What is a Rose Sport & What to Do if Your Rose Bush Grows One

Have you ever noticed a flower on your rose bush which is a different colour to the rest?

Or maybe part of the plant is growing differently?

Chances are it’s a Rose Sport.

What is a Rose Sport?

A rose sport is a genetic mutation that changes the growth habit of the plant.

These genetic mutations aren’t the result of irregular or poor growing conditions, they’re purely accidents.

That said, some sports have produced beautiful variations of roses.

How Do Rose Sports Take Form?

how do rose sports take form

In roses, sports can add specks of white to the flowers, cause the flowers to change colour completely or stems to produce more flowers than normal.

Some rose sports even cause the plant to grow in a different way. Most climbing roses are sports, or mutations of the parent species.

For example, Climbing Peace is also a sport of Peace.

Some clever soul was observant enough to realise that the vigorous growths that came from their plant weren’t rose suckers. Instead, he or she let them grow and develop and start climbing.

These shoots were then propagated and now we have the Climbing Peace.

This can be said for other climbing species including; Climbing Iceberg, and Climbing Hybrid Tea Roses.

What to Do if Your Rose Develops a Sport

If your rose bush develops a sport, don’t panic, it’s not usually an issue.

Many of these mutations are unstable and will either die off or revert back to the parent almost immediately.

However, if the mutation lasts and has characteristics that you find desirable, it might be worth trying to take cuttings of the sport and propagating them to see if they grow in its mutative way.

How to Propagate Rose Sports

It’s always worth waiting for a couple of bloom cycles before taking any cuttings to make sure your rose sport is stable. If you don’t wait you might find the sport will grow just like its parent plant.

Step 1:

Select a strong, healthy stem and take a cutting that’s at least 6 inches long.

Cut above a bud that the top removing the shoot tip and below a bud at the base.

Remove all the lower leaves, leaving one or two at the top.

Step 2:

Dip the base of the cutting into the root hormone (I like No products found.).

Insert your cuttings into a large pot of well draining gritty compost.

Step 3:

Water well and place in a greenhouse (or plastic bag to create a greenhouse effect). Roses root best in bright light so if you’re using a plastic bag, place them in a window that gets direct sunlight.

If you can do it successfully, you may well be able to cultivate a new variation of Rose which is even more beautiful than its parent species.

climbing rose sport

A good example of this is Ena Harkness, a rose which produces beautiful red flowers.

Unfortunately, it has a habit of drooping instead of staying upright.

However, after being cultivated from a climbing sport, we now enjoy Climbing Ena Harkness who’s drooping flowers work beautifully.

Over to You

Have your roses grown any sports?

Have you grown your own variety of roses as a result of one of your rose bushes developing a sport?

Or do you have any questions or something to add.

I’d love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below.

About Tim Stephens

I'm a professional gardener with degrees in Horticulture & Landscape Gardening. I want to help you create the garden of your dreams. I want your garden to look like it’s maintained by a professional. As if I was there doing it all for you!

5 thoughts on “What is a Rose Sport & What to Do if Your Rose Bush Grows One”

  1. I was working on changing colors of my dahlias, but that changed the color of nearby rose John Paul II. That rose plant had had completely pure white flowers for two years before, but changed to completely red and bushy habit. This happened just this spring, so I’m waiting to see the new blooms to see if it reverts back to white.

  2. I have the Sweetspot rose, ‘Calypso’ and I noticed after it had been exposed to a minute amount of hydrocotyle spray – I thought I had cleaned out my spray can thoroughly – that it had changed from being a shrub rose in the following season, to a climber! …but I’m not complaining!

  3. I just discovered my white rose, which has been blooming for years, has a few dark red buds. I guess its a sport. The red blooms are smaller , with fewer petals and open more to reveal a large orange yellow cluster of stamens. Its quite different and pretty so Id like to propagate it. How long should I wait? And is there any illustrated guide for the process you can recommend?


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