Modern Roses: Polyanthas and Floribundas (Cluster-Flowered Roses)

On Tuesday, I wrote about Hybrid Teas, one of the most popular rose types today, the other type being the Floribundas, or as they are now known, the Cluster-Flowered Roses, which developed from the Polyanthas, so I will discuss the latter first.


The first Polyantha rose, Paquerette, was a cross between a low growing, perpetually flowering R. multiflora and an unknown Dwarf China hybrid (possibly Old Blush China) by Sisley, France, and was introduced by Guillot, France, in 1875.

Another early Polyantha was Mignonette, Guillot, France 1880, a cross between R. chinensis and R. multiflora, and the earliest Polyantha rose still available. Both bore large sprays of very small, pompom-like, soft rosy-pink flowers, like those of R. multiflora, fading to white with age. Here is a photo of a Multiflora rose, Phyllis Bide.BlogModRosesReszd20%IMG_9508

They were originally classified as R. rehderiana and were called Polypompoms. While they all possessed cluster blooms in the one florescence, they exhibited great variability in their growth habits and the size and shape of their blooms. It was not until the early 1900s that there were enough uniformly distinct characteristics to form a splinter group, known as the Dwarf Polyanthas.

Adaptable, floriferous, hardy and low maintenance small roses (with only an occasional tendency to mildew) with large, tightly-packed clusters of small, slightly cupped, semi-double flowers (unfortunately, with little or no fragrance) throughout Summer, they were useful shrubs in colder climates, where the less hardy Hybrid Teas required mollycoddling in the cold Winters.

They were hugely popular in the period between the two World Wars, with a large number of varieties introduced, most of which have since disappeared with their declining popularity after the Second World War, though there was a brief revival of interest in the 1980s, when they were used as a ground cover, in group plantings and shrubberies or as specimen roses at the front of borders, especially where the soil was poor.

Some well-known Polyanthas are:

The Fairy, Bentall, United Kingdom, 1932: A cross between Polyantha, Paul Crampel, and Hybrid Wichuraiana, Lady Gay, it was one of the first hybrids to have a trailing habit. It has sprays of tiny ‘China’ pink, continuous blooms, with little scent and good disease-resistance. It makes a handy ground cover on embankments. See:

China Doll, Lammerts, United States, before 1936: A cross between Polyantha, Mrs Dudley Fulton and Miniature rose, Tom Thumb, it is one of the lowest borderers and bears huge heads of rich ‘China’ pink blooms almost to the ground. See:

BlogModRosesReszd2014-10-25 13.50.29Climbing Pinkie, discovered by EP Dering, United States, 1952: A sport of Pinkie, bred by Swim, United States, in 1947 and whose parents were China Doll and an unknown rose, this climbing version is very vigorous and will grow without support to form a graceful cascading plant. It is constantly in flower with large trusses of cupped, semi-double, rosy-pink fragrant blooms on thornless stems. The photos above and below are Climbing Pinkie.BlogModRosesReszd2014-10-25 13.50.35Green Ice, Moore, United States, 1971:  A cross between (R. wichuraiana x Floribunda, Floradora) and Miniature rose, Jet Trail, this free-flowering miniature has small, double, white, slightly scented  blooms, tinged with green, especially in cooler weather. It has thick glossy foliage and reaches up to 0.5 metres high. It makes a useful ground cover and also looks good in a hanging basket. See:

Polyanthas were important in rose history, as they led directly to the development of the modern Cluster-Flowered Roses or Floribundas.


Hugely popular in Europe, especially Germany, Floribundas have a mixed pedigree, with its ancestors being R. multiflora (large trusses of flowers) and Hybrid Chinas (long flowering season).

In 1910, the Danish breeder, Poulsen, crossed Dwarf Polyanthas with Hybrid Teas in an attempt to increase the hardiness and cold tolerance of the latter. He crossed Polyantha, Mme Norbert Levavasseur, with Hybrid Tea, Richmond, to produce Rödhätte (Red Riding Hood) with semi-double, cherry-red flowers in large clusters. It was distributed in 1912, but was lost in the turmoil of the First World War.

