Rose Varieties and Selection
Are you confused by the many rose varieties available? You might have your favorites or those you have grown before, but the many other types of rose bushes can be bewildering. We will guide you through the various options to help you decide on the best choice for your garden.
Roses have a reputation for being difficult to grow. With the correct varietal choice, there is nothing further from the truth. They are versatile, attractive, and much easier to care for than many people believe.
Different Types of Rose Bushes
Roses can broadly be categorized into three main types, namely Old Garden or Heritage Roses, Wild Roses, and Modern Roses. Each has a unique appeal, and they all offer advantages and disadvantages.
There are more than 300 rose species and almost countless cultivars.
Old Garden or Heritage Roses
This category of rose is generally those varieties that have been around since before 1867. While this year has historical significance, some roses still fall into this class that have been hybridized after 1867.
They are known for bold blooms, often with a double flower, and a powerful pleasant fragrance. A major advantage of old garden roses is that they need less fuss and care. They are robust roses that are extremely disease resistant. The downside is that most tend to only bloom once a season.
Wild roses, sometimes called species roses, are typically pink 5-petal roses. They generally have a single bloom. Most have since been hybridized or cross-bred but a true wild rose, while somewhat rare to find, is an original rose that does indeed grow wild in nature or in your garden.
While predominantly pink there are varieties that are white or red, occasionally yellow. Most hail from Europe, the Orient, and North America. The great thing is that they need little to no care and are super-hardy.
Modern Garden Roses
Old Garden Roses were incredibly popular and were enthusiastically bred and hybridized. This resulted in what we now call modern garden roses. The benefit of modern roses is that they deliver a more continuous bloom which most gardeners appreciate. They are generally bred after 1867, again, with a few exceptions. The main roses you will see in nurseries, parks, and gardens today are a variety of modern garden roses.
They are known for larger blooms that bloom prolifically throughout the year. Another appeal is that they last well when cut and placed in a vase. The downside is that they lack the powerful fragrance of old garden roses and need a bit more care. They are not as hardy and are more prone to disease if not cared for.
Specific Rose Varieties
Given the popularity of roses, they have been bred and hybridized extensively over the years. This has resulted in a vast range of varieties giving us different kinds of rose plants. To simplify things, we will break them down into classes and delve into a few of the main varieties.
Each has unique benefits and rewards. Not all will be suitable for your space or your taste, but this guide will simplify the options you are likely to encounter when selecting from the different types of roses.
Old Garden Roses
Although hybrid roses, many Alba Rose varieties date back centuries. They tend to be tall and elegant with lush foliage. Alba Roses generally flower towards the end of spring and through summer. They will only bloom once a year, but it is worth the wait. Colors are generally white or soft pinks, and the swirling blooms have a strong pleasant fragrance.
They are extremely hardy and can handle the cold and shade better than most roses. For decent blooms, they will still need a few hours of sun. They are also highly disease-resistant so minimal care is needed. The long canes often need support as they can grow 7 to 8 feet high.
Königin von Dänemark/ Queen of Denmark
This popular Alba has flowers with a dark pink center that lightens towards the tips. It blooms for about 6 weeks and can handle wet weather well.
Rosa ‘Alba' Maxima
Growing up to six feet, the Alba Maxima has rather scruffy yet beautifully scented white flower.
With unique delicate blooms, this Alba has green yellow buds that develop into pink blooms when opened. Flowers are relatively small and deliver a powerful spicy aroma.
Celeste’ or ‘Celestial
This old Alba has dainty light pink flowers. The spreading stems produce rose blooms with a sweet fragrance followed by red hip in fall.
Other varieties include the Alba ‘Semi-Plena, Maiden’s Blush, and Blush Hip.
This attractive and fragrant rose was introduced in 1817 in France. They have striking bold blooms in pink, white, and red. It also grows quite tall, up to 8 feet, so a trellis or some support would help. They are also ideal for fences.
Their large blooms that seem to go on forever and the delightful fragrance made them extremely popular in Victorian times. Bourbon Roses are hardy and dependable.
Madame Isaac Pereire
If it’s a powerful fragrance you want, this is one to consider. The double blooms are magenta and are 3 to 6 inches. These hardy roses grow to about 5 feet but can also be climbers growing up to 12 feet.
This variety also has a rich pleasing fragrance. Flowers are double and vibrant pink.
Practically thornless, this climber flowers for many months. It can handle shade but blooms better with sun. It grows vigorously up to 12 feet. The flowers are medium-sized and a deep pink color.
Other Bourbon roses include Souvenir du President Lincoln, Souvenir de La Malmaison, and Madame Pierre Oger.
The overlapping petals give the Centifolia roses the somewhat unfortunate, although descriptive, common name “cabbage” roses. The fine petals in multiple layers are unique and attractive.
