foliage color...

I believe I have visited this subject in the past, and apologize if some think I beat this topic to a pulp…

Today, I was noticing the distinctive, if subtle differences in the colors of leaves of sister seedlings.

Yesterday, having moved some potted roses around, a Reine des Violettes sat adjacent to my R. fedtshenkoana, and I couldn’t help but admire how the cool, silver foliage of the latter set off the dark mauve flowers of the former. (Wouldn’t it be spectacular to be able to hang that flower on that foliage!) Similarly, I have frequently noted how a darker, bluer, foliaged bush can set off a vivid pink, for instance. The same flower on another bush might not appeal to me.

Apple-green foliage, to my eye, seems to work best with some of the hotter-colored rose flowers, and bronze works fairly well with most colors.

My impression is that with the modern hybrids, foliage hue is every bit as unpredictable as flower – though to be sure the presence of certain pigments in a plant carries through to both leaf and petal – deepest red flowers commonly have dark leafed plants with deep burgundy new growth, etc…

I was just wanting to open up a discussion for folks to air their thoughts and observations, goals and results, pertaining to matching flower to foliage… I don’t suppose that getting flower and foliage planned in one cross is really that realistic, is it?

Philip, I have wondered whether foliage color has anything to do with the chloroplasts themselves. If it does, it would seem to be inherited through the seed parent.

Jim Sproul

An observation on foliage - I have found in my own seedlings that the shiniest leaves are the most pest and disease resistant.

A goal of mine is to produce attractive fall foliage. I’m using Rosa cinnamomea plena which has the most beautifully colored fall foliage, gold, pink and red hues. Now I just need to breed an attractive reblooming flower on it! Also I’m trying for an evergreen plant that will look good in winter months. I have a Bantry Bay op seedling that has not dropped a leaf even after being exposed to a below 0 Maine winter. It has a nice tan single flower that I hope will maintain it’s color and maybe double as it gets older.

Another goal is a rugosa hybrid without that wild looking puckered foliage. I want the rugged hardiness but not the rugged look.

Most rose plant descriptions in catalogs give as much room to the description of foliage as to the flower so I think that it is a very important part of the culling process in professional hybridizing.


I too was noticing the difference of in coloring and shape of my Fuchsia Meidiland OP seedlings. They range from dark green and narrow to lighter green and round. It

Jim, I hadn’t thought about that. Are the suplemental pigments actually located in the chloroplasts?? (And for that matter, on a tangent, do chimeras with variegated foliage inherit such through their mommas?)

The conventional wisdom, as I hear it Lori, is that the glossier leaves don’t provide a toe-hold for spores. Dunno how much there really is to that – consider the rugosas – ya can’t get much more toe-hold-able, and yet the species are pretty bullet-proof. (I don’t mind the texture of the individual leaves per se… with proper form and scale, I could see it as a nice feature.)

I suspect that there are multiple strategies, and that hybridizing two bullet-proof roses with differing strategies can weaken each of their respective mechanisms creating achilles heals in the offspring. Some have perhaps the glossy spore-shedding foliage, others a resistant cuticle, and yet others may just drop diseased foliage at the drop of the hat preventing a fungus from propagating and spreading. A resistent evergreen plant crossed with a drop-of-the-hat shedder may hold on tenaciously to diseased leaves and further infect itself.

Anyway, it sounds plausible…

Paul, R.f. is pretty healthy for me. RdV is not so much so in my humid climate.

R.f. is in the lineage of the autumn damasks apparently, and is reportedly the reason for their recurrence. I’m not familiar with the class, but it might give you some idea of potential… I haven’t actually crossed it yet, nor collected any hips.

I haven’t tried many modern purples, but am curious about Baby Faurax. I wonder about Wild Blue Yonder and some of the other new hybrids. Also Kim Rupert has a seedling of Cardinal Hume which sounds interesting…

Philip,thanks for the info.