Crosses of Dwarf Polyantha, Orléans Rose, with Hybrid Tea, Red Star, by Poulsen’s son, Svend, produced two new roses in 1924: the pink semi-double Else Poulsen and the red single Kirsten Poulsen. These were the start of the Poulsen Roses and were soon followed by Karen Poulsen 1932 and the first yellow Cluster-Flowered Rose, Poulsen Yellow, in 1939.

Poulsen Roses were taller in growth and had larger flowers than most Polyanthas and, as more breeders experimented with them, they were renamed Hybrid Polyanthas for two decades, and then, Floribundas, in the 1950s. Most of them have been superseded by the modern Cluster-Flowered Roses and only a few survive today.

Quickly gaining in popularity, Floribundas were used as bedding plants, providing massed colour over a long period throughout the Summer. They have been interbred with other rose types as well, including R. wichuraiana; R. rubiginosa; R. rugosa and R. pimpinellifolia. Over the last twenty years, they have been interbred so much with Hybrid Teas, that it is difficult to separate them genetically.

The earlier Floribundas often had single or semi-double blooms, opening flat, but now, many Cluster-Flowered Roses have blooms as large and shapely as those of Hybrid Teas. The big advantage of Floribundas was not only their hardiness in cold climates, but also the fact that they are much more free-flowering than Hybrid Teas. Here is a photo of an early Floribunda, Gruss an Aachen.BlogModRosesReszd20%IMG_9730Another breeding aim has been to introduce flowers with veined or hand-painted petals eg McGredy, using Kordes’ rose, Frühlingsmorgen.

Here are some well-known Cluster-Flowered Roses, in order of their introduction:

Gruss an Aachen, Hinner, Germany, 1909: A cross between Hybrid Perpetual, Frau Karl Druschki and Hybrid Tea, Franz Deegen, this Floribunda bears large, full, mildly fragrant, light-pink rosette blooms with a salmon-pink centre, ageing to cream.BlogModRosesReszd2014-10-19 13.43.44Dainty Maid, LeGrice, UK, 1938: A cross between DT Poulsen and an unknown rose, it has single large flowers, which are clear pink on the inside and carmine on the exterior, and have a slight scent. See: It is a parent of Constance Spry, one of the first English Roses bred by David Austin;

August Seebauer, Kordes, Germany, 1944: A cross between Hybrid Tea, Break O’Day, and Else Poulsen, it bears small clusters of large, double, deep pink, mildly fragrant blooms with a high centred form.BlogModRosesReszd20%IMG_9719Iceberg, Kordes, German, 1958: A cross between Hybrid Musk rose, Robin Hood, and Hybrid Tea, Virgo, this rose holds the distinction of being  the most popular rose today and is one of the best Floribundas ever bred. It was voted the Best Rose by the World Rose Convention in 1983. Nearly every non-rose person knows this one!!! It has large clusters of small, lightly double white flowers, opening wide; smooth slender stems and glossy, light green foliage.

I never really appreciated Icebergs until I saw them at my sister’s garden at ‘Glenrock’.
Here is a closer photo from another Iceberg rose.

For an even closer view, see:;

BlogModRosesReszd20c 2013 017Just Joey, Cants, UK, 1972: A cross between Fragrant Cloud (a Hybrid Tea, with a strong fragrance, which was voted the Best Rose by the World Rose Convention in 1980) and Dr AJ Verhage, another Hybrid Tea. Photos above and below;BlogModRosesReszd20%IMG_0424BlogModRosesReszd20%IMG_1869Friesia, Kordes, Germany, 1973: A cross between two Floribundas, Friedrich Wörlein, and Spanish Sun, this rose has small clusters of deep yellow, high-centred ruffled blooms with a strong fragrance.BlogModRosesReszd2014-10-25 14.04.00Gold Bunny, Paolina, France, 1978: A cross between Poppy Flash and (Charleston x Allgold), all parents being Floribundas, this rose flowers continuously. I grew this on our wall at rainy Dorrigo and, despite its reputation for susceptibility to black spot, my climber was superb, with shiny glossy healthy leaves and a multitude of golden pollen-rich blooms over a long period. It had so much pollen that I experienced hayfever symptoms for the first time ever with dry itchy eyes and a runny nose, but it was worth it and I suspect a distinct selling point when we sold the property!;BlogModRosesReszd30%DSCF2073BlogModRosesReszd30%DSCF2065Oranges and Lemons, McGredy, New Zealand, 1992: A cross between Floribunda, New Year and Freude, this striking rose has large, bright lemon-yellow blooms with vermillion orange stripes.BlogModRosesReszd50%april 018Scentimental, Carruth, USA, 1996 : A cross between a yellow and red Floribunda, Playboy, and a striped Floribunda, Peppermint Twist, it is one of the new Floribundas with Hybrid Tea-like blooms on small clusters. They are creamy-white, striped and splashed with burgundy-red, each petal being different, and so, each bloom being different too.BlogModRosesReszd50%april 039Victoria Gold, Welsh, Australia, 1999.  Released in 1999 to commemorate the centenary of the Victorian Rose Society, the first rose society in Australia, it has rich golden yellow blooms, with a fine red edge in cooler weather, borne in clusters up to 7 blooms per stem, and contrasting dark green foliage.BlogModRosesReszd2014-10-19 14.00.26 A child of Gold Bunny, it is one of the first roses to flower in spring and can regularly repeat bloom until early winter. It is very disease resistant, a good performer in the  hot Australian climate and can be grown as an individual bush, a standard rose, grouped to form a bed of roses or a low hedge. At the Victoria State Rose Garden at Werribee Park, it is a feature plant around the old rotunda.BlogModRosesReszd2014-10-19 14.00.12

