History of Kordes

Kordes Family

Board of Directors. Image ©Kordes

History of Kordes

W. KORDES’ SÖHNE (Kordes® Roses) is one of the global leaders in the breeding and production of roses. It specializes in rose varieties for garden use, commercial cut flowers, and potted floral roses. Kordes roses are distributed all around the world.

The rose breeding and the biggest part of plant production of garden roses takes place in Sparrieshoop which is near Hamburg Germany. Here, the breeding programs are subdivided into cut roses for greenhouses, cut roses for seasonal outdoor production, garden roses for use in landscapes and gardens, and miniature roses for indoor use in small pots.


In 1887 in a small town north of Hamburg, Germany called Elmshorn, 22 year old Wilhelm Kordes founded a nursery for the production of rose plants called W. Kordes’ Sohne. He collected roses from many sources for propagation, and became known as a leading rose expert of his time. His business prospered, and in 1918 it was relocated to Sparrieshoop, Germany, where it remains to this day. In time, Wilhelm II and his brother Herman joined their father in his business. Herman focused on marketing and production, while, in 1920, Wilhelm II began a program to breed new rose varieties.  This brotherly partnership

Wilhelm Kordes

Wilhelm Kordes. Image ©Kordes.

resulted in vastly expanded production, reaching over one million plants yearly in the late 1930s. And it also resulted in world-wide breeding successes such as Crimson Glory, which came to market in 1935. The company continued to expand into the 1950s and 60s with new greenhouses, modern cold storage facilities and increasing production. In the late ‘50s, the third generation began to lead the company; Reimer Kordes, Herman Kordes II and Werner Kordes, introduced roses such as Iceberg® (KORbin) (1958), Lilli Marleen (1959), Color Wonder (1964) and Westerland (1969). Production reached a peak of over 4 million rose plants a year, making W. Kordes’ Sohne one of the leading rose nurseries in Europe. The ‘70s brought such superstars as Sunsprite (1973), Rosarium Uetersen (1977), and Helmut Schmidt (1979). Another change in management to the 4th generation began in 1988 with Wilhelm Kordes III, Bernd Helms-Kordes, and Tim-Herman Kordes.

Currently, the 5th generation including Alexander Kordes, Norman Kordes and John Kordes have joined the family business. Kordes markets roses in more than 30 countries around the world, and they are now readily available here in North America.

The Kordes Breeding Program:

The W. Kordes’ Sohne breeding program is one of the largest in the world.  Before introducing a new rose, Kordes carefully evaluates it for such qualities as color, size, form, vase life, productivity, disease resistance, and fragrance. Every year, using traditional hybridizing methods the Kordes staff creates approximately 1,200,000 new seeds from making crosses. The resulting seeds are harvested and planted for the initial evaluations and selection.

Kordes Rose Nursery circa 1900

Kordes Rose Nursery circa 1900. Image ©Kordes.

Thousands of these are selected for further evaluation and field trials. These trials last more than 7 years, with only a handful or roses being selected for release each year to the public.

In 1990 Kordes made the decision that all garden roses should be naturally healthy and disease resistant. This decision led to having all of the trial fields for garden roses being managed and the roses evaluated without applications of fungicides. So although Kordes’ marketing slogan has always been “The most beautiful roses of the world,” today the word “beautiful” encompasses so much more. The Kordes goals in rose breeding are:

  • disease resistance
  • winter hardiness
  • abundance of flowers
  • fragrance
  • quick repeat bloom
  • self cleaning (spent flowers drop to the ground)
  • rain resistance
  • unique colors and shapes
  • good habit
Kordes research and breeding facilities

Kordes research and breeding facilities. Image ©Kordes.

  • suitability as a cut rose
  • suitability to be grown from cuttings
  • suitability for use in containers

This is an all-encompassing and very ambitious program and given all the characteristics which are evaluated it is easy to see why so much time is spent choosing the right roses for commercial marketing

Rose lovers are always welcome at the rose garden at Kordes.  The gardens are typically in bloom from late June to early September. If you wish to visit while in Germany the garden is located in Sparrieshoop,Germany.