Polyantha Roses.
...The Grandmothers of the Rose Bed.

I have always overlooked Polyantha roses and not just because they are short!



This low growing, very bushy rose is exactly as the name implies: a small plant that will cover itself with trusses of tiny blossoms, which makes it ideally suited for bedding, borders or for that matter, containers.

Polyantha Rose China DollTypical Polyantha roses are low growing, compact and continually blooming. Some are winter hardy but not all. The story is that a French gardener, rescuing a bush discarded by a local park, decided to breed some seedlings. The discarded bush was a chinese imported rose bush and when crossed with others, proved to be compact but vigorous growing.

The actual breeding line goes something like this:

Dwarf Rose Multiflora (crossed with) Dwarf China Rose.
This produced Hybrid Polyanthas.


Hybrid Polyanthas (crossed with) R.Multiflora, R. Rugosa and/or R. Wichuraiana
This produced Floribunda Roses.

Evidently the word "Polyantha" is Greek for 'blooming' and the very first Polyantha rose is attributed to Guillots' "Paquerette" which was introduced in 1875. The Polyanthas turned out to be great bloom producers, repeating through summer and fall. Blooms are generally 1 to 2 inches in diameter and in large clusters.

Colors are delicate creams, pinks and golds. The foliage is supposedly disease resistant but some disease, especially blackspot, has been noticed. These are great rose bushes for the warmer south and the more arid conditions. Some do not tolerate extreme cold. As was noted earlier, they have been surpassed by their younger relative the "Floribunda" and therefore tend to be overlooked a little.

Pruning Polyanthas is very similar to pruning Floribundas. Many small canes are produced, with clusters of many small flowers so deadheading would seem to be a problem but evidently it isn't as they drop easily. All dead canes should be removed but light pruning is the order of the day: no more than one quarter of the growth from healthy canes. Almost just like a haircut!

Some Polyantha Recommendations

Katharina Zaimet

Hybridized in 1901 in germany. White with delicate fragrance. Easy to grow, abundant blooms and easy care.

Marie Pavie

Tirt inches tall and very vigorous, this plant is the mother of Katharina Zaimet. Introduced in 1888, the semi-double blooms are pink fading to white. Developed originally in France, Marie avet is easy care and easy to grow. It is also disease resistant making it a great container plant or low hedge.

Mrs Nathalie Nypels

From the dutch Leenders in 1919, is a medium pink with a slight fragrance. This Polyantha rose won the Royal Horticultural Society's Garden merit Award in 1993.

Cecile Brunner

This rose was introduced in 1881. Tiny 'Tea Rose' shaped blooms, under 2 inches in diameter, are coral pink. Spicy fragrance, with few thorns on its stems. Very compact shrub that will flourish even in poor soil or partial sunny conditions. There is also a climbing variety.

Perle dÓr

Introduced in 1884, this is the yellow version (Or apricot changing to a golden pink) of Cecile Brunner. Good fragrance on pom-pom like flowers.Height to 4 feet in warm climates but smaller further north.

Other choices would include: La Marne, China Doll and the best for northern gardens, The Fairy.

Even though the Polyantha Roses have been overshadowed by the Florubundas, these small, compact bushes with masses of small, scented flowers, offer an interesting addition to our rose beds.

A fronting hedge, a container collection or perhaps a low ground cover, these roses of history still pay handsomely for their keep.

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