I don’t have any of the modern purples either. I do have Charles de Mils, which I was hoping would flower for me finally this year. But it looks like it got hit pretty hard this winter and the canes look dead. I gambled and didn’t bury it last fall. Oh well, the trials of living in zone 4.

I likes the looks of Wild Blue Yonder too and would like to add it to my garden at some point. It has more of a old rose look it with a distintive color. I do like the color of Cardinal Hume also. I want to add so many roses to my garden but I have limited funds and space so I have to pick which I add wisely.

Back to the colored foliage, I have R.glauca that might or might not work with. It hasn’t proven to be very healthy and with the unbalanced meiosis(sp)I think it will be diffecult to work with. R. fedtshenkoana should be much easier to work with and since it already is repeat blooming it shouldn’t take as many gerations to reach my goal.


The Rosa californica here has apple-green foliage. Keep in mind, though, that the Rosa californica here is likely to be way different than variations in California, the rest of Oregon, Washington or the nursery trade.

As spring foliage is expanding I am year after year amazed at how beautifull and diverse are clean young foliages.

Obviously there is something to dig here.

Something for the long term breeder.

Imagine hemispherical rose bushes clothed with nice dense foliage, either glossy or felty, dark to light green to red or blue. Decorative even without flowers.

About rugosa foliage resistance to desease one can note that hybrids have often more glossy leaves than the other parent and often loose resistance.



Route 66 and Midnight Blue are a couple roses from Weeks that are darker than the ones you mentioned, but being new introductions they should be healthy plants.

Another HP similar in color to Reine des Violettes but a little darker is Erinnerung an Brod.


“I don’t suppose that getting flower and foliage planned in one cross is really that realistic, is it?”

I would say it depends on the species used (and I think one has to work with species). Regarding Rosa glauca, there is variation of course but the colour of the foliage is quite good in F1 hybrids. But to get an optimum amount of Rosa glauca foliage colour in the progeny, this species has to be used as the pistillate parent. It’s no problem, of course, to get pink flowers with Rosa glauca when a species/cultivar with pink flowers is crossed with Rosa glauca, since this species has pink flowers. Nor is it a problem to get white, when Rosa glauca is crossed with a species having white flowers (eg. ‘Louis Riel’). (Yes, I know. ‘Louis Riel’ has light pink flowers but they fade quickly to white). It remains to be seen if red flowers can be obtained with typical Rosa glauca foliage in one cross. I’m betting they can if the right staminate parent is used. For example, dark red Rosa gallica cultivars.

Species with gray green foliage, I think may be a different situation. I doubt the gray colour is strong enough to hold in F1 hybrids. But hopefully it would come out in F2 hybrids, whether the F1 hybrid was back crossed to the species, selfed or siblings crossed with each other. Fortunately, since there are species with gray green foliage having white flowers (eg. Rosa fedtschenkoana), it should be relatively easy to paint them the colour desired.

I think I’ve said it before. The next major advance in conventional rose breeding is developing more beautiful roses by combining attractive foliage/stem colours with the colour and form of the flowers. Reddish foliage/stems are particularly attractive, because (especially in cold climates) it is a colour more unusual in the landscape and therefore immediately attracts attention to it. Gray green foliage, on the other hand, because it is a more neutral colour emphasizes the colour of the flowers more. Especially if it is pink or red. Can you imagine a shrub with gray green foliage and hot pink flowers? It would be sensational!

Paul, how many generations into glauca hybrids have you gone? Any F2, 50% glaucas (i.e. (rose x glauca) x (rose x glauca)) with good recurrence and foliage color? That is a species I’ve wanted to see utilized more.

And are their any modern hybrid crosses which yield certain foliar attributes with some consistency (beyond the wichuriana hybrids) which you all use with regularity?

