tall. 

‘William Shakespeare 2000’ Rose

Bred by David Austin, this is an English rose that provides an ever-changing display. 

It produces rich, velvety double-bloomed roses which start off crimson, and transform into a rich purple as the flower matures.

It grows to 3.5 feet high, and spreads to 2.5 feet, so plan in advance if you want to plant this rose out! The name refers to how Shakespeare was voted ‘British Man of the Millennium’. 

Rosa ‘Basye’s Purple Rose’

This rose produces flat blossoms which vary from single to semi-double shapes. It was created in 1968 by Robert Basye. Under full sun, the petals fully open, and the plant grows to a maximum height of 5 feet, spreading between 2 and 3 feet wide.

Rosa ‘Burgundy Ice’

Another floribunda rose, this plant produces deep plum blooms which have silvery and pink tones, adding interest to an already beautiful plant. 

It produces blooms prolifically, and using them as cut flowers as well as deadheading spent blooms will mean that this plant will flower throughout the season.

Meanings and Symbolism

Purple is a color which has been linked to wealth and royalty for centuries, as the dye used to produce purple fabrics was made from sea slugs, in modern day Lebanon. 

The shade produced, “Tyrian purple”, was extremely rare, and took around 250,000 mollusks to create an ounce of the dye. Even during the period when Queen Elizabeth I reigned, purple was reserved for royalty. 

This adds a greater depth to the symbolism of purple flowers. Giving someone a purple rose indicates that you value them so much, you’d freely give them the wealth of the world, if you could.

A light purple or lilac rose symbolizes love at first glance, while darker shades of purple speak of a deeper connection, of when you’ve gotten to know every detail of the person you love.

Purple roses are also a symbol of the campaign to stop the sex trafficking of women and children, and to stop violence against them. It became a symbol, launched in 1989 to put an end to both. 

The color purple symbolizes empowerment, as well as artificial and forced design, as purple roses don’t occur naturally in the wild. It’s only through careful breeding that roses in purple shades have come into existence. It’s also a color that’s been used throughout the suffragette movement, alongside yellow and green, where it stood for loyalty.

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