Seed World

Roses for Valentine’s Day? The Tradition has a Surprising History

There’s one day that rose breeders and florists alike prepare for: Valentine’s Day. It’s the biggest day of the year for selling roses of all colors: purples, pinks, yellows, whites and, of course, the classic reds.

How much do you know about the history of roses, though? Get ready to impress at your Valentine’s dinner with a history lesson.

Roses Timeline

  • 2700 BC — Roses were cultivated in China.
  • 2684-2630 BC — Sumerian King Sargon brought vines, figs and rose trees from a military campaign.
  • 600 BC — Greek poetess Sappho described roses as the “queen of all flowers”.
  • 15th Century — Roses were used to symbol factions fighting to control England during the “War of Roses”.
  • 1699 — William Penn imported 18 rose bushes from England to the U.S.
  • 18th Century — Cultivated roses were introduce into Europe from China, and begins the start of modern rose hybridization.
  • 1824 — Pierre Joseph Redoute, a botanical illustrator, finishes his watercolor collection “Les Rose”.

“OF ALL THE FLOWERS, ME THINKS A ROSE IS BEST.” width=William Shakespeare

Quick Facts:

  • According to fossil evidence, the roses is 35 million years old.
  • The rose has 150 species spread throughout the Northern hemisphere.
  • The rose is the U.S. national flower.
  • There are many classes of roses, including the hybrid tea roses, grandiflora roses, floribunda roses, miniature roses, climbing roses and landscape or shrub roses.
  • In the U.S., the first known rose breeder was the father of our nation, George Washington, but John Adams is credited with first planting roses on the lawn of the White House.

Rose Statistics

1 billion is the amount of stems a year the florist rose industry produces.

30,000 acres is the amount of rose greenhouses worldwide used by the florist industry.

35 million is the estimate of units of roses sold each year.

60% is the amount of hybrid tea roses grown in the U.S.