A Short History of Roses

Roses have long been a popular flower; whether it’s a personalised gift, or a cake, adding even a single rose can say much more than what words can. A reason for their popularity is the fact that these red flowers are readily available almost everywhere in the world.

But there are plenty of reasons why your eye may catch a glimpse of roses whenever you walk past a florist. Let’s go through a brief but beautiful history of roses.

Queen of Flowers

Exquisite beauty, powerful fragrance and ease of gardening aren’t the only reasons behind the title that has been bestowed on roses. In fact, history dates this all the way back to the Greek period; where it is said that Aphrodite bestowed the flower with joy and beauty and actually named the flower in honour of her son, Eros. Eros then went on to give the flower to Harpocrates as a silent promise. It is said that from this point on, the Rose became a symbol of love in silence.

Origin of the Rose

Fossil records reveal that Rosa rubiginosa, or the rose, is an ancient flower that originates all the way to central Asia, before eventually spreading towards the northern hemisphere.

The cultivation of the rose started in Asia almost 5,000 years ago. This can be proved by historical evidence stating that in 500 B.C, Confucius often wrote about growing roses in the Imperial Gardens.

Based on historical geography, roses can be grouped into:

  1. European Roses: roses originating from Europe include, Damask Perpetuals, Mosses etc.
  2. Oriental Roses: these are popularly known as Tea Roses.

History of Symbolism

The Romans first associated roses with love and beauty. It is said that Roman emperors would often bathe in Rose water, and even use the petals of the red rose as confetti.

On the other hand, early Christians often warned the Romans and stated that the rose was a sign of oppression rather than beauty. This belief however, was ignored, and soon enough, roses became a part of the Christian culture as well.

Shakespeare often used roses as a symbol of beauty in his poetry. He would often claim that the Rose was dominant amongst all other flowers because of its beauty, and would compare his lover to a rose.

In this way, we can say that a bouquet of roses symbolises much more than just love.

Rose Hybrids

Once roses gained popularity in Europe, European monasteries ensured the preservation of roses in the 17th century by cross-breeding various types of roses to produce new species.

For example, the China Rose was crossed with Rosa Gigantea, which resulted in the formation of the Tea Rose. This variety was named such due to its smell, which was said to resemble that of an ‘exquisite and fresh cup of tea’.

These hybrids of roses were popular in the 19th century, and in the mid of the same century is when scientists made a breakthrough. The Tea Rose was crossed with hybrid Perpetual roses to make ‘modern hybrid tea rose’, which is quite famous even today.

This rose has become the standard for all roses.


The tradition of giving flowers is said to date back all the way to the Victorian age. The Victorians considered it bad manners to express feelings in words, this is when the concept of gifting a bouquet of roses came into being.

This tradition carried on through the middle ages, and is still very much alive today.

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