Heirloom Roses: Seven Sisters Rose

Updated on March 18, 2019
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

Seven Sisters Rose
Seven Sisters Rose | 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. In their final phase, the flowers fade to a cream color. Plant the Seven Sisters rose and you won’t have to settle for just one color!

What is the Seven Sisters Rosebush?

The Seven Sisters rose is a multiflora rambler rose that is native to China. It was introduced in Britain in 1817 by Charles Greville. It is often called “Grevillei” in honor of him. Because this rose 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.

A multiflora rambler rose is a rose that climbs and bears its flowers in clusters

How to Grow a Seven Sisters Rosebush

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 customarily grown up walls or trellises but will produce more blooms if trained horizontally along a short fence because the canes will be exposed to more sunlight when grown horizontally rather than vertically.

They bloom once a year in the late spring. Once the spring flush of blooms is finished, remove them. Sporadically through the summer and early fall, your bush may produce more flowers though not as abundantly as in the spring.

The flowers are small, measuring 1” to 2” across, and are heavily double. Heavily double means that there are more petals than is usual for a double flower. As noted above, the flowers open dark pink, then darken to purple before fading to cream as the flowers die. Because it flowers in clusters, the bush can have flowers in different stages and different colors at the same time. It was nicknamed “seven sisters” because like sisters, the flowers look similar but change as they mature.

After the blooms have faded, if they are not removed, in their place in the fall will be bright red rosehips that are also attractive.

Like most heirloom roses, Seven Sisters is disease resistant and is easily propagated from cuttings.

My Seven Sisters rosebush growing against a fence.
My Seven Sisters rosebush growing against a fence. | Source

How to Prune a Seven Sisters Rosebush

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 give it a more extensive pruning. 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.

It is important to wait until after your rosebush has finished blooming to prune green growth. Seven Sisters blooms on old wood which means that this year’s flower buds were formed last year. If you prune off the green growth in the spring prior to blooming, you will be cutting off the buds for this year’s flowers.

Always use clean, sharp pruners. Cleanliness is important if you have more than one rosebush. Disease from one plant can be transferred to other plants if you do not clean and sterilize your pruners in between. Dull pruners will crush, rather than cut branches. Crushing them will damage the branches, inhibiting growth. Cuts should always be made at a 45 degree angle away from the last bud.

In the fall, the clusters of flowers are replaced by clusters of rosehips
In the fall, the clusters of flowers are replaced by clusters of rosehips | Source

How to Propagate a Seven Sisters Rosebush From Cuttings

Woody cuttings, i.e. cuttings made from plants that have woody stems such as shrubs and trees, are notoriously difficult to root. Roses are an exception. They root very easily from cuttings.

You can take a cutting in the spring which is known as a soft wood cutting because the branch is actively growing or you can take a cutting in the late fall or early winter, which is known as a hard wood cutting because the branch is now dormant. Strip off the leaves on one end of your cutting, dip the cut end into rooting hormone and then press it down into the soil in a container or even directly into the soil in your garden. The rooting hormone just speeds up the process of root formation. It is not necessary if you don’t have any or prefer not to use chemicals. When you see new growth on your cutting, you will know that roots have grown.

How to Propagate a Seven Sisters Rosebush Using Layering

Another technique that is often used to propagate roses is called layering. After your bush has finished blooming, take one of the branches and bend it down until it touches the ground. Anchor It in place and cover the middle with soil. Don’t cover the entire branch with soil. Just the middle where you want roots to grow. Keep it watered and when you see new growth on the tip of the branch, you will know that roots have formed. Now you can sever the branch from the bush. Carefully dig up the newly formed root ball and transplant it to its new home elsewhere in your garden.

Questions & Answers

  • Can you help to identify the rose bush that I have? I have an old white rose bush that was my grandmothers, and I transplanted it to my house. It has seven small blooms on one stem. Can you tell me what the name of it is? I also want to prune it as it has some very old branches that I probably need to cut off. They are pretty large in diameter. I don't want to kill it. Can you help me with this?

