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December 28, 2023

Pink Celsiana Damask Heritage Rose

There are many aspects of the Heritage or Old Garden Roses to appreciate. The bold colors and striking fragrances are just a few. While one might consider all roses need the same care, this is not the full story. The good news is that heritage roses require significantly less care than many of the more modern hybrids. They are tough and hardy without sacrificing any beauty or performance.

There are a few specific differences in the care of Heritage Roses worth noting. The group covers a wide variety so we will try to include a few important specifics.  

We will cover:

Heritage Rose Hardiness 

Yes, this has been mentioned but the fantastic heritage roses are tough. They are more robust than any rose you will encounter and probably hardier than many other plants in your garden. They require very little effort so are ideal for the beginner or the busy gardener.

Sun Requirements

As with most roses, these need a fair amount of sun. The recommended amount of direct sunlight is 4 to 6 hours. Again, many heritage roses are an exception to the rule and many do well with partial shade. Many of the climbers are more tolerant, particularly the Bourbon varieties.

Where to Plant Heritage Roses

One has to bear in mind that not all heritage roses have the same growth habit. A few are compact, most are tall and rampant, while many have a climbing habit. These factors need to guide you in where to plant them.

The compact ones make great borders while the trailing varieties are spectacular on a trellis or an arbor.

Provide they have sufficient sunlight; you can plant them anywhere they will be allowed to display their brilliance. One idea worth considering is that, given their spectacular fragrance, it might be an idea to place them where this can be appreciated.

Choosing the Ideal Soil 

We discuss this in more detail in our Planting Heritage Roses  article but the important point to note is that you want a well-draining soil that is rich in nutrients.

Watering Heritage Roses  

Although heritage roses are drought-resistant, they will need some water.  You do not need to water as often as modern roses unless they are in pots or you have had a long hot spell with no rain.

Potted specimens should be watered every other day, especially in the warmer months. Reduce watering to weekly in winter and do not water when it is extremely cold.

The idea is to not splash the leaves and give the base of the bush a decent drench. This will encourage deep root growth and make them even more resistant to dry conditions. Never simply splash a bit of water around or on the rose.

A good idea with these roses is to use drip irrigation which is not only effective but will make your job easier. Do not leave accumulated water at the base of the rose bush.

Ideal Temperature and Humidity

Yet again, we refer to the worldwide history of these roses and their durability. They are strong and hardy. As with most plants, they do not thrive under extreme conditions. They will probably survive but will not give you the full delight they can offer.

Summer might require a bit more watering and a cold winter would call for some protection, especially if the plants are not fully mature.

The ideal temperature range is 15 to 26 ℃. Many, however, can flourish far outside of this range.  

Pruning Your Heritage Rose

The main rule with pruning heritage roses is less is more. They require minimal pruning. The idea is to remove any dead or unhealthy wood. You want to prune them after the flowers have completed their flush. Shape them according to the space and your taste or requirements.

Pruning the many climbing heritage roses poses a bit more of a challenge. While regular maintenance will keep them in shape and going where they need to go, sometimes a bit more effort is required. Every second year or so, after they have bloomed, you need to untie and unravel them. It is a challenge, but the results are worth it. You want to remove all old wood from the base before repositioning and securing it back to the structure.

Another point to note is to not prune young roses for a while. Allow them to establish and “find their feet”. Once they are growing vigorously you can start the process, Until then, stick to minimal shaping and removal of any unhealthy wood or untidy branches.

Heritage Rose Pests and How to Treat

Pests are rare and can be treated with a mild solution if they occur. Often manual removal of the pests and/or infected branches is sufficient, Ensure you treat the surrounding plants that could be the cause of the infestation.  An occasional manual inspection is a good idea and treat according to the pest. Pets can spread from other infected plants near your rose. Neem oil is often the best treatment.

Heritage Rose Diseases and How to Treat

Disease is rare if you have healthy plants. Some of these roses, particularly Bourbon roses, do occasionally get mildew or blackspot. This is easy to treat with an organic sulfur spray. An otherwise healthy bush will simply shrug this off and continue to grow normally. If you find blackspot to be a problem, the cause could be poor air circulation or too little sunlight. Monitor this and if it becomes an issue, you can make changes.


Do not assume that all roses need the same care. While there is not a dramatic difference in the care of heritage roses, there are some specific points to be aware of. Despite their hardiness, the right amount of care will ensure a healthy and bountiful rose bush that produces adorable blooms year after year.

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