There's Much More Into Cut Rose Breeding Than You Might Think

Learning more about the art of rose growing at Jan Spek Roses, a Royal Company.

By: THURSD. | 19-06-2024 | 9 min read
How It Works Roses
Rose Breeding Explained

Rose breeding is a meticulous process that involves selecting and hybridizing roses to develop new varieties with desirable traits. Erik Spek, a true 'rose-connaisseur', invited the team of Thursd at the Jan Spek Roses Greenhouse at the 'Shopping Mall of Roses' at the Nini farms in Naivasha, Kenya. To tell all about the art of rose breeding, and to show new coming varieties of which Erik Spek explains why a specific rose is promising, and another might not be. Which traits matter in rose breeding? When you find a good rose, what's next? How does it work from breeder to grower to wholesaler to market? Sit down, relax, and let's dive into the art of rose breeding with Erik Spek.


Art of rose breeding Erik Spek
Erik Spek showing some of his roses in his greenhouse in Naivasha, Kenya


Let's start with the market. Many roses end up in a flower shop or supermarket. You might not know, but these awesome-looking roses have gone through a long road. For the end customer, but also the growers, traders, and floral designers, the following key specifications are essential in the art of rose breeding:

The Art of Rose Breeding

Now, all these traits are to be found in the genes of the roses. Breeding a new rose is a unique mix of art and science requiring patience and dedication. From pollination to sale the whole process of creating a new Rose takes somewhere between four and five years. Rose breeding combines art and science to create beautiful, resilient, and unique rose varieties. By focusing on these specifications, breeders can develop roses that meet the needs of both commercial growers and their customers like supermarkets and floral designers.

Whether you are a professional breeder, grower trader, or an enthusiastic floral designer, understanding the complexities of rose breeding can deepen your appreciation for these stunning flowers and inspire you to explore the fascinating world of horticulture.


Erik Spek with Rosemary Kimunya
Erik Spek with Rosemary Kimunya


Specifications and Traits Rose Breeders Seek

There are many traits and specifications the markets ask for. It is like an ongoing battle in the search for the best traits, making breeders compete with each other in an endless battle to find the best new roses.

Below are the most important specifications and traits with an explanation that rose breeders use to select the best new roses.


Erik Spek Rose Breeding leaf placement
Erik Spek shows why the placement of the leaves is important.


In the picture above you see that Rose Mont Royal has all the right traits, and so, also, really good leaf placement. The pure white Rose Mont Royal epitomizes breeding excellence, emerging as an exceptional choice for the best pure white rose. Answering the specific demands of contemporary flower markets. This rose offers both high productivity for growers and an elegant design for florists and consumers.

Rose Breeding Process

The art of rose breeding is a dynamic and evolving field that combines traditional methods with modern science. By focusing on both fundamental and advanced techniques, breeders continue to create stunning and resilient roses that captivate and inspire. By breeding roses with enhanced vase life and transportability, breeders can ensure that their varieties meet the demands of the floral industry. From growers and wholesalers to retailers and consumers. These traits are essential for maintaining the quality and appeal of roses from the moment they are cut to the time they are displayed in a vase. But as you see, there are many traits, and all are important for selecting the next best new rose.

The process for rose breeding in general goes as follows:

1. Selecting Parents

The 'parents' of each new rose are two mature roses that are crossed to create it. Knowing which two roses might complement one another well and having a strong sense of intuition about it are essential for successful rose breeding. Breeders are constantly searching for plants that will carry on the traits they want.

2. Hybridisation

After choosing acceptable parents, the breeders gather pollen from one and apply it to the other parent's stigma. This is known as cross-pollination, and bees would naturally carry it out. All the breeders together perform millions of manual cross-pollinations annually, removing pollen from the first parent with a little knife and applying it to the second parent with a paintbrush.

Eventually, a rose hip with about ten kid seeds—a blend of both parents—will develop from the cross-pollination. Similar to human offspring, every one of those seedlings will possess an entirely distinct blend of traits from both parents.

3. Seed Sowing

When the hips are fully mature, they allow the breeders to harvest the baby seeds. Then they plant an enormous amount of individual seeds on benches within the greenhouses. These seeds will sprout into little plants with sporadic flowers.

4. Initial Selection

Every germination seedling is evaluated by the breeder at the start of the selection process. Any promising seedling will move on to a field for trials so that it can be evaluated even more. Usually, many distinct seedlings are chosen.

5. Field Trials

Now it's time to evaluate mature rose plants. For the following years, breeders closely evaluate the plants for all the traits they hope to achieve. They pick the best seedlings each year and multiply them.

6. Final Selection

By now they have many plants to assess. At this vitally important stage, breeders are looking for the few roses that they believe are truly worthy of being introduced to the market.


Erik Spek, Rosemary Kimunya, and Steve Outram
Erik Spek, Rosemary Kimunya, and Steve Outram 


Advanced Techniques in Rose Breeding

Beyond the basic specifications, advanced techniques and considerations further enhance the rose breeding process. These include hybridization methods, genetic studies, and modern biotechnology tools.


South park Apple Jack and Mont Royal
Rose South Park, Rose Apple Jack, and Rose Mont Royal


Collaborative Efforts in Rose Breeding

Rose breeding often involves collaboration between breeders, botanists, geneticists, and horticulturists. Working together, these experts can share knowledge and techniques to advance the field of rose breeding.

Rose breeding is an intricate blend of artistry and science, requiring a deep understanding of plant genetics, horticultural techniques, and market trends. By focusing on key specifications such as color, head size, productiveness, disease resistance, thornlessness, and leaf placement, breeders can develop rose varieties that are both beautiful and practical. Advanced techniques and a commitment to sustainability further enhance the quality and appeal of new rose breeds.

As the field continues to evolve, collaboration and innovation will drive the creation of roses that meet the diverse needs and preferences of gardeners, florists, and consumers worldwide. The art of rose breeding not only enriches our gardens and floral arrangements but also contributes to the ongoing appreciation and cultivation of one of nature's most beloved flowers.


Jan Spek Rozen banner


What is Rose Breeding?

Rose breeding is the process of creating new rose varieties by cross-pollinating different species or cultivars. The goal is to combine desirable traits such as color, fragrance, disease resistance, and bloom size into a single rose variety.

How Do Breeders Select Parent Roses?

Breeders select parent roses based on specific traits they wish to combine or enhance. These traits may include flower color, size, fragrance, disease resistance, and plant growth habit. The chosen parent roses are then cross-pollinated to produce seeds for new varieties.

What Are the Main Goals of Rose Breeding?

The main goals of rose breeding are to develop roses with improved aesthetics, such as unique colors and larger blooms, and to enhance practical traits like disease resistance, prolonged vase life, and better adaptability to different climates.

How Long Does It Take to Develop a New Rose Variety?

Developing a new rose variety can take several years, often up to 10-15 years. The process involves multiple stages, including cross-pollination, seedling selection, extensive testing, and trials to ensure the new variety meets the desired specifications and performs well in various conditions.

What Are Some Challenges in Rose Breeding?

Challenges in rose breeding include managing genetic diversity, achieving consistent and desirable traits, and ensuring disease resistance. Additionally, breeders must consider market trends and consumer preferences to develop roses that are both attractive and commercially viable.


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