White Roses Meaning, Symbolism and Varieties You Can Grow

While white is sometimes regarded as a bland color, this is not true in flowers. 

White flowers have been very popular for centuries, some carrying a lot of religious symbolism, and white roses in particular are among the most ornate and elegant blooms.

They’re also an important part of culture, ornament, and medicine. 

White hues also give your gaze a chance to “rest”, from the abundance of color found in nature to attract beneficial pollinators. 

White flowers can almost act as a “palette cleanser” for the eyes, to break up dramatic displays of different colors. 

White roses are found in all types – from ramblers, climbers, shrubs, to standard tree roses, so there’s an option for any outside space you have. If you wanted to go wild, you could have one of every type to create a truly stunning display!

They’re also favorites for weddings, celebrations, and bouquets just to treat someone (or yourself!) with. 

The History Behind the White Rose

White roses are among the oldest colors, unlike the orange rose, which has only been around for just over half a century. 

That is comparatively new, compared to the rose itself, which has existed for over 5000 years.

Just like red roses, white are among the most popular, and the petals were used in Ancient Rome for confetti at events, as well as utilizing the plants themselves in gardens. 

Roses have been a status symbol for centuries, and symbolize luxury, affection, and love.

Rose cultivation fell out of favor for a while after the fall of the Roman Empire, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still practiced, it was just less widespread.

It was mainly continued by monasteries, botanists, and gardeners.

White roses became increasingly popular with the links to religious beliefs, and the rose production industry boomed all over the world. 

Caring for white roses is the same as it is for any other color. As long as you get the basics right, you’ll be treated to beautiful blooms for many years to come. 

Some prefer shade and some prefer full sun, but this depends on the type of rose and the variety itself. All roses prefer well-draining soil to prevent disease, and will benefit from deadheading spent flowers in order to produce fresh blooms. 

The height a rose can grow to also depends on the variety and the conditions it’s grown in. 

What do White Roses Symbolize?

White is the epitome of simplicity, and widely symbolizes purity, innocence, and everything good in the world. For this reason, it has a lot of religious symbolism. 

In Christianity, white roses are a common appearance, representing spirituality, and empathy for those suffering. The rose was associated with the Virgin Mary, and eventually created the rosary as part of the Catholic Church. 

In the famous painting ‘The Feast of the Rosary’, which dates back to 1506, Albrecht Dürer depicts Virgin Mary giving out white garlands of roses to worshipers.

Some believe that white roses started out as thornless plants, which only became thorny when evil was introduced to the world.

The white rose was also used as a symbol of resistance to the Nazis, which was started in Munich in 1942. 

They left anonymous graffiti and leaflets to try to persuade people to resist the Nazis. It was a short-lived campaign, as the founders, Hans and Sophie Scholl, were later executed. 

There are several monuments memorializing the campaign and those that carried it forward, but one of the most profound is a permanent display on the pavement in front of the university building. 

Bronze replicas of the ‘scattered’ leaflets are set into the pavement, as it was reported that Sophie threw the leaflets into the air when she saw the Gestapo coming for her and the others.

White roses also symbolize eternal love, which is why they’re widely used both at weddings and funerals, signifying that love is stronger than death, and life’s trials. 

A single white rose in particular is a message of hope and respect, a gift that is simpler than huge bouquets, but is no less meaningful for it. 

What Rose Varieties Produce White Roses?

There are many varieties of roses that produce white blooms. Thinking of growing your own beautiful display of white roses to brighten up your garden?

Here are just a few examples to get you started. 

Rosa ‘Tranquility’

Featuring a light and fruity fragrance, ‘Tranquility’ is a medium shrub rose, which gets up to 4 feet tall, and spreads about the same. 

It was created by David Austin in 2012, and the buds start off a pale yellow, and the flowers turn pure white as they open. 

They require full sun and a sheltered position to prevent the wind from scattering the flowers before they’re ready to fall.

Rosa ‘French Lace’

A floribunda rose, this shrub will produce ivory white blooms which have a peachy-orange center, and the flowers are lightly scented. 

This variety was introduced in 1981 by Warriner, and is perfect as a low hedge or to fill out your borders, as it grows to a maximum of 3 feet high, and 2 feet wide. 

Rosa ‘The Garland’

A much older rose, this rambler was introduced in 1835 by Wells. The plant produces creamy-white, semi-double flowers for a single season during the height of summer. 

This plant is better suited for growing up walls or sturdy structures, as it can reach a lofty 15 feet high! It produces rose hips, and prefers a shady position. 

Rosa ‘Secret’s Out’

A hybrid tea rose, ‘Secret’s Out’ produces a captivating fragrance, and is fairly hardy. It was introduced around 2009 by Witherspoon Rose Culture. 

It can reach anywhere from 3 to 6 feet tall, and a similar spread. This rose needs full sun in order to produce the most flowers. 

Rosa ‘Alba Maxima’

This variety was introduced in the 1500s, and it’s not hard to see why it’s had such an enduring popularity. 

The flowers are creamy white, and have a strong fragrance which is typical of the old rose varieties. 

This shrub can grow up to 6 feet tall, and can spread to around 5 feet wide. ‘Alba Maxima’ is perfect for hedges, in a mixed border, and where it will get full sun or even partial sunlight for some of the day.

Rosa ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’

A Rugosa rose, ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’ produces large semi-double flowers in pure white, which have a hint of pink in the flower buds. 

It flowers earlier than some roses, and was introduced in 1852 by Cochet. 

This rose reaches a maximum height of 6 feet, and spreads to around 5 feet. 

Rosa ‘Little White Pet’

If you’re after a compact shrub rose, ‘Little White Pet’ is one of the best roses for repeat flowers. 

It’s a dwarf rose which produces white, pom pom-like blooms, with a lovely scent. 

It was introduced by Henderson in 1879. 

‘Little White Pet’ needs full sun for as long as you can provide it, and does best in a mixed border or in a dedicated rose border. 

Rosa ‘Iceberg’

As a winner of the Award of Garden Merit, given by the Royal Horticultural Society, you know this rose has to be special.

It’s regarded as one of the toughest roses which still provides a plethora of flowers during the season. The blooms are white, sometimes tinged with a light blush.

It was bred in 1958 by Kordes, and as a floribunda rose, produces more blooms than other types of roses.

Rosa ‘White Perfum De Provence’

A hybrid tea rose, this variety is known for its intense, sweet fragrance. It’s an upright rose which is equally happy in the middle of a border or in a container.

The roses themselves feature large white flowers with lemon-tinged centers. It’s also available as a standard rose, which can make a truly spectacular display in any garden. 

It flowers repeatedly from June until the temperatures drop in autumn. It’s also referred to as ‘The Diamond Wedding Rose’ which makes it a perfect gift for a wedding or a diamond anniversary. 

Rosa ‘Desdemona’

An English shrub rose, ‘Desdemona’ was introduced in 2015 by David Austin, named after the heroine in Shakespeare’s Othello, the wife of the titled hero, who met a tragic end. I won’t say any more than that, in case you’re not familiar with the play!

This rose is perfect for a number of uses – to fill a container with a bright display, to be grown as a hedge or as part of a border, or even to produce cut flowers. 

As long as you give this rose full sun and well-draining soil, it will produce flowers for years. 

The blooms have a strong scent typical of old rose varieties, and this one in particular is said to smell of cucumber and lemon zest. The flowers are white with a hint of pink, and feature a myriad of stacked petals. 

The plant itself reaches 3.5 feet tall, and spreads to around 3 feet wide. 

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