Rose growers will tell you that roses have personalities about them. Whimsical, romantic, bold, mysterious, seductive. One rose that has an aura of elegance and majesty is the Queen Elizabeth rose. If you’ve ever visited a garden with a regal Queen Elizabeth in it, you probably couldn’t look away from it and even made an effort to get a closer look — just as you might if you caught a glimpse of the real Queen Elizabeth!
This post will take a detailed look at the history and characteristics of Queen Elizabeth roses, how to grow and care for them, and the different varieties and colors available to grow in your garden. We’ll also look at what flowers pair well with these roses in bouquets and decorative arrangements.
History of the Queen Elizabeth Rose
The Queen Elizabeth rose is indeed fit for a queen, so it is no surprise to learn it was specifically developed for one. In 1954 Dr. Walter Lammerts, an American, cultivated the Queen Elizabeth rose in celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation.
The Queen Elizabeth is a cross between the ‘Charlotte Armstrong’, and a Floribunda, the ‘Floradora.’ Resultantly, the Grandiflora Queen Elizabeth has long stems reminiscent of a hybrid tea but can also have multiple blooms like a Floribunda.
The Queen Elizabeth is considered the first real grandiflora rose.
The Queen Elizabeth rose has won numerous awards since its introduction in 1954.
- 1954 Portland Gold Medal
- 1955 All-America Rose Selection
- 1957 American Rose Society Gold Medal
- 1968 Golden Rose of Hague
- 1979 World’s Favorite Rose award.
- 2015 Award of Excellence for Best Established Rose
Characteristics of Queen Elizabeth Roses
The Queen Elizabeth rose, or Rosa ‘Queen Elizabeth’, is a grandiflora rose that grows up to 10 feet tall, with a spread of 3-4 feet. It’s a tall shrub with dark green foliage that profuse numbers of pink blooms pop against.
The roses are large (4-5 inches across), high-centered, full-petaled flowers that are a beautiful silver-pink color. The roses grow on long stems that have few thorns and there are one to several buds per stem. They have a mild, sweet scent.
Queen Elizabeth roses bloom from summer through to autumn. It is known to be very hardy and disease resistant. These roses are especially popular for cutting gardens, fragrance gardens, and butterfly gardens.
How to Grow Queen Elizabeth Roses
Queen Elizabeth roses are easy to grow, making them an excellent choice for beginners. They can be grown in garden beds and in containers — although they do get big and outgrow their pots quickly.
Queen Elizabeth shrubs need a minimum of six hours of direct sun per day and do best with up to eight hours.
Plant shrubs 36 inches apart for air circulation. This allows air to dry morning dew and lowers the risk for the spread of diseases between roses.
Queen Elizabeth roses prefer well-draining soil with a pH level of between 4.5 and 8 that falls between clay loam and sandy loam
Nearly all roses need soil that is moist, but not drenched. Watering every 2 to 3 days should be enough, but carefully monitor the soil moisture. Too much water causes fungal diseases, which weaken roses and leave them vulnerable to other diseases or pests.
Growing Queen Elizabeth Roses in Containers
Growing Queen Elizabeth roses in containers largely the same as for growing them in your garden. Bear in mind that these roses grow rather large and select a pot one-third wider than the plant and deeper than its roots.
There should be drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Adding a layer of gravel before the potting medium will also improve drainage.
Find a spot for these lovely plants on a patio, deck, or balcony that receives plenty of sun, but isn’t too exposed to strong winds.
As with roses planted in garden beds, leave space around the rose to minimize risk of disease spread and for air circulation.
Caring for Queen Elizabeth Rose Bushes
Queen Elizabeth roses are, thankfully, not garden prima donnas. But they still require the basic care that most roses need in order to look and grow their best.
Aside from good soil, sun, and water, you can give your Queen Elizabeth roses a boost by feeding them with an all-purpose fertilizer or one that is formulated specifically for roses. Give them their first feeding in the early spring as new growth starts to appear, a second feeding after their first bloom, and a final feeding towards the end of the season to encourage any late buds to open.
In the summer, spreading mulch around the base of your rose bushes can help retain moisture and deter weed growth. Wood chips, straw, or dried grass are good mulch options for roses.
