Glossary: Terms used in the world of roses

Confused about all the tech jargon around roses?? We’re here to help.

If rose lovers want to discuss roses it makes it much easier if we can agree to use the same terminology. The following is an alphabetical list of basic botanical & common terms used to describe rose plant culture.

It is a lot easier to understand what someone means when they say “canes” rather than “… those thorny green sticks where the rose flower comes out …”

Many of these are terms we are familiar with, like ‘leaf’, ‘bark’, or ‘bud’ – but there is often a more detailed definition when talking among rose growers.

From the Tacoma Rose Society:
Confused about all the tech jargon around roses?? Here’s a handy glossary of rose terms to get you started.

Since 71% of WordPress gardening blogs are written in English, with Spanish at a distant 4.7% (2nd), we’ll be sticking to terms in the English language for now. If you have some more rose terms to share—that we may have missed in this glossary—please share with us in the comments below!


  • Anther – The upper portion of a stamen which contains the pollen sacs.
  • Apical Meristem – Non-maturing cells located at the tips of shoots and roots which produce the plant hormone auxin.
  • Auricle – The ‘ear-like’ projection found on the tip of the stipule.
  • Auxin – a plant hormone that regulates the bloom cycle for rose buds.
  • Axil – the angle on the upper side where the leaf and stem join.
  • Axillary – A term describing buds or branches occurring in the axil of a leaf. These buds begin to grow after pruning or deadheading.


  • Bark – The outer layer of the stem of a rose.
  • Bud – An embryonic shoot that may eventually produce either flowers of foliage.
  • Bud Union – That area between the roots and the stems where the bud of the desired variety was grafted onto the rootstock.
  • Bract – A leaf unlike the ordinary leaves which is usually smaller or of a different shape, growing from the peduncle just below the flower.

C – D

  • Calyx – The first of a series of flower parts growing from the peduncle, composed of sepals, usually green and leaf-like.
  • Cane – The stem of a rose, either the main stem (which then becomes the trunk) or lateral stems or branches.
  • Carpel – An organ bearing ovules along its margins; part of a compound pistil.
  • Compound Leaf – A leaf composed of two or more parts or leaflets. Rose leaves are pinnately compound.
  • Corolla – The second of a series of flower parts growing from the peduncle, composed of petals.
  • Double – Referring to how many petals the rose has – usually between 25 and 45.

E – F

  • Filament – The stalk of the stamen which supports the anther.
  • Floral Tube – A cup-like structure formed by the fusion of the basal parts of the sepals, petals and stamens. Don’t call it a ‘calyx tube.’
  • Fruit – A ripe ovary containing seeds and any adjacent parts.

G – K

  • Hip – The fruit of the rose which contains the seeds.

L – M

  • Leaf – An organ arising laterally from superficial tissues of a shoot apex. It is usually flat and may be simple or compound.
  • Leaf Scar – A mark left on the stem where the leaf detaches. There is a bud just above each leaf scar.
  • Meristem – Tissue composed of cells that do not mature, but remain capable of further growth and division. Present in growing tips.
  • Mixed Buds – Buds that produce both leaves and flowers; usual type of bud on roses; present in leaf axils.

N – P

  • Ovary – The swollen basal portion of the pistil containing the ovules or seeds.
  • Ovule – A structure containing the embryo sac, nucellus, integuments and stalk. After fertilization this develops into seeds.
  • Peduncle – The main stem of an individual flower or of a spray.
  • Pedicel – The stem of an individual flower in a spray.
  • Perianth – The collective term for the calyx and corolla (sepals and petals) combined.
  • Petal – One of the units of the corolla of the flower. Roses have from four to over 100 petals, depending on the variety.
  • Petaloid – A transitional phase between petals and stamens. Petalloids are visible in single and semi-double roses as deformed-looking petals in the center of the rose.
  • Petiole – The stalk of the leaf.
  • Petiolul – A subdivision of the petiole which connects the lateral leaflets to the petiole.
  • Pinnately – Having parts or branches arranged on each side of a common axis like a feather.
  • Pistil – The central organ of the flower composed of one or more carpels and encloses the ovules.
  • Pith – The soft inner portion of a rose stem.
  • Pollen – The granules within the pollen sacs containing genetic information used for sexual reproduction.
  • Prickle – A spine-like superficial outgrowth of the stem. Roses have prickles, not ‘thorns.’

Q – R

  • Roots – The underground parts of the rose used for support and to absorb water and nutrients.
  • Rootstock – The cultivated roots of a rose which will be implanted with a bud from another variety (grafting).


  • Semi-double – Referring to how many petals the rose has – usually 12 to 25.
  • Sepal – One of the units of the calyx. These are the green coverings of a flower bud that open to reveal the petals of the rose. Roses usually have 5 sepals.
  • Single – Referring to how many petals the rose has – usually four to eight.
  • Spray – Several flowers buds which arise from one peduncle and develop into many flowers on short pedicels.
  • Stamen – The organ of the flower producing pollen, composed of an anther and a filament.
  • Stigma – The top of the pistil, the part that receives the pollen grains.
  • Stipule – A leaf appendage that is usually present in roses on the petiole where it meets the stem.
  • Style – The part of the pistil that connects the ovary and the stigma.

T – Z

  • Terminal – A term applied to buds occurring at the end of branches. The end or tip.
  • Thorn – A branch of a plant that becomes woody, hard and pointed. Cactus plants have thorns, locust trees have thorns. Rose do NOT have thorns as the ‘prickles’ on a rose do not develop from ‘branch’ tissue.
  • Trunk – The main stem of a rose, the cane that later produces all the side branches or lateral canes.
  • Vegetative Bud – A bud that produces only leaves and never flowers. Roses do NOT have vegetative buds.

Tips for using this glossary

If we agree that the purpose of our glossary is to encourage consistent use of terminology and clarify our needs, then we’ll quickly realize that the glossary is only the beginning. A glossary is your reference tool and a way to capture terms, definitions, and variations as they come up in your rose discussions.

Just as important, however, is that you practice the consistent use of terminology. Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Use these terms consistently in your questions and discussions, as even small variations can cause confusion.
  • During rose discussions, clarify unfamiliar or new terms before moving on. Doing so will often save lots of time resolving further questions, as these often boil down to varying definitions.
  • Encourage the use of consistent botanical terminology in written articles and presentations. Sometimes they use technical language that is confusing to new rosarians, and botanical terms can be helpful.

Next steps

Once you’ve developed an understanding of the common rose terms and are ready to build a home rose garden— head over to 8 garden design principles. This post by a landscape architect will give you a framework for laying out a garden in your yard.

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