The "Sterling Silver" (Rosa "Sterling Silver"), commonly known as the sterling rose, is a hybrid tea rose with large lavender flowers crowning tall stalks. The sterling rose is hardy in U.S. department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6b through 9b. One difference between this rose and other lavender roses is that "Sterling Silver" was the first one cultivated. Another difference is that it is relatively thornless and has a sweet fragrance -- two attributes not present in all hybrid teas. The sterling rose, as of August 2013, remains commercially available.
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Most species of roses are either white or shades of pink. Over time, selective breeding has led to the development of other colors. Before "Sterling Silver" was introduced in 1957, a few purple-toned roses existed: "Cardinal Richelieu" (Rosa "Cardinal Richelieu") was introduced in the 1800s and is hardy in USDA zones 4b through 8b. "Cardinal Richelieu" is a relatively small flowered hybrid China rose with much darker purple flowers. The difference between "Sterling Silver" and earlier "purple" roses was the silvery lavender color.
After "Sterling Silver"
Since "Sterling Silver's " introduction, a number of similar, silvery lavender varieties have been introduced. Most, if not all have "Sterling Silver" in their parentage. One is the strongly scented "Lagerfeld" (Rosa "Lagerfeld"), a hybrid tea hardy in USDA zones 7 through 10 and a little larger than "Sterling Silver". One of "Lagerfeld's parent roses is silvery lavender "Angel Face" (Rosa "Angel Face"), hardy in USDA zones 6b through 9b. "Angel Face:, a direct offspring of "Sterling Silver," is a floribunda rose, bearing clusters of large, ruffled flowers that have a vibrant, lemony fragrance.
"Sterling Silver" and other silvery lavender roses, require at least six hours of direct sunlight per day to thrive. Plant in well-drained, loamy soil and provide regular moisture while the plants are establishing roots and during dry spells thereafter. To encourage an encore of blooming, prune canes by about one-third in early spring and remove spent flowers during the growing season. "Sterling Silver" and its offspring might need winter protection when grown in the cooler parts of their hardiness zones. Use protective covers to keep the plants from being damaged by late spring frosts.
Roses like "Sterling Silver" in the lavender color range look especially lovely when paired with plants such as lavender (Lavandula spp.) or lavender cotton (Santolina spp.) with its silvery foliage. They can be grown in traditional rose beds or in mixed annual/perennial/shrub borders. In borders, other shorter plants can blanket the roses' bases, which are less attractive than the top growth. "Sterling Silver" and "Angel Face" are also available in climbing forms, which can add beauty to arches, trellises and other small spaces.