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Heirloom Roses: Seven Sisters Rose

Updated on July 19, 2014
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Caren White is a Master Gardener and longtime volunteer at Rutgers Gardens. She also teaches workshops at Home Gardeners School.

Seven Sisters rose blooming in different colors
Seven Sisters rose blooming in different colors | Source

Heirloom roses can grow to be enormous bushes. If you only have room for one, I recommend the Seven Sisters rose. It is called that because the flowers are borne in clusters and change colors as they age. The buds open pink and then darken to red and then purple. As the flowers age, they fade to a cream color. Plant the Seven Sisters rose and you won’t have to settle for just one color!


The Seven Sisters rose is native to China. It was introduced in Britain in 1817 by Charles Greville. Because it can tolerate poor soils and a little shade, it quickly gained popularity. Very soon it had found its way across the ocean to America and then spread across the continent as the West was settled.


The Seven Sisters rose is hardy through zone 6. It is sensitive to the cold and prefers shelter from the wind. It is a large rambler or climber with canes that can reach a height of 20 feet but usually only grow to 13 feet. They are best grown along walls or up trellises.

They bloom once a year in the late spring. The flowers are small, measuring 1” to 2” across, and are heavily double. As noted above, they open dark pink, then darken to purple before fading to cream as the flowers die. Because it flowers in clusters, it can have flowers in different stages and different colors at the same time. Hence the name, seven sisters.

It is disease resistant and is easily propagated from cuttings.


No pruning is necessary for plants that are less than three years old. Climbing roses need three years before they are large enough to flower. Pruning too early will prevent them from ever flowering.

Once your bush is old enough and large enough, an initial pruning can be done in late winter, removing dead and diseased canes only. Any dead leaves, branches or other brush should be removed from under your bush to prevent the spread of insects and disease.

After your bush has finished blooming you may prune it. On mature plants with many canes, cut down one third of the oldest and largest canes and then prune the remaining canes by one third. If your bush has only a few canes, you can forgo removing any and just prune their length by one third.

© 2014 Caren White


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