Roses are best known as ornamental plants grown for their flowers in the garden and sometimes indoors. They have been also used for commercial perfumery and commercial cut flower crops. Some are used as landscape plants, for hedging and for other utilitarian purposes such as game cover and slope stabilization. They also have minor medicinal uses.
The majority of ornamental roses are hybrids that were bred for their flowers. A few, mostly species roses are grown for attractive or scented foliage (such as Rosa glauca and Rosa rubiginosa), ornamental thorns (such as Rosa sericea) or for their showy fruit (such as Rosa moyesii).
Ornamental roses have been cultivated for millennia, with the earliest known cultivation known to date from at least 500 BC in Mediterranean countries, Persia, and China. Many thousands of rose hybrids and cultivars have been bred and selected for garden use as flowering plants. Most are double-flowered with many or all of the stamens having mutated into additional petals.
In the early 19th century the Empress Josephine of France patronized the development of rose breeding at her gardens at Malmaison. As long ago as 1840 a collection numbering over one thousand different cultivars, varieties and species was possible when a rosarium was planted by Loddiges nursery for Abney Park Cemetery, an early Victorian garden cemetery and arboretum in England.
Roses are a popular crop for both domestic and commercial cut flowers. Generally they are harvested and cut when in bud, and held in refrigerated conditions until ready for display at their point of sale.
In temperate climates, cut roses are often grown in glasshouses, and in warmer countries they may also be grown under cover in order to ensure that the flowers are not damaged by weather and that pest and disease control can be carried out effectively. Significant quantities are grown in some tropical countries, and these are shipped by air to markets across the world.
Rose perfumes are made from attar of roses or rose oil, which is a mixture of volatile essential oils obtained by steam distilling the crushed petals of roses. An associated product is rose water which is used for cooking, cosmetics, medicine and in religious practices. The production technique originated in Persia then spread through Arabia and India, and more recently into eastern Europe. In Bulgaria, Iran and Germany, damask roses (Rosa × damascena 'Trigintipetala') are used. In other parts of the world Rosa × centifolia is commonly used. The oil is transparent pale yellow or yellow-grey in colour. 'Rose Absolute' is solvent-extracted with hexane and produces a darker oil, dark yellow to orange in colour. The weight of oil extracted is about one three-thousandth to one six-thousandth of the weight of the flowers; for example, about two thousand flowers are required to produce one gram of oil.
Rose hips are occasionally made into jam, jelly, marmalade, and soup or are brewed for tea, primarily for their high vitamin C content. They are also pressed and filtered to make rose hip syrup. Rose hips are also used to produce Rose hip seed oil, which is used in skin products and some makeup products.
The rose hip, usually from R. canina is used as a minor source of Vitamin C. The fruits of many species have significant levels of vitamins and have been used as a food supplement. Many roses have been used in herbal and folk medicines. Rosa chinensis has long been used in Chinese traditional medicine. This and other species have been used for stomach problems, and are being investigated for controlling cancer growth.