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The Sterling Silver Rose

The Sterling Silver rose is whimsical and complicated, and not that much is known about it. Often referred to as the true and original lavender rose, the Sterling Silver is a hybrid tea that is almost thornless and has a sweet, citrusy fragrance. Its most striking features are the enchanting silver-purple blooms set against deep, dark green leaves.

In this article, we look at the mysterious history of the Sterling Silver rose, its characteristics, and how best to plant, grow and care for it. Furthermore, we’ll run through some ideas for arranging and decorating with these world-famous flowers.

Closeup of a single Sterling Silver rose bloom.

History of the Sterling Silver Rose

The Sterling Silver rose was bred in 1957 by Esther Gladys Fisher, one of the few women rose hybridizers at the time. Famous for her work cultivating roses of rare colors, the Rosa ‘Sterling Silver’ bloom remains her crowning achievement. The rose was subsequently introduced to the public in 1960.

It is said that the parentage of the Sterling Silver rose bush is the Peace rose on the paternal side and an unnamed seedling on the maternal side, which was remarkably similar to the Morning Mist rose.

Closeup of Peace Rose bloom.
The ‘Peace’ rose.

Characteristics of Sterling Silver Roses

Sterling Silver roses have the typical high-centered shape and long stems of hybrid teas, making them an ideal choice as cut flowers for arrangements. They produce one flower bud per stem, and their flowers are large and full, with 17 to 25 petals per bloom. Sterling Silver roses have leathery, dark green oval-shaped leaves and very few thorns.

They are not tremendously hardy and may require some special care, particularly in the first two years of growth. They are deciduous shrubs that can tend towards diseases and become spiny if they are not looked after and pruned correctly. They are not prolific bloomers but produce well in good growing conditions.

Sterling Silver roses can reach heights of up to 4 feet once established.

A Sterling Silver rose shrub.
A bloom and buds on a Sterling SIlver rose shrub.

The Symbolism of the Sterling Silver Rose

Lavender roses have long been believed to symbolize love at first sight. Together with this, the color purpled is associated with royalty and regality, which lends an air of majesty to displays of these lilac-silver beauties.

The natural shimmer of Sterling Silver roses also creates an air of enchantment and wonder, making them ideal décor at weddings and other special celebrations.

How to Grow Sterling Silver Roses

Sterling Silver roses have a reputation for being difficult to grow, but they’re not as tricky as we might be led to believe. The guidelines for growing these gorgeous plants are the same as for most rose varieties. However, as they can be prone to diseases, it is advisable to keep an eye on them and not be conservative when pruning.

Closeup of a pale lavender rose.

Growing Sterling Silver Roses in Garden Beds

As is the case with almost all rose plants, Sterling Silver roses need a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day and afternoon shade if possible. They should be planted in slightly acidic soil (pH 5.6 – 6.0) and turned with manure or compost. They should be watered thoroughly at least once per week, but during the hotter months, make sure to increase this if necessary.

When selecting your planting spots, make sure there is sufficient space between rose bushes to allow enough air circulation. It is paramount that these plants are not too close together to curb the spread of diseases, should they occur.

Growing Sterling Silver Roses in Containers

Sterling Silver roses can be grown in containers in very sunny spots on balconies and verandas. These are big plants and thus need large pots. When selecting containers for Sterling Silver rose bushes, make sure they are at least one-third of the plant’s diameter broader than the rose bush and deeper than its longest roots.

Ensure good drainage by ensuring your chosen containers have adequate drainage holes and a layer of gravel at the bottom to distribute excess moisture evenly. Choose a good quality soil that is mildly acidic and well-composted.

When watering, make sure to keep the ground evenly moist but not soaked. It should also never be allowed to dry out completely.

When to Plant Sterling Silver Roses

Sterling Silver roses bloom in the late spring and early summer, which takes up all of their energy. For this reason, it’s best to plant them when they are coming out of dormancy, in the early spring, or as they are exiting their blooming season in fall. Make sure you plant them when there is no threat of frost, as this can damage the roots and make it difficult for them to take in soil.

Pale lavender rose blooms on a shrub.

Planting Sterling Silver Rose Bushes

These beautiful rose shrubs must be planted in prepared soil to give them their best chance of becoming established, flourishing rose bushes.

Dig a large hole, at least twice the size of the plant and deeper than its longest roots. Prepare the soil with organic matter such as compost or manure.

Place the plant in the hole, spreading out its roots, and fill with soil halfway. Soak this soil thoroughly, and then complete your transplant by adding the remainder of the earth to the hole. Pack it in gently, making sure the ground is not too compressed.

Keep an eye on newly planted rose bushes and test the soil’s acidity regularly. It can take up to two years for Sterling Silver rose bushes to become properly established, but they can continue to grow and flourish for years on end once they are thriving.

Caring for Sterling Silver Rose Bushes

You can give this splendid species the best possible care with a good pruning regiment, regular feeding or fertilizing, and disease prevention protocols.

Deadheading Sterling Silver Roses

Deadheading is an essential skill in any rose grower’s repertoire. Roses should be deadheaded throughout their flowering season to ward off diseases and make room for new blooms to grow.

Use sterilized instruments and deadhead stems at 45-degree angles, with your cut facing outwards. Try always to cut above buds, thereby making it easy for the rose bush to flower once more.

A pale lavender rose bloom in sunshine.

