The term “Rainbow Rose” covers a few different types of roses, including some artificially dyed blossoms. If you want to add Rainbow Roses to your garden, be sure you know exactly what you’re looking for – and if it’s something you can actually grow!
In many cases, a “Rainbow Rose” refers to a white rose that has been artificially colored to make the petals turn different colors. These are not roses you can grow to produce bright and drastically multicolored blooms.
The good news is that there are three cultivars of roses with “rainbow” in the name, so all is not lost when it comes to growing Rainbow Roses. Keep reading to learn about these varieties to decide if one (or more) of them is right for your garden.
“Rainbow” Cultivars You Can Grow At Home
If you’re looking for a rainbow rose you can grow, then look for three cultivars in particular — Rainbow Knock Out, Rainbow Happy Trails, and Rainbow Sunblaze. These roses have two to three colors in each blossom, generally in the red/pink/orange/yellow/white range.
To be clear, other multicolor roses exist besides the three cultivars with “rainbow” in their name. The floribunda rose ‘Day Breaker’ has a gorgeous mix of dark pink, peach, and orange to pale yellow in each blossom. Another gorgeous variety is the ‘Joseph’s Coat’ climbing rose that has blooms with yellow, scarlet, orange, and carmine colors colors. The ‘Frida Kahlo’ also has yellow, orange, and red on each bloom. Search online for multi-colored roses for even more examples.
Rainbow Knock Out Roses
The Rainbow Knock Out rose is a five-petaled single-bloom rose that is mostly pink with a yellow tinge toward the center of each blossom. Like other Knock Out-series roses, Rainbow grows to 3 to 4 feet in height and width. It is tough and self-cleaning, although you can still deadhead it if you wish to avoid having rose hips appear.
Planting and Growing
The plant blooms again and again from spring until fall and is very tough. Grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 and warmer.
Give these roses at least three hours of direct sunlight each day; six to eight hours is preferable.
Prune once in late winter or early spring, back to about a foot to a foot and a half, when new growth appears to keep the bush’s shape as it grows again during the season. In regions with harsher winters, prune again as winter sets in, cutting the plant back to a few inches above the ground.
Keep a close eye on the foliage; it starts out as burgundy and becomes green as it grows. If the foliage turns magenta, along with the stems, immediately cut away the magenta portion (cutting into the green portions of the plant).This coloration is a sign that the rose rosette disease has attacked the plant. If more of the plant turns bright red or magenta, remove it and plant a healthy rose next year.
Rainbow Happy Trails Roses
Rainbow Happy Trails rose (Rosa ‘WEKsurdicla’; the extra capitalization is apparently part of the name) is a groundcover that grows to about 20 inches in height. Like the Rainbow Knock Out, Happy Trails grows in zone 4 and warmer, up to zone 10.
It blooms from early to late summer and produces masses of blossoms that are mainly dark rosy pink with petals turning golden toward the center of the flowers. These flowers are double-blooms, and nurseries are not kidding when they say these flowers spread out. They’re great for borders or containers and have a fragrance sometimes described as “fruity.”
These are great for a pollinator garden as they attract hummingbirds. The roses handle full sun to partial shade.
Rainbow Sunblaze Miniature Roses
The Rainbow Sunblaze miniature rose (Rosa x ‘Meigenpi’) has pink- or red-tipped petals that turn peachy or yellow as they head toward the center of the blossom. They need full sun and grow in zones 5 to 10 or 11. The blossoms are miniature but have many petals each.
This rose bush grows to about 18 inches tall and wide, although some can be as short as only 12 inches. Use for borders or prune into a small rose tree. It needs regular water, too; check the top 3 inches of soil, and when it’s dry to the touch, water again.
Rainbow Sunblaze is one of series called Sunblaze, a Canadian breed of rose that has such hardy roots that even if winter kills the canes of the rose bush, the plant will send out new growth again once spring arrives. Candy and Debut are two other Sunblaze-series roses with two colors.
Artificial Rainbow Roses (“Happy” or “Kaleidoscope”)
Look online and you’ll find a number of sites claiming that two Dutch flower companies, River Flowers and FJ Zandbergen, created a rainbow rose in 2004 (some sources say 2005 or 2006). Others say a grower named Peter Van de Werken was the creator.
This rainbow rose is a white rose put through a fine-tuned coloring process. The result is a rose with each petal dyed a bright color ranging from red, orange, and yellow to green, blue, and purple.
This rainbow rose is also known by the names “Happy Rose” and “Kaleidoscope Rose.” You can order them from florists, and if you ask just for “rainbow roses,” these are the ones the florist will most likely be thinking of. The petal colors are rich and bold, and they form stunning bouquets.
They’re also the subject of seed scams online. Be aware that anyone hawking seeds they claim will allow you to grow these stunning roses is not legitimate. Videos claiming to show how to grow rainbow roses often turn out to be a jumble of general rose information and don’t show you what seeds you’re supposed to get.
In fact, if you look online at the reviews on sites like Amazon, you’ll find that the positive comments focus on things like excitement at receiving seeds that were so well-packaged. The people who actually tried to grow the seeds found that nothing germinated.
How to Make Rainbow Roses
The process used to color Happy/Kaleidoscope Roses is an intense chemical process done in a factory. It’s also a secret that’s been well-guarded by the company making the roses. But you can create a home version of rainbow roses using a simple grade-school science-class procedure. Remember when your teacher had you dunk a celery stalk in water dyed with food coloring and had you watch the color of the water slowly creep up the fibers of the celery? A similar process can be used to create a rainbow rose.
Take a white rose and trim the stem so that it’s only about 8-12 inches long (but no longer than that). Make a cut of about 2 to 3 inches in length at the end of the stem. Use a sharp knife or razor to get a clean cut. Make another cut of the same length perpendicular to the first so that you have four partial stems leading from the main stem.
Mix water and food coloring in narrow containers. Use at least 10 drops of color. Start with basic colors like red, yellow, and blue. Add a fourth of your choice, or leave that water plain so that the resulting rose has some white patches remaining.
Place the containers together. These should be narrow so that they can fit closely together; if you have square containers, that’s even better because the corners will fit nicely together.
Quickly, but gently, place each section of the split stem in a container of colored water. You’ll have to steady the rose somehow so that it doesn’t fall over; you could try taping the stem to the containers, for example. Place the containers and rose in a dark corner and let the assembled items sit there for up to a week. Keep refilling the containers to ensure they don’t run dry.
The resulting rainbow rose may not be as saturated with color as the commercial variety, but you should have a nice multicolored blossom ready to be displayed in a vase. Repeat the process with different colors and color arrangements to see which ones create the blossoms you like best. You can also vary the amount of food coloring to make different intensities of petal colors.
Where To Buy “Rainbow Rose” Shrubs
Multicolored rose shrubs are sold at nurseries, garden centers, and even big box hardware stores. You can also order them from online retailers.
Where To Buy Rainbow Roses Cut Flowers
Final Thought On Rainbow Roses
Whether you want a rainbow rose bush that offers a couple of colors or want a bouquet of commercially dyed blossoms, you can find multicolored roses that make your garden or home decor look terrific. Play around with dyeing your own roses, too, to determine just which rainbow roses you really want.
And keep exploring beyond the “Rainbow” name – there’s a wide world of roses out there with more color combinations than you might imagine. Speak with nurseries to see which colors and sizes of roses are available in your area.
Have you grown any multi-colored Rainbow Roses in your garden? If so, we’d love to know which ones and to hear about your experiences with them in our comments section below! To read about other roses, click here for our rose blog posts.