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What is an Alba Rose?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 16, 2024
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An alba rose is a variety of old garden rose characterized by large blooms that range from pale pink to light cream in color and that carry an intense fragrance. Several varieties of roses make up the alba family. All are indigenous to England and Northern Europe, and are prized for their heartiness, disease resistance, and tolerance of shade and harsh winters.

The name “alba rose” literally means “white rose,” though few alba varieties are pure white. At first glance, an alba rose might appear white, but most varieties have some colored hue, even if it is faint. The alba maxima is usually the whitest of the albas; the great maiden’s blush variety strikes somewhat of a middle ground with a naturally peach tint to its petals; and the Königin von Dänemark is the most traditionally pink. In all, there are 16 different types of roses in the alba rose family.

The petals of the alba rose family are characterized by their doubling: that is, their multi-layered growth. Each bloom of an alba rose contains upwards of forty petals, which is nearly double the amount present on a standard rose of comparable size. Most of an alba rose’s petals grow in tight density, one on top of another, which lends the flower a rounded, almost wavy look.

Alba rose bushes are some of the heartiest types of plants, and certainly one of the heartiest types of roses. The bushes grow straight upright, and are usually marked by tough stalks and sturdy trunks. Roots can extend quite deep into the soil, which allows the plant to receive nutrients even in frozen ground. For the most part, alba roses are disease-resistant. They do not easily succumb to bugs or root-borne illness, even if other roses in close proximity become infected. Alba rose blooms are also some of the longest lasting among rose varietals, remaining in peak condition for up to six weeks from spring to mid-summer.

Although native to the cooler climates of Northern Europe, alba roses thrive in gardens around the world. Albas are generally considered rather low-maintenance plants, though they do require standard pruning and upkeep. They are one of the most adaptable varieties of antique rose, doing just as well in sun as in shade. Accordingly, they are a popular choice for gardens in a wide variety of climates. From English tea gardens and landscaped areas to stand-alone features in backyards, alba roses are a decorative and fragrant choice.

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Discussion Comments
By Sultank — On Dec 15, 2014

@WittyBee- I've heard some varieties date back to the 1300s as well. I know they are some of the hardiest roses I've grown. They must be resistant to diseases the commonly plague roses. They seem to be invincible!

By WittyBee — On Dec 14, 2014

I believe alba roses are old roses and classified as antique roses, but I'm not sure. I did hear that some varieties date back to the 1400s or later.

I have several different rose bushes growing in my garden, but the alba is the most elegant. I love how the pure white petals contrast with the green foliage and other colors or roses in the garden. They certainly do stand out.

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