Finally, there are two more sub groupings I should mention, which cover Floribundas at either end of the height scale!


An American classification only, referring to large-flowered, taller Floribundas, forming an intermediate group between Floribundas and Hybrid Teas. They include:

Queen Elizabeth, Lammerts, USA, 1954: A cross between a Hybrid Tea, Charlotte Armstrong, and a Floribunda, Floradora, it reaches 3 metres high, is incredible disease-resistant and has continuous-flowering clusters of long, high-centred, clear-pink buds, which open into large, deeply- cupped, lightly fragrant blooms. It was voted the Best Rose at the World Rose Convention in 1977 and its popularity after the Second World War was such that, along with Peace, it is found in almost every garden at some stage (though I haven’t got one yet!!!).

I’m pretty sure that these are Queen Elizabeth.
Both photographs were taken at Moidart, in the Southern Highlands, in mid-November.

For a closeup, see:

Gold Medal, Christensen, USA, 1982: A cross between Yellow Pages x (Granada x Garden Party), all Hybrid Teas, this golden yellow rose with copper shadings is the classic Hybrid Tea form, with high-centred buds, opening to cupped, reflexed blooms.BlogSohoReszd5013-06-09 12.43.49Fragrant Plum, Christensen, USA, 1990: A cross between a Floribunda, Shocking Blue, and (Blue Nile x Ivory Tower, both Hybrid Teas, x Floribunda, Angel Face), it has large, double, mauve blooms with a strong, fruity fragrance.BlogModRosesReszd2016-10-28 13.51.47Miniatures, Ground Cover and Patio Roses

Bred from Dwarf China rose, Rouletti, long grown on the window sills of Swiss cottages and rediscovered by Henri Correvon in 1922, these roses are miniature versions of their larger Floribunda cousins, with smaller blooms, foliage, stems and prickles. You can see a photo of Rouletti on:

The slightly larger varieties are known as Patio Roses and are increasingly popular with people living in units or on small properties. An example is:

Queen Mother, Kordes, Germany, 1991: A cross between a seedling of R. wichuraiana and Floribunda, Toynbee Hall, it was bred for the Queen Mother’s 90th birthday to support the Royal United Kingdom Beneficent Association, of which she was the Royal Patron. It has small clusters of medium to large, semi-double, light pink flowers with a mild fragrance, which open flat.BlogModRosesReszd50%april 016The smaller varieties are known as Miniatures or Fairy Roses and have been crossed with Floribundas and Wichuraianas to develop blooms with new colours and shapes.  They are often grown in pots.

Ground Cover Roses, also known as Procumbent Shrub Roses,  are just that. Examples include: Sea Foam, Schwartz, USA, 1964; and Snow Carpet, McGredy, NZ, 1980. See: for more.

Over the next two weeks, we will be looking at the Modern Shrub Rose and Modern Climbers, starting with David Austin’s English Roses, as well as the progeny of other breeders. We have already discussed Pemberton’s Hybrid Musks, which also fall into this category.

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