When it starts to get colder, leaving this layer of mulch on the base of your roses for as long as possible provides them with extra protection. One can let mulch break down naturally, as it adds valuable nutrients to the soil.
The recommended time to prune these plants is in early spring, after the last frosts, but before buds start to form on your rose bushes. To start, remove all dead or dying wood and any branches that cross. Cut back about one-third of the plant’s hide and width. This hard pruning actually prepares the rose for the upcoming growing and blooming season.
After pruning, clean up any cuttings or debris.
Queen Elizabeth rose should be deadheaded throughout the flowering season.
When to Plant Roses
The two best times to plant roses are either early autumn, at least six weeks before full winter hits, or early spring, after the last frost. There are different advantages to both planting times.
To enjoy blossoms sooner, plant roses in spring, before temperatures are consistently above 70 degrees.
To get your roses well established before their first growing season, plant them in the fall. Fall planting gives the roots time to grow and establish themselves before the rose goes dormant. You’ll have to wait until the following spring for your first blooms, but you’ll likely have more and better blooms than first-year spring-planted roses.
Planting Rose Bushes
Dig a hole twice as wide as the rose’s container and as deep as its longest roots. Mix some of the garden soil with compost. Return enough of this soil to the hole to form a small mound. Spread the rose’s roots over the mound and fill halfway with more dirt and water well.
Once the soil in the hole has taken on a mud-like consistency, you can fill the hole. Give the shrub one more thorough watering, and you’re on your way to beautiful blooms.
Variations of Queen Elizabeth Roses
Yellow and white variations of Queen Elizabeth roses were introduced in the mid-1960s but they’re not as well-known as their pink counterparts. The Queen Elizabeth rose is also available as a smaller shrub and a climbing rose.
Shrub Variety of Rosa ‘Queen Elizabeth’
Ideal for mixed borders and hedges, the Queen Elizabeth rose bush is a large, repeat-flowering shrub of the grandiflora version. Its flowers grow on long, upright stems, with each stalk producing one or several flowers at a time.
Climbing Variety of Rosa ‘Queen Elizabeth’
The climbing variety of the Queen Elizabeth rose climbs beautifully on trellises, fences, and pergolas. It has leathery, dark green leaves and the same light pink flowers as the shrub variety.
Companion Plants for Queen Elizabeth Roses
There are many benefits to companion planting when it comes to roses. They add aesthetic elegance to a landscape while also deter harmful pests and encouraging beneficial insects.
Alliums and geraniums are good companion plants for Queen Elizabeth roses, as they keep aphids, beetles, and other harmful bugs away. Crocus, anemones, hyacinths, and snowdrops add an air of romance. Taller plants like catmint and dianthus fill in around base of roses.
Bouquets and Arrangements with Queen Elizabeth Roses
These long-stemmed, beautiful pink flowers are lovely on their own in an elegant vase or as part of an arrangement with other flowers.
When creating bouquets with these stunning roses, snapdragons, chrysanthemums, and calla lilies would each pair nicely with pink roses. For a more unusual but equally beautiful arrangement, consider pairing them with pincushions or solomio.
You can add greenery, opting for darker shades that emphasize the lightness of the flowers.
Pink roses symbolize gentle love, friendship, admiration, and sentimentality. Bouquets of Queen Elizabeth roses make great gifts for friends and family and are excellent decorative flowers for special occasions.
Where to Buy Queen Elizabeth Rose Bushes
Queen Elizabeth is a popular rose, so shrubs are widely available through online retailers. Contact local nurseries or garden centers to see if they carry or are able to order Queen Elizabeth roses.
Where to Buy Queen Elizabeth Rose Bouquets
Where to Buy Gardening Supplies
Final Words on the Queen Elizabeth Rose
Since it was developed in 1954, the Queen Elizabeth rose has been at the forefront of the rose world. With its striking, dark green foliage and breathtaking, large pink flowers, this tall and stately grandiflora is the perfect combination of romance and elegance in any garden setting. Being an easy-to-grow rose is just the crowning jewel for this queen of roses.
Is there a Queen Elizabeth rose holding court in your garden? If so, tell us all about this royal rose in the comments section below! To read about other roses, click here for our rose blog posts.