The developmental process that produces the ornate petals of the China rose (Rosa chinensis) is complex and is thought to depend on the balanced expression of a functionally diverse array of genes; however, the molecular basis of rose petal development is largely unknown. Here, petal growth of the R. chinensis cultivar ‘Old Blush’ was divided into four developmental stages, and RNA-seq technology was used to analyse the dynamic changes in transcription that occur as development progresses. In total, 598 million clean reads and 61,456 successfully annotated unigenes were obtained. Differentially expressed gene (DEG) analysis comparing the transcriptomes of the developmental stages resulted in the identification of several potential candidate genes involved in petal development. DEGs involved in anthocyanin biosynthesis, petal expansion, and phytohormone pathways were considered in depth, in addition to several candidate transcription factors. These results lay a foundation for future studies on the regulatory mechanisms underlying rose petal development and may be used in molecular breeding programs aimed at generating ornamental rose lines with desirable traits.