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What are Cabbage Roses?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Cabbage roses are roses with very distinctive blooms which have made them rightly famous. The blooms have so many petals that they do actually rather resemble a particularly rambunctious cabbage. These roses are famous for being extremely aromatic, and many people find them quite pretty to look at, as well. You can find cabbage roses in many garden stores, and they also grow readily from cuttings, if you happen to know someone with a cabbage rose. Always ask before taking cuttings, though.

Several features distinguish the cabbage rose, which is formally known as Rosa centifolia. The first is the blooms, which may be white, pink, red, or variegated. As the scientific name for the cabbage rose implies, the bloom has a multitude of petals, although perhaps not the 100 hinted at in the name. The petals are tightly packed, turning the rose into a furled bloom of richly ruffled petals, and centifolia roses, as they are sometimes called, typically have a very heady aroma.

The foliage of cabbage roses is a gray-green, with simple compound leaves. When allowed to grow with minimal fuss, cabbage roses can grow quite large, turning almost into trees, and they require substantial support. Cabbage roses can also be tightly pruned and trimmed to promote a tighter, more bushy growth, although the bushes will still require some support as they grow. Like other roses, cabbage roses benefit from heavy pruning in their dormant periods, and they like to be fertilized in the spring.

These roses are sometimes called Provence roses, and they are also known as rose de mai. The cabbage rose was developed around the 1600s by Dutch rose breeders, who crossed several varieties to produce this very distinctive rose. Many people consider cabbage roses to be old fashioned roses, because of the extreme age of the varietal and the rich aroma which accompanies it. They are hardy in USDA zones four through nine.

Some people call cabbage roses “moss roses,” in a reference to the fuzzy green buds of the plant. Before the cabbage rose blooms, the flowers are enclosed inside these aromatic buds which do indeed feel a bit mossy to the touch. However, unlike moss, the cabbage rose prefers partial to full sun, and it will produce an astounding proliferation of blooms which do very well as cut flowers.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By cloudel — On May 27, 2012

I find it strange that something as lovely and pleasant as a rose is named after something that smells so horrible. I have always hated cabbage, and the smell it emits while it is being cooked is enough to make me leave the house.

So, I stayed away from cabbage roses because of the name. I thought that they might smell like cabbage. I really didn't know until reading this article that they were called this because of their appearance.

I associate cabbage with a light green color and a cluster of bad tasting leaves. So, the resemblance never occurred to me.

By kylee07drg — On May 27, 2012

@OeKc05 – Cabbage roses are actually used to make perfume. I have a friend who works in the fragrance industry, and she told me that many scented bath products, lotions, and perfumes get their aroma from cabbage roses.

Even the ancient Greeks loved the scent. They used to put the petals in their bathwater as a sort of aromatherapy.

I love the smell of roses, and I believe that the cabbage rose is the most intensely scented rose I have ever sniffed. I own several rose scented products, and they smell a lot like the real thing.

By shell4life — On May 26, 2012

@bagley79 – Cabbage roses can get blackspot, which is a fungus that dots the leaves of rose plants. There is usually some yellow surrounding the black, and I do not know a single rose gardener who hasn't had run-ins with this fungus.

My friend has some beautiful white cabbage roses, and during the spring when it rained nearly every day, she started seeing blackspot on the leaves. Wet conditions promote it.

She sprinkled cornmeal on the ground around the rose bush. I don't know the science behind it, but it got rid of the blackspot. I'm going to try it on my cabbage roses.

By OeKc05 — On May 25, 2012

The only color of cabbage rose I have ever seen is bubblegum pink. I think that this is the prettiest shade of rose, because even though it is a light color, it is intense.

My neighbor has a rose garden, and her pink cabbage roses she plants close to my yard are so tempting. I would love to walk over and cut a few, but I don't know her that well, and I hate to ask.

I have walked over there when she wasn't home just to sniff them. I would like to bottle that smell and wear it as perfume.

By bagley79 — On May 25, 2012

I have a couple different varieties of roses in my yard, but have never grown cabbage roses.

I just haven't had very good luck growing roses. I spray them every week for bugs, but still get holes in the leaves and black spot.

Are cabbage roses susceptible to these problems like other roses are?

When my roses are in bloom they are beautiful and I like to bring them inside for some beautiful bouquets. I just haven't found a way to keep them looking healthy through the whole season.

By golf07 — On May 24, 2012

One year for my birthday I received a beautiful cabbage roses bouquet. This was one of the most aromatic flower arrangements I can ever remember receiving.

The enticing scent filled up the whole room, and the blooms lasted for several days. The worst thing about receiving a beautiful bouquet like this is they never last long enough.

I keep them long past the point where they look good, but I can hardly stand to throw them away. I have never grown my own roses, but I can see why cabbage roses are so well liked.

By John57 — On May 23, 2012

I have a friend who has a huge rose garden and this is one of her passions. Whenever she moves, she digs up her roses and takes them with her.

She loves the old fashioned cabbage roses and has shared their beautiful blooms with me many times.

While I love the look and smell of roses, I don't like growing them. I just don't like dealing with their thorns.

I have some silk cabbage roses in a big floral arrangement I have in front of the window. I know it's not the same as the real thing, but I can enjoy their bright colors without messing with the upkeep and thorns.

By myharley — On May 22, 2012

@anon91422 - You can buy cabbage roses at just about any garden center, and there are many places where you can buy them online. I even found them once in the garden department at my local Wal-Mart store.

This really surprised me as I didn't think I would find an old fashioned rose like this there, but I ended up buying one.

This grew quickly and once it was established, I took some cuttings and started two more plants. Now I have several of these beautiful roses that bloom profusely and give off the most wonderful scent.

By anon91422 — On Jun 21, 2010

I've no local nursery. where can I buy them??

By catull — On Feb 25, 2009

Are Cabbage roses available in July? I have a wedding and trying to substitute the peony. If so, where can they be sourced? I am located near Miami, Fla, USA.

By obsessedwithloopy — On Jul 08, 2008

They bloom only once a year. But are very sturdy, fragrant beautiful roses.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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