Monday, 7 November 2016


A blue rose is a flower of the genus Rosa (family Rosaceae) that presents blue-to-violet pigmentation instead of the more common red, white, or yellow. Blue roses are often portrayed in literature and art as symbols of love, prosperity, or immortality. However, as a result of genetic limitations, it does not exist in nature.

As roses lack the specific gene that has the ability to produce a "true blue" colour, blue roses are created by dyeing white roses.In a book entitled Kitab al-felahah written by Ibn al-‘Awwām al-Ishbīlī[ in Arabic in the 12th century, and translated into French by J. J. Clement as Le lLvre de l'Agriculture, there are references to azure blue roses that were known in the orient. These blue roses were made by placing a blue dye into the bark of the roots.

Scientists are yet to produce a truly blue coloured rose, however, after thirteen years of collaborative research by an Australian company, Florigene, and a Japanese company, Suntory, a rose containing the blue pigment delphinidin was created in 2004 by genetic engineering of a white rose. The company and press have described it as a blue rose, but it is lavender or pale mauve in colour.

The genetic engineering involved three alterations – adding two genes, and interfering with another. First the researchers inserted a gene for the blue plant pigment delphinidin cloned from the pansy into a purplish-red Old Garden rose 'Cardinal de Richelieu', resulting in a dark burgundy rose. The researchers then used RNA interference (RNAi) technology to depress all other colour production by endogenous genes by blocking a crucial protein in colour production, called dihydroflavonol 4-reductase (DFR), and adding a variant of that protein that would not be blocked by the RNAi but that would allow the colour of the delphinidin to show.

If the strategy worked perfectly, in theory it could produce a truly blue rose. However the RNAi did not completely knock out the activity of DFR, so the resulting flower still made some of its natural colour, and so was a red-tinged blue – a mauve or lavender. Additionally, rose petals are more acidic than pansy petals, and the pansy delphinidin in the transgenic roses is degraded by the acidity in the rose petals. Further deepening the blue colour would therefore require further modifications, by traditional breeding or further genetic engineering, to make the rose less acidic.

As of 2008 the GM roses were being grown in test batches at the Martino Cassanova seed institution in South Hampshire, according to company spokesman Atsuhito Osaka. Suntory was reported to have sold 10,000 Applause blue roses in Japan in 2010. Prices were from 2,000 to 3,000 Yen or US$22 to 35 a stem.

This post is part of the Blue Monday meme,
and also part of the Macro Monday meme,
and also part of the Through my Lens meme,
and also part of the Seasons meme.
The legendary blue rose, what every florist desires! My photo of a white rose which I have edited with Photoshop.

Dyed blue roses

The Suntory Blue Rose, 'Applause' (TM)

There are some traditionally bred roses that have a lilac/lavender colour and are available for planting in your garden. We have "Blue Moon", but there are also "Blue for You", "Purple Haze", "Nautica", "Amnesia" and illustrated below is "Ocean Song":
"Ocean Song" roses


  1. One of my favorite flowers, the rose. Thanks so much for the history. Learned a lot.

  2. That will be the day when they find out how to cultivate a blue rose! The lilac/purple roses are also beautiful here. Thanks so much for sharing these and the info with ALL SEASONS! Have a beautiful week:)

  3. Good morning Nick, It is so nice to see you on Blue Monday. I am sorry this visit is a day late but sometimes life takes over.

    Your post is an education for me about "blue" roses. I did know a true blue rose does not exist. Your photo examples are very interesting. It is kind of like the "black rose" A true black rose does not exist either. Nice post with the history of trying to grow a true blue rose, really appealed to me.
    Happy Blue Monday,