How to Grow a Seven Sisters Rose, an Heirloom Rosebush
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, It's best to remove them. If you do that, 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 in the fall, if they are not removed, in their place will be bright red rosehips that are also attractive.
Like most heirloom roses, Seven Sisters is disease resistant and is easily propagated from cuttings.
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. Keeping your pruners sharp is important because 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.
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
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.
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.
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.Helpful 4
How much sunlight do Seven Sister roses require?
Seven Sisters roses can tolerate semi-shade, which is 3 to 6 hours of sunlight per day. If you plant it in a spot that gets morning or afternoon sun, it should be okay. It grows best in full sun, 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. Lots of sunlight will prevent fungal disease which is more likely to develop in shady situations.Helpful 3
© 2014 Caren White