Feeding and Fertilizing Sterling Silver Roses

Sterling Silver roses can be fed with an all-purpose granular fertilizer a few times per year. For established plants, the best times to fertilize are in early to mid-spring, as new growth begins to show, then after their first big bloom, and again late in the season towards the end of summer or the beginning of fall.

Container roses are watered more frequently and therefore lose nutrients more quickly, so you may want to consider increasing the frequency of your fertilizing regime when it comes to your potted roses.

Always water your Sterling Silver rose bushes before and after fertilizing to distribute nutrients better and prevent burning or stressing the plants.

Follow the instructions that come with your plant food carefully. If you notice leaf burn, your fertilizer is too strong and should be diluted. Plants are good at communicating their needs through showing signs, so make sure to inspect them often.

If you doubt your soil health, you can test your ground acidity with a soil testing kit available at most garden centers.

Composting and Mulching Sterling Silver Rose Bushes

Compost is an organic matter that can assist with deterring pests and diseases. Laying a 1-to-2-inch layer around the base of your rose bushes can benefit their overall health.

Other organic substances such as bone meal, coffee grounds, and Epsom salts are also beneficial to Sterling Silver roses. They can be sprinkled around the base of your shrubs to promote growth and give them an added dose of nutrients.

A thin layer of good quality mulch over the base of your rose bushes is also extremely healthy for them. It can help keep the plants cool in hot weather and warm them up when it’s cold. Mulch should be applied in spring and left to break down naturally, returning nutrients to the earth.

Red mulch around rose shrubs.

Pruning Sterling Silver Roses

When it comes to pruning your Rosa’ Sterling Silver’, don’t pull punches. Although a repeat bloomer, this species is not as avid a flower-grower as similar roses in the same vein. Therefore, pruning is hugely important to its wellbeing.

At least one-third of the plant should be pruned away each season. This can seem daunting, but the reason for vigorous cutting is to allow the plant a chance to renew and refresh its growth. Pruning also improves air circulation, which in turn deters pests and diseases.

Gardener pruning a rose shrub.

Your big annual pruning session should take place in early spring after the threat of frost has passed. Before you commence with pruning, make sure your shears are thoroughly sterilized. Remove old, dead, and dying canes at 45-degree angles above bud eyes.

Removing thinner, weaker canes can also free up some of the shrub’s energy reserves for new growth. Pruning is also a good opportunity for shaping your rose bushes, particularly if they form part of a hedge or border.

After pruning, make sure to clean up beneath your rose bushes, removing all debris and dead plant matter.

Varieties of Sterling Silver Roses

It is said that the Rosa’ Sterling Silver’ is the first of her kind and is considered the original lavender rose. This cultivar is a hybrid tea or florist’s rose and can occasionally be found in a climbing variety, which looks spectacular on arches, fences, and trellises.

Offspring of the Sterling Silver include the slightly larger Rosa ‘Lagerfeld’ and the Floribunda’ Angel Face’ rose. Like the Sterling Silver rose, both these subsequent hybrids have strong, lemony scents, dark green leaves, and few to no thorns.

Closeup of an Angel Face rose bloom.
The ‘Angel Face’ rose.

Companion Planting with Sterling Silver Shrubs

Given their light, enchanting color, Sterling Silver rose bushes look beautiful among other lighter white, ivory, and pink rose breeds.

Planting them alongside lavender and other plants with silvery foliage also emphasizes their delicacy and beauty while attracting butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Creating Bouquets with Sterling Silver Roses

Sterling Silver roses look phenomenal both in monochromatic and colorful bouquets.

A bouquet of pale lavender roses.

For monochromatic looks, consider emphasizing their magical shimmer and hue with silver-toned seasonal greenery, white lilies, and darker purple blooms. If you want your lavender roses to pop, fill bouquets with subtle additions of baby’s breath and penny gum.

Pink and white spray roses accompanied by goldenrods look excellent when paired with Sterling Silver roses. Chrysanthemums and irises make for delightful inclusions too.

For colorful bouquets, the sky is the limit. However, muted tones will work better so as not to overshadow the beauty of Sterling Silver blooms.

Decorating with Sterling Silver Roses

Sterling Silver roses are an excellent choice for weddings and anniversaries as their symbolism is aligned to enchantment and love. They also give off an air of majesty and regality and thus are a good choice for special celebrations.

An arrangement of lavender roses in an acrylic square container.

Where to Buy Sterling Silver Roses Bushes

Depending on availability, Sterling Silver roses can be purchased from nurseries, garden centers, or online retailers.

Where to Buy Bouquets Featuring Sterling Silver Roses

Gorgeous bouquets can be purchased from Florist One or ProFlowers.

Where to Buy Gardening Supplies

For all your gardening needs, visit Gardener’s or Earth Easy.

Conclusion

Closeup of the center of a lavender rose bloom.

It’s impossible to gaze upon the Sterling Silver rose and not see something special. They are gorgeous plants, and with a little bit of care, they are infinitely rewarding. Indeed, don’t be put off by the fact that they can be a little tricky. Just keep a close eye on them, and you’ll soon find that they are rewarding and valuable additions to any garden or home.

Do you grow Sterling Silver roses in your garden? If so, we’d love to hear all about this show-stopper rose in the comments section below! To read about other roses, click here for our rose blog posts.

Nancy C. M. S. Fishel

Saturday 9th of April 2022

Where can I buy an authentic Sterling Rose bush

Matt

Saturday 16th of April 2022

Looks like Nature Hills has one - check them out here.