I confess to a preference to darker or glaucous (cool-colored) foliage. Sometimes the yellow greens just look a tad anemic to me. If on the other hand, I could see a rose with a chartreuse leaf that was distinct and unusual enough, that might be interesting as a specimen set off by, say, black or purple leafed plants (i.e., Tradescantia pallida, Strobilanthes, Ipomea batatas “blackie” etc.) especially if it had yellow flowers, BUT I really couldn’t see such in a rose garden per se… (“Doesn’t this foliage set off the blackspot nicely?”)

I really haven’t played with species – as I’ve said before, I spend more time theorizing my crosses! As a gardener in the deep south too, I have a hard time turning over real estate to non remontant roses – too many seem a waste of a really long growing season. (THat said, I do have a couple banksias and a rambler or two.)

One of my favorite foliages is on Curiosity, just for coloring.



I haven’t any Rosa glauca F2 hybrids, although this year I hope to germinate some ‘Louis Riel’ seeds that were likely selfed. However, there is an unnamed Rosa glauca selection developed at Skinner’s Nursery (Frank Skinner) many years ago that repeats its bloom and has typical foliage colour of the species. Because it repeats its bloom, it’s likely F2. It has occurred to me it might be a ‘Carmenetta’ seedling.

I’m not aware there are any modern rose cultivars with distinctive foliage. Unless, for example, some people would put ‘Dortmund’ with its holly-like foliage in that category. In any case, even if a modern rose cultivar had distinctive foliage the parentage is often so complex it would be difficult to breed it for foliage characteristics.

“Distinctive” is certainly a relative term, but even subtle differences in foliage can make a huge difference in overall impression. I don’t think the Bonica roses would be a hit if their foliage were typical tea rose green and matte. The slightly darker leatherier rounded leaves are a definite asset to the blossom, to my mind.

Rose Rhapsody was one I once acquired because of its pedigree, and I was afterwards intrigued by its apple green deeply creased (almost rugose) foliage (of which others expressed a strong dislike). I wasn’t wild about the deep dusty pink bloom combined with the apple green foliage, but the foliage itself intrigued me…

Someone on this forum once posted a link to a variegated rose with a yellowish splash on the foliage. While it would probably look diseased in a typical rose garden, were it healthy enough to serve as such, it could be an interesting accent plant in the right combination in a perennial border…

Curiosity is another plant that intrigues me, yet also runs a risk of looking diseased. (I should say that white variegation, to my mind, is often safer than yellow in that regard.) Were its foliage bolder (larger) and its growth more compact, I think it would be spectacular. (I should acknowledge that I express my reservations without having ever seen the actual plant in person!)

I do not know of any breeding route that has any consistency in producing variegated foliage, as I imagine they are typically chimeras…

I’m having deja vu, and hope I’m not being redundant from an earlier post…

I have the Wichuraiana one (there are two that seemed to be named curiosity) and the foliage to my eyes does not look diseased. It’s really variegated through and through so it looks about like other plants that have that kind of decorative foliage. The new foliage also is kind of pinkish colored, which makes it attractive. Everything else about it however is not really great. It doesn’t have a good growth habit, and it neither likes too much sun or shade. It’s flowers are puny and sparse (TINY and white), and it’s disease resistance while ok is not super. The foliage though…does look really nice! The tiny leaves work ok on it, because it gives it kind of an elfish look.

I’m hoping if I find a spot it likes, or maybe make a mass planting of them it will improve the way it looks. However, all that being said I still think it’s worth it to get just because of the foliage. It’s extremely unique looking.

It seems to me that selection should eventually provide us with roses possessing foliage in aesthetically pleasing solid purples and golds, just as it has with so many other shrubby species. I have a rooted florist’s rose from a Valentine’s Day bouquet that has a hefty amount of purple in its foliage compared to any other modern rose I’ve seen. It also has great petal substance and, amazingly, fantastic disease resistance in the humid Midwest - I’ve never seen a speck of blackspot on it. It’s a deep pink/red with a white reverse; I’d like to try its pollen on R. glauca just to see what happens. This will have been its first winter when it wasn’t completely buried, so I hope it survived well.