mutabilis as a parent?

I was wondering what people feel about ‘Mutabilis’ as a parent. I was in Houston last weekend for an Earthkind Rose Symposium sponsored in part by the Houston Rose Society and am more impressed about the Earthkind program than ever. ‘Mutabilis’ is one of the roses that earned an Earthkind designation as a winner. WOW!! There are plants around town 10-12’ tall. The plant reminds me of a ‘William Baffin’ in the North. They were still blooming, while many other roses were kind of dormant. I always thought ‘Mutabilis’ looked interesting in catalogs, but because it supposed to be relatively tender never thought of trying it in zone 4. I was able to take some cuttings of it. I noticed it supposed to be diploid. There were very limited numbers of hips on the ‘Mutabilis’ plants and they were small hips which were still green and didn’t seem to have many seeds inside. The flowers seemed to have a lot of pollen. What has others experiences been with using it as a parent? That new J&P rose ‘Happy Chappy’ kind of has the color of ‘Mutabilis’, but the parentage is not listed. I love this rose and think it would be fun to try crossing it with some of my hardier Northern roses.



I know that Louis Lens used it a bit to good effect, and I intended to give it a go in breeding when I lived in MN - but my plant was fairly new when I left. However, it’s done quite well there with winter protection (a heap of soil/mulch) because it really appreciates the warm summers - although I wasn’t sure it would make it through its first winter, since I planted it in November and it had been pretty well defoliated from diseases it had at the local big box store where I bought it. It was healthy from the next spring on. It also roots like a weed, so I’ve had fun plonking them in around the garden where I work. Some people can’t detect any scent, but when the flower is still opening in its apricot phase, I get something light but deliciously fruity and different from every other rose I’ve smelled.

I hope to be trying it myself soon, and hope to hear other people are getting good things out of it, too.

It is one of the best Winter bloomers here in the low desert.

It is unreliable as seed parent.

I registered one volunteer seedling, not that I was particularly enamored of it, but because it started to get passed around and I didn’t want the provenance lost.

Ashdown sells it. Apparently it resists blackspot. The color is quite muteable.

I have noted occasional PM problems with Mutabilis. The blossoms crisp when weather turns warm here.


Wow, Robert! It sure is a beautiful warm color!!! I wonder if it is a cross with something else in your yard because it is more than single and that is dominant to single. I’m really excited to try ‘Mutabilis’ as a parent and will try to use it primarily as a male from your experience. I wonder if it will cross with diploid hardy polyanthas. I sure hope it will.



My very first attempt to grow roses from seed was with open-pollinated Mutabilis seed. Not one seed germinated. I later tried some crosses with Mutabilis as a seed parent, and got few hips and no seedlings. I have gotten some seedlings from it as a pollen parent on diploid seed parents. This year I got many seeds from

(Mons. Tillier X Mutabilis) X Plaisanterie


Plaisanterie X (Mons. Tillier X Mutabilis)

No germinations yet. Plaisanterie was bred by Louis Lens from the cross Trier X Mutabilis.

I’ve never gotten any germinations using Mutabilis as seed parent either Jim. That’s why I latched onto this volunteer seedling when I realized what it was.

No David, I honestly don’t think Buttercream is an out cross. I think it’s a self which to me says something about the genetics of Mutabilis.

I think Mutabilis derives from a more complex origin than it’s simple appearance would indicate.

Buttercream behaves much like Mutabilis as far as fertility is concerned. The pollen is fertile but either hips don’t form or the seed doesn’t germinate.

It is a wonderfull rose. Not resistant here as touched by every deseases but very tolerant. More recurrent than most modern roses. It dislike hard pruning and from a slower start builds a very strong plant.

Me too years ago I had very poor germination from a big lot of Mutabilis seeds. Large not numerous seeds. It is a good setter and late maturing, quite hard thick walled hips often falling before maturity. May be needing some warm within hip after ripening?

Quit using it in person as its seedlings are mostly quite large.

