History of the Heirloom, Antique Rose Louis Phillipe aka Cracker Rose

The Louis Phillip Rose was likely introduced into the Southeastern United States by a Texas politician, who was Minister to France in the 1830s, Loreneza de Zavala.  It is believed to have been a gift from the French to Zavala who planted it at  his home in Lynchburg, Texas near Houston.  Louis Phillipe was originally hybridized by the well known French rose breeder,  Guerin in 1834, and was named in honor of the King of France  Louis Philippe, who had returned to France around this time after a long period of political exile.

More than 100 years later this beautiful gift from France had become a staple in the southern landscape, and has become so associated with the South that it is commonly called the Cracker Rose.   This popularity is no doubt due to how easy and rewarding Louis Phillip is to grow.  This  rose bears flowers profusely and often, with very little effort.  The bush grows to be between 3 to 6 feet tall depending on climate with a busy rounding habit.  It is generally considered winter hardy in Zone 7 and south, some sources rate it to Zone 6.  But, we would caution Zone 6 growers to plant a large mature plant early, in as protected a location as is possible, and then mulch heavily well ahead of freezing weather.

Louis Phillip is one of those roses that makes a statement to permanence and survival.    It can still frequently be found basically growing wild where it has survived long after the original home and surrounding garden have succumbed to neglect and/or the harsh conditions of weather disasters.  It was a frequent choice for cemetery plantings in the 1940’s to 1960’s, and surviving plants are frequently seen in old cemeteries.   A heritage rose garden simply cannot be complete without one.

These excellent traits are no doubt the reason Louis Phillipe was selected by Texas A&M for their ‘Earth Kind’ ™ list recommended roses.

Louis Phillip Roses  repeat bloom on a regular and reliable cycle.  The blooms are lightly fragrant, rated at about 4 on smell scale of 1-10.

The flowers of Louis Philippe are  loose double shaped blossoms, about 2″ across, colored a deep rose red with a hint of lighter blush pink in the center.   A white stripe through the petals is frequently observed, a trait which that belies China heritage of Louis Phillipe.

The flowers are moderately long lasting when cut and the stems are long enough for nice loose casual cut arrangements as well.   For the longest cut flower life, harvest early before the flowers have fully opened.    More mature flowers that have fully opened will ‘blow’ out quickly and start to drop petals.  The flowers can be affixed to small floral stakes for a more upright appearance in the vase.

The petals of the Louis Phillipe Rose are often an ingredient in old southern recipes for rose syrups, rose flavored waters and sugars, as well as a favorite choice for sugar coated petals on a fancy table for special events like weddings.

Louis Philippe is sometimes confused with ‘Cramoisi Superieur’, and they appear very similar.   Louis Philippe seems to be more compact and shows more variation in color within the flowers

For the best results with your Heirloom Louis Phillip Rose:

  • Plant it in well drained soil in full sun.  (Most all roses need at least 5 hours of full sun each day to bloom well).
  • Feed it a good quality slow release rose food every 3-4 months.  Provide adequate irrigation…irrigation that waters the roots without wetting foliage is always better for all roses.    Louis Philippe is very disease resistant and is self curing.  It will develop some black spot when conditions are right for it (heat & humidity) but diseased leaves generally shed off and are quickly replaced by healthy ones.
  • Provide supplemental irrigation until well established.  Louise Phillip is drought tolerant once well established.
  • Dead Head spent blooms.  Roses always bloom on new growth, so dead heading (the practice of quickly popping the spent bloom off the stem by using the gloved thumb and forefinger with a quick twisting motion) spent blooms always encourages branching and new blooms.
  • Prune for shape frequently when young.
  • Prune for shape when mature once or twice annually.  This particular rose can be pruned for shape at most any time, although pruning late in the fall should be avoided in Zone 7.
  • Mulch heavily for winter in Zone 6 and 7, and 8a.

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