These roses can deliver a showy mass of blooms that often weigh the stems down. They are generally pink or white and have an exceptional fragrance. They are often used in perfumes, rose water, or essential oils. Sadly, these bloom only once each year, normally early in summer.
The shrub rose flowers prolifically with masses of flat blush pink flowers. It has an elegant fragrance.
This compact bush produces an abundance of small rose pink double-quartered blooms.
Chapeau De Napoléon
The large flowers are globe-like in a clear pink. The Chapeau De Napoléon has a heavenly fragrance. Common names include Napoleon's Hat or Crested Moss.
Other popular roses in this class are the Blanchefleur, De Meaux, and Pompon de Bourgogne.
Damask roses date back to ancient times and became highly popular in Italy in the 16th century. Note that there are two distinct varieties, the Summer Damask and the Autumn or Four Seasons Damask.
The names quite naturally refer to the season in which they bloom. The other distinction is that while the Summer Damask only blooms once a year, the Autumn Damask blooms in summer as well as fall.
They have a wonderful fragrance and generally come in deep pink or crisp white blooms. The fragrance is often used for perfumes, essential oils, and other fragrant-rich products.
This rose has large, semi-double pale pink blooms that appear in small clusters. It has that classic old rose fragrance. The Celsiana grows to about 6 feet.
Ispahan is a classic old pink rose. It has a rich fragrance and small blooms. It can handle shade and cold.
While this is a modest rose by all accounts it is attractive and interesting. The petals on the medium blooms are creamy-white with hints of red at the tips. It has a powerful Myrrh fragrance.
Leda is a milky white old rose with a magnificent aroma. Flowers are medium in size and have crimson edges.
Also in this group are Angelina, Blush Damask, La Ville de Bruxelles, Quatre Saisons, Rosa Damascena Semperflorens, and more.
Another rose with an ancient history is the Gallica Rose. Other names for these roses include Provins or French Rose. Like most of the old roses, it has an appealing fragrance. The petals are used for medical tonics and are believed to have astringent and antibacterial properties.
The colors are dramatic with rich reds, pinks, and purples. Some even produce blooms with a striking two-tone stripe. They bloom once a year in the summer months. Blooms have tight clusters.
They are hardy and easy to manage. While you need some sun for good blooms, they can handle a fair amount of shade. They also stand up well to the cold. Gallica Roses grow to 3 to 5 feet.
Gloire de France
This is a relatively short shrub growing to about 3 feet. It produces an abundance of large double-mauve lilac flowers. The center is dark, and it fades towards the edges of the petals. It has a strong classic fragrance.
Charles de Mills
With a powerful fragrance and eye catching looks, this is a popular option. It does not do too well in warm climates. The flowers are large and have a bold purple crimson color.
Bella Isis has crip double pale pink flowers that are quartered. It is relatively disease resistant. The fragrance is myrrh-like and powerful.
This has large double flowers that are a medium pink color. It has a strong heavenly fragrance. Another name for this rose is Ipsilante.
Duchess de Montebello
A great cold-hard option is this upright bush that spreads well. The double blooms are a gentle pink and have a strong fragrance.
This famous old rose has beautiful semi-double flowers with crimson petals with pink and white stripes. The gold stamens complete the look. It has a pleasant fragrance and very few thorns.
Also popular in this range are L’Enchanteresse, Sissinghurst Castle, Tuscany Superb, Empress Joséphine, Tricolore de Flandre, Cramoisi Picoté, President De Sèze, Anaïs Ségalas, Assemblage Des Beautés, and Belle De Crécy.
Wild roses can be seen growing along the side of the road or in nature in many parts of the world. They are mostly known by their scientific name. You are unlikely to come across them in gardens or at nurseries.
Prickly Wild Rose (Rosa acicularis)
Mostly seen in North America, parts of Europe, and the northern regions of Asia, the Prickly Wild Rose grows to about 1 to 3 feet. The rose flowers are petite and generally pink, occasionally white.
Wild Prairie Rose (Rosa arkansana)
Native to central North America, this rose has 2 different varieties. They are Rosa arkansana var. arkansana and Rosa arkansana var. suffulta. They are both loved by birds and butterflies.
This rose is cold and drought hardy and produces masses of small white or pink flowers. The bush grows 2 to 4 feet.
Dog Rose (Rosa canina)
The name derives from this rose’s tendency to climb. It can be grown as a shrub but will cling if given the space. Flowers are generally a light pink but they are sometimes white or a darker shade of pink.
Virginia Rose (Rosa virginiana)
This is a woody shrub rose common in North America. It has a pale pink flower and grows to roughly 2 feet.
Woods' Rose (Rosa woodsia)
Flowers are in various shades of pink a have 5 petals. It can grow up to 3 feet.
