The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Sorting Through Rose Varieties

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

Roses may have a simple beauty, but selecting rose varieties can seem quite complex. There are so many varieties with so many terms such as bush, shrub, hybrid, antique, heritage, rambler, and climber. Greg Stack, U of I Extension horticulture educator at the Countryside Center, shares some tips on how to sort through the names.

Roses grown for outdoor use are commonly separated into three main groups determined mainly by their growth habit. The three groups are bush roses (which includes miniatures), shrub roses and climbing roses. Each of these groups may be further divided into classes. Bush roses can grow from 2-6 feet tall except for the miniatures that range in height from 6-24 inches tall. Shrub roses can grow 3-10 feet tall. Usually bush and shrub roses do not need any support structure. Climbing roses produce long canes that may be 15-20 feet long or more and require some support.

Bush roses are primarily grouped into types according to flower habit, winter hardiness, size and type of growth. Major classes of more recent cultivars include hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora and miniature. Common classes for older cultivated varieties (cultivars) include polyantha and old fashioned or antique roses. Tree or standard roses are another group and include adaptations of bush roses.

Hybrid teas are also sometimes known as everblooming roses because they bloom continuously through the growing season. When most people think of a rose, they visualize a hybrid tea. Hybrid teas can grow from 2-6 feet tall depending on the cultivar. The flowers vary from singles having one row of petals to doubles having many rows of petals. Flowers are generally borne singly on a long stem which makes hybrid teas popular as cut flowers. Most hybrid tea flowers have varying degrees of fragrance. Hybrid teas also vary in winter hardiness and disease resistance.

A few good choices include 'Blue Moon,' 'Fragrant Cloud,' 'Pink Peace' and 'Tropicana'. Floribunda roses bear their flowers in clusters and are known to be winter hardy, low growing and provide blooms throughout the summer. The floribunda class such as 'Little Darling,' 'Sun Flare' and 'Sun Sprite' is gaining in popularity as a landscape rose. Grandiflora roses are a cross between hybrid teas and floribundas. Flowers are borne in clusters like floribundas, but have large flowers like hybrid teas with long cutting stems. Some nice grandifloras are 'Aquarius' and 'Camelot.'

Miniatures roses are small both in flower size and plant height. Heights can range from 6 inches to 24 inches. Miniatures are useful for the small landscape used as border or edging plants. Miniatures such as 'Avandel,' 'Peaches and Cream' and 'Mary Marshall' are winter hardy and reliable.

Polyanthus flowers are smaller than those of grandifloras, but are borne in large clusters. The clusters are similar to many of the climbing roses in form and size. Polyanthus are hardy and may be grown with a little more success in areas where hybrid teas are difficult to overwinter. They combine well with perennial flowers in borders because of their informal habit. 'The Fairy' is a popular polyantha.

Old fashioned or antique roses are varieties which were around before 1867 when the first hybrid tea was introduced. Old roses include many subclasses such as China, gallica, hybrid perpetuals, and noisette. Flowers of the older roses tend to be more full and flat in appearance and are usually much more fragrant. These plants tend to be much hardier because they are usually on their own roots (not grafted) and more tolerant of diseases and insects. Most of these roses bloom only once a season. Nice possibilities include 'Rosa glauca' and 'Harison's Yellow'. Innext week's column,I will discuss tree roses, climbers, ramblers and shrub roses.

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