Hybrid Tea Roses
The Queen of Modern Roses

By Kitty Belendez
Master Rosarian

In the year 1867, a milestone occurred in the world of roses. A new light pink rose was introduced by Guillot of France, and they named the new rose La France. It had a strong fragrance with a large and very full bloom. It was classed as the very first hybrid tea rose in existence.

Prior to La France being introduced, there was the "tea" rose class among the various old garden rose classes such as bourbons, chinas, portlands, damasks, and hybrid perpetuals. The original tea roses were smaller and generally had short, spindly stems, with droopy blooms on bent necks. The older tea roses were mainly limited to the colors in the white, pink, and red hues and were said to have a tea fragrance. Some of the tea roses were Fortune's Five-Colored Rose (1844), Baronne Henriette de Snoy (1853), and Mme. de Tartas (1859).

The teas are now considered "old garden roses" while the hybrid teas are called "modern roses." The first generation of hybrid teas were more robust and had longer stems than the teas, and showed just a hint of the classical form that was to come in following generations.

Some of the early hybrid tea roses of the 20th Century included Crimson Glory in 1935, Charlotte Armstrong in 1941, and Peace (7th generation, 1946). In the 50's we were given Garden Party, Tiffany, and Chrysler Imperial. In the 60's we saw the great Mister Lincoln with his intense fragrance and velvety red blooms, Fragrant Cloud with smoky orange heavenly fragrance, the light pink Royal Highness, and the pure white Pascali. 

The 70's brought further refinements with First Prize, Pristine, Paradise, and Double Delight. The 80's gave us Elizabeth Taylor, Touch of Class, Crystalline, and Olympiad. And in the 90's we saw the introductions of MoonstoneSt. Patrick, and Louise Estes.

There were a number of single-petalled hybrid tea roses introduced in the early part of the 20th Century such as the dark red Vesuvius (1923) with only 6 petals. Dainty Bess, a light pink 5-petalled rose from 1926 should have been a floribunda but the class did not yet exist. In 1935 there was Captain Thomas, a 5-petalled white climber that was oddly classed as a hybrid tea. 

In the second half of the century, the American Rose Society approved a new rose classification called "grandiflora", especially for Queen Elizabeth a hybrid tea type rose that grew very tall and produced many clusters. Unfortunately, hybridizers threw other roses into this grandiflora class that should have been classed as hybrid teas, in particular the wonderful Gold Medal. There were a few roses introduced as grandifloras in the 50's and 60's but after that they were far and few between. The class never has been very popular with the buying public.

In the 135 years since the introduction of La France, the hybrid tea rose has evolved into what we know it today. Tens of thousands of uniquely different hybrid tea rose varieties have been introduced since 1867. Some of the early introductions are still in commerce today but most have disappeared into oblivion as new and improved varieties are introduced each year. 

According to Tom Carruth of Weeks Roses, there are 46 million rose plants produced annually in the United States, and of the more than 3 million grown by Weeks 45% are hybrid tea roses. 

Potted and bareroot hybrid tea rose bushes are sold at local nurseries, hardware stores, and mass retailers as well as cut flower sales at many florists. There are a multitude of bloom colors on very long, sturdy stems. Pink and red blends, mauve, orange, yellow, and even stripes are available. Hybrid tea roses are generally more disease resistant and last much longer as a cut flower than they did in the early part of the century. They also produce more blooms more frequently throughout the year, especially in warmer climates. Hybrid tea blooms generally have from 25 to 60 petals. 

Most hybrid tea roses today are grafted (actually "budded") onto rootstocks which help them to grow faster and more vigorously in their first few years. In California, most hybrid teas are budded onto Dr. Huey rootstock. In Florida and many of the southern states, including Southern California, the rootstock of choice is Fortuniana. Rose growers in the northern states prefer Rosa multiflora as a rootstock. Some commercial growers are experimenting with growing hybrid teas on their own roots, but I have found that many hybrid teas grow very slowly and poorly on their own roots.

Many modern hybrid tea roses are not as fragrant as the antique roses of yesteryear, but some are intensely fragrant. Mister Lincoln, Secret, Double Delight, Barbra Streisand, and Perfume Delight can match the overpowering scents of the old garden roses any day of the week. Others have only a light fruity fragrance.

Recently there has been strong interest in growing florist roses in the garden. For the most part, florist roses are not very good when grown in the outdoors because they need the controlled environment of the greenhouse to perform their best. Still, rose exhibitors will try anything and so they continue to experiment. Hybrid tea roses such as Raphaela, Hot Princess, Opulence, and the very unique striped Red Intuition are being evaluated in home rose gardens. 

So, here we are in the new millennium. Hybrid tea roses are more popular than ever, even though there has been a renewed interest in the old garden roses, as well as an increasing popularity of shrubs, climbers, floribundas, and miniature roses. The hybrid tea rose is the most popular type of rose shown at amateur rose shows, where the Queen of Show (the highest honor) is always a hybrid tea. At the district and national rose shows, the McFarland and Nicholson Challenge trophies require a collection of from 5 to 9 different and perfect queenly hybrid tea roses. In a recent survey conducted by Bob Martin, 53% of the roses grown by top exhibitors are hybrid teas. 

Some of the newest hybrid tea rose varieties introduced since the year 2000 include the velvety red Veterans' Honor, the very dark Black Magic, Cajun Moon, Hot Princess, Mr Caleb, Let Freedom Ring, Big Time, Gemini, Miss Kitty, Affirm. In 2014 Randy Scott is the hot new white exhibition hybrid tea rose. Ring of Fire will be introduced in 2017.

The hybrid tea rose class is expected to be around for a long time. We can look forward to further refinements in disease resistance, holding power, fragrance, bloom quality, unusual colors, and overall beauty of the bloom.

Click here for information on how to make cut roses last longer in a vase.

© Copyright Kitty Belendez. All rights reserved.

This article is an ARS Award of Merit Winner, originally published in "Rose Ecstasy," bulletin of Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, Kitty Belendez, Editor.

Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez

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'Black Magic' Hybrid Tea Rose
'Ring of Fire' Hybrid Tea Rose
'Veterans' Honor' Hybrid Tea Rose
'Gemini' Hybrid Tea Rose
'St. Patrick' Hybrid Tea Rose
Updated January 29, 2016

'Hot Princess' Hybrid Tea Rose
'Miss Kitty' Hybrid Tea Rose
'Let Freedom Ring' Hybrid Tea Rose
'Mr Caleb' Hybrid Tea Rose
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'Red Intuition'' Hybrid Tea Rose