    Your best bet to ID your rose is to look at photos, and descriptions on online heirloom rose catalogs such Antique Rose Emporium and Heirloom Roses.com. You don't need to prune branches if they are large. The only pruning you need to do is to remove any dead branches.

  • Where is the best place to buy the Seven Sisters rose?

    It's always best to buy plants from local nurseries that grow their own stock so that you are buying plants that have been raised in your climate conditions. However, some plants like heirloom roses are not readily available so you have to turn to mailorder catalogs or the internet. I have had good luck purchasing from Jackson & Perkins rose catalog and from the website heirloomroses.com.

  • How do you plant a Seven Sisters rosebush?

    That depends on how you buy it. If you buy a potted rosebush, just dig a hole the same size as the container. Remove the root ball from the pot and place it in the hole. Water well.

    Rosebushes are also sold as bare root plants meaning you get the plant without a container. The roots are bare. Soak the roots for 12 hours before planting. They dry out when they are not in soil. Dig a hole that is large enough to accomodate the entire root system. Then shovel some soil back forming a mound in the middle of the hole. Spread the roots over the mound. This will support them as you fill in the hole. When the hole is half filled, give it a good watering. Finish filling the hole and water again.

  • Why does the seven sisters rose lose its leaves?

    Heirloom roses are unfortunately susceptible to black spot which results in defoliation of the plants. My experience growing heirloom roses taught me that the plants look lovely in the spring when they are blooming and have all of their leaves, but by summer both the flowers and the leaves are gone, and they turn into ugly bare bushes. Fortunately, heirloom roses are extremely tough and survive the black spot and consequent defoliation each year to return in the spring, larger and with more blooms.

  • How do you propagate Seven Sisters roses?

    Propagation can be done in the spring or the fall. In the spring, you want to propagate with softwood cuttings. Softwood cuttings mean that you use the middle part of a branch. Cut off the ends that are woody near the plant and at the other end of the branch where it is soft and green. You want to use the middle part that is neither woody nor green. Remove all the leaves from one end and dip that end in rooting hormone to encourage root growth. Insert your cutting in a container filled with soilless mix. Roots should start to develop within just a few weeks. When the roots start to grow out of the bottom of the container, your cutting is ready to be transplanted outdoors.

    In the fall, you want to propagate with hardwood cuttings. Hardwood cuttings are taken during the late fall through early winter when the plants are dormant. Ideally, you want to take your cuttings right after your rose has dropped its leaves in the fall. Cut off the soft, green end of the branch. Then cut small slits in the other end to expose the interior cambium layer where the roots will develop. Dip that end in rooting hormone to encourage root growth. Then you can either place the cutting in the ground outside or root it indoors like you did the softwood cuttings in the spring. The outdoor cuttings won't be ready to transplant until the following fall.

© 2014 Caren White


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      14 months ago

      Yes, you can easily root cuttings from a Seven Sisters rose bush. Cut off a branch of your rose that is green and healthy. Strip off all of the leaves from one end and dip that end into rooting hormone. Then you can stick your prepared branch in a container of soil-less mix or directly into the ground in your garden. The rooting hormone will encourage the cutting to develop roots quickly, but you can also just stick the branch into the ground and keep it moist until it develops new roots.

      Taking cuttings in the spring is known as soft wood cuttings because the branches are actively growing. You can also propagate your roses in the late fall or early winter using the same technique. In this case, it’s known as a hard wood cutting because the plant is dormant in the late fall and winter.

    • profile image

      gary pitts 

      14 months ago

      can you root a cutting of a seven sister rose bush and tell me how

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      14 months ago

      Judy, Jackson & Perkins is a reputable catalog and has a good selection of roses.

    • profile image

      judy pitts 

      14 months ago

      where can I order a rose bush


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)