Bermuda’s Kathleen is a Bermuda found rose thought to be a Mutabilis seedling. I have no personal experience with it, but it does produce many hips at least, so may be breeder friendly.



I’d bet that your polyanthas would accept ‘Mutabilis’ pollen. I’m a big fan of ‘Mutabilis’ - I have one that’s probably around 15-20 years old. It hasn’t gotten any care or winter protection (I’m in zone 7, about an hour’s drive Northwest of Washington D.C.), and is thriving in spite of the neglect.

I still have growing, a multiflora X ‘Mutabilis’ seedling that is pretty healthy and vigorous – among the open-pollinated F2 of this hybrid, I’ve gotten repeat-blooming seedlings.

My ‘Mutabilis’ sets large numbers of hips, but I haven’t grown any of its seeds.

I would have used ‘Mutabilis’ more in hybridizing, but some earlier attempts didn’t set hips, so I moved on to other roses. Maybe I should try using it again.

My earlier frustrating attempts were:

  1. crosses with gallica officinalis in both directions

  2. ‘Mutabilis’ pollen on (rugosa X palustris)

  3. ‘Mutabilis’ pollen on rugosa


I’ve never noticed any flower scent from ‘Mutabilis’ before, but my sniffer’s not the strongest – I’ll have to try smelling it again, at the just opening apricot stage, like you mentioned.


Darn it, ‘Mutabilis’ with rugosa was on my wish list. Well, it can’t hurt to be persistent :slight_smile:

If you happen to make the crawl around the beltway, you can come and sniff the ‘Mutabilis’ plants at the Nat’l Arb - pretty soon you’ll be able to find me out in the Asian Collection on any given workday again as I start my new position there. I hope to be adding roses, quite a few more roses if I have my way, in the near future!

It may be useful to use one of the Lens Mutabilis cultivars instead.

I think I bred 2 plants from Mutabilis X Toby Tristam…

not sure at 100% of the parents in my crosses, but nearly

Mutabilis as seed parent…

That’s 2 nice big ramblers, one with flower color like “wedding day”, the other with a mutabilis basis color, but sometimes becoming darker when aging, and sometimes decolorating in white…Marvellous “rose” scent when flowers are warmed by the sun.

I have now 2nd generation plants ( generally in yellow tones), and soon the 3rd generation.

I tried too the reverse cross (Toby Tristam X Mutabilis), obtaining a rambler with red single flowers… hum, quite disease prone this one.

I am near Paris, so the climate is not always warm enough for mutabilis. I have too Lens’ muabilis hybrids.

David I looked at my records, and I do have some information on breeding with ‘Mutabilis.’

I bought it for my first serious rose breeding season, to make diploid crosses. I didn’t know it was disease-resistant at the time, so I got it because Modern Roses listed it as diploid, and it was the only yellowish China rose I could find. China roses are supposed to be much hardier than the teas and their relatives. Pickering nursery in Ontario recommends them for zone 5 (-20 F) with heavy protection. I also have a friend in Grand Rapids who grows them outside, but his city garden is closer to zone 7. I lost mine to poor winter storage on my part, either too long or too dry at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (it had worked fine in previous winters). I have been so pleased with the few hybrids I got from it that I purchased a new one last summer, and I am attempting to over-winter it buried in a trench (in a pot).

I have two kinds of hybrids from it. The first set was a pair of crosses where the female parent was the Heirloom Roses R. blanda clone, and the male parents were ‘Mutabilis’ or ‘Old Blush.’ I didn’t do a good job on the tags when I planted them. I have 7, total. I have 2 I know are R. blanda x ‘Mutabilis’, 1 I know is R. blanda x ‘Old Blush,’ and the remainder are less certain. Describing the most certain Mutabilis ones, they are single, dark pink, and once-blooming. The plants are fairly large and upright (like both parents) and have thorns that clearly show the China influence. These plants have good disease resistance and winter-hardiness, but I lost a much larger number of plants from the same cross during their first winter outside. The one certain R. blanda x ‘Old Blush’ has double pink flowers and low fertility. This year, I got 3 OP hips with 5 seeds total, as well as 5 hips with 26 total seeds with polyantha pollen. The ‘Mutabilis’ crosses are almost completely sterile, set no hips to polyantha pollen, and set a total of 4 hips with 7 seeds on 2 different plants (one plant is one of the uncertain parentage ones). My attempts to place R. blanda (and many other) pollens on ‘Mutabilis’ were not successful: hips would form but not ripen, or have very few seeds, none of which would germinate and survive. I have always had very poor seedling survival for any kind of a cross with a North American species or R. rugosa on one side (male or female) and a China or tea on the other. I just had to grow a bunch to get any.

I also have a hybrid from Mutabilis crossed with pollen from the polyantha ‘The Gift,’ my only successful hybrid with ‘Mutabilis’ as a female. The plant is recurrent, with polyantha-style compact growth and clustered blooms. The blooms are intermediate in size, and are single and white. The buds are a light to medium yellow with peach tones, the color just never survives to opening. I have obtained seedlings by placing the pollen from this hybrid onto R. blanda. I once had a second plant of this cross, with smaller flowers, but I don’t know if I still have it.

I plan to try to use ‘Mutabilis’ again this year.

This makes me want to try something like Danae x Bengale Sanguine, lol. Or Bengale Sanguine (havent tried it as a seed parent yet) x Rosa primula.

I don’t know that I would consider mutabilis completely disease-resistant, but exceptional disease tolerance is certainly one of its qualities. It is very vigorous in the south and typically reaches 8 feet or more in height as it matures over several years. It outgrows any disease that does attack it. It typifies the china flower’s tendancy to darken with age and exposure to sunlight, rather than to fade. I don’t know what the origin of the yellow in buds might be.

Unfortunately, while I’ve never collected hips off it, I consider it to have flaws which have kept me from investing my very limited resources into crossing it. The diploid issue is one minor one, but the china foliage and twiggy growth have limited appeal as well. The flowers almost always have one petal with a crimp in it, and it is somewhat gangly and awkward. Strangely endearing faults to me, but not necessarily something I want to pass on…

My resources don’t break down bicolors into those which change hues by darkening with age, so I’m not sure how best to research modern roses with this particular china attribute. They are, in fact, pretty common in the modern teas. (Masquerade and many of its descendants including Faust, Rumba, and further down the line, Gemini and charisma for instance obviously have this attribute.) Many of my yellow roses are reddish in bud, but lose the red – that is to say it fades rather than darkens. I think that if you want to reinforce mutabilis’ attributes (or what I consider to be its attributes) it is important to find a parent which shares the color blend. I suppose that any modern has china genes and thus at least the potential to have inherited the potential for offspring with darkening color, but I don’t know. (Comments from others?)

Flutterbye is the only mutabilis seedling I know of which has mutabilis attributes of strong color change. It is a cross with a red-yellow blend rose, Playboy.

Flutterbye is not directly related to Mutabilis. That is incorrect information on HMF. I attached a comment for them a while ago about that issue.

I thought I read somewhere years ago that the “seedling derivative of Rosa soulieana” involved Mutabilis?

I could be wrong but as we know it would be much easier to get repeat from a cross of soulieana and Mutabilis, OR a selfed seedling of that cross?

This would give a basis from creating new triploid shrub roses which wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.

Thanks for the clarification. I thought I had seen conflicting info on Flutterbye, and was surprised when I saw it listed as a seedling.

Carruth may have obtained Flutterbye through a cross of Playboy and a sister of Long Tall Sally (Rosa soulieana x All That Jazz) That would help explain the purported fragrance of Flutterbye. (Then again, I see he did a number of crosses with R. s.) Sorry for taking the thread off-topic.

Scratch that theory. Long Tall Sally is more recent…

Still, an interesting potential parent, methinks…

This is what I wrote:

Fromwhat I remember, from when I first bought it, it was gossiped as “the new Mutabilis,” but nothing about being related.