Modern Garden Roses
Hybrid Tea Roses
These are bound to be the options you will come across most often. The hybrid tea rose bush is extremely popular and there are many different kinds of roses in this class.
Hybrid Tea Roses have long stems and are prolific bloomers, regularly producing an abundance of rose blooms with between 30 and 50 petals. They make a dramatic display and grow to around 3 to 7 feet.
There are many thousands of varieties and new ones coming along frequently.
Madame Caroline Testout
This is a bright pink rose with a pleasant fragrance.
Flowers are generally a light yellow but can range from lemon to ivory depending on the weather. It has large blooms with a mild fragrance.
This popular rose has cream blooms with red to scarlet tips. The impact is dramatic. It also has an appealing fragrance and blooms prolifically. It has strong bushy growth of vibrant green leaves.
This hybrid tea rose is a repeat bloomer that will reward you with rich yellow blooms with scarlet tips. Foliage is lush and glossy.
The blooms are a velvety crimson color and it has a powerful pleasant fragrance. It grows well and stands tall with long proud stems.
If you are looking for options for the best red rose bush types you can’t go wrong with the Veterans’ Honor. It has massive deep red blooms with a classic shape. The long stems make it an ideal cut flower that will last around 2 weeks in the vase.
The Voodoo blooms are hard to describe in mere words. It has large flowers that range from orange to pink, yellow, peach, and crimson. They have long stems and a mild sweet aroma.
Another popular option that will often encounter is grandiflora roses. They have many of the features of floribunda roses and are a subgroup of hybrid tea roses. The result is impressive clusters of blooms that are almost continuous.
It is a great option for most gardeners as it puts on a dramatic and impressive display. The colors include orange, purple, yellow, pink, and red.
These rewarding rose shrubs tend to be tall and large, adding to the dramatic impact that grandiflora roses make. It is one of the more modern roses with a powerful pleasing scent.
Rock & Roll
The attractive flowers on this rose have stripes of red, burgundy, and white on large blooms. The shrub grows to about 5 feet.
Tournament of Roses
The shrub rose grows to around 3 feet and features medium flowers with 25 to 30 petals. They grow in clusters and continue to bloom from spring until late fall. Flowers are in shades of pink that are deep pink in the middle and pale towards the edges.
Pink flamingo has large blooms with roughly 40 petals. The color is a rich pink with shades of salmon. It is relatively hardy and grows to 5 feet.
What makes this rose attractive is the blooms that have a pale pink with a darker rich pink on the rear of the petals. Blooms are medium to large and grow in generous clusters. It grows vigorously to between 5 and 10 feet.
A few other varieties include Love, Gold Medal, Mother of Pearl, Strike it Rich, and Radiant Perfume.
Also, a favorite for many good reasons, are floribunda roses. They too deliver large bloom clusters with great frequency. The blooms look spectacular on the bush for a long time. One of the main advantages of the floribunda roses is that are hardier and require less care and maintenance.
This is a popular option due to the dramatic rich burgundy blooms. It puts on a long, impressive display of blooms for many months. This rose is often trained to be a standard rose. It is a mild but pleasant fragrance.
The clusters or orange-apricot, pink, or yellow blooms appear in fantastic clusters for many months of the year. The double blooms are roughly 4 inches long and have a mild spicy aroma. They are a good option for the vase.
This is a hardy and attractive floribunda rose. The name comes from the colors that change over time, starting with orange or apricot and slowly changing to light pink and coral. The result is often different shaders of flowers at the same time. It is relatively disease-resistant and can handle heat.
Betty Boop has semi-double blooms in ivory with red tips. They bloom in clusters that last well. It has a mild fragrance. Leaves start red and become a rich green as they mature.
A few more options include Hot Cocoa, the classic Iceberg (white), Candy Cane Cocktail, Frida Kahlo, Champagne Moment, and many others.
These are a bit shorter than floribundas and make a decent rose hedge or border. The blooms are also smaller they flower prolifically for many months of the year. They are often affectionately called “baby roses”.
Polyantha also does well in containers. They have good disease resistance and are generally low-maintenance. Blooms are white, red, and pink.
You can expect clusters of small delicate white blooms in a rosette pattern. It is a mildly fragrant rose with a healthy growth habit.
Anna Marie de Montrave
This rose delivers generous clusters of small fragrant blooms in shades of white. It will spread a bit and work well in pots.
This compact rose has white pom pom blooms that flower abundantly. It has a delicate fragrance. White Pet is great in the garden or a pot.
This is a fast-growing Polyantha with medium pink delicate pom pom blooms. These grow in large flushes for an impressive display. It is quite a hardy rose.
Miniature and Miniflora Roses
Miniflora or miniature roses are a delightful form of hybrid tea roses or grandiflora. As the name suggests, the miniatures are compact and grow to around 15 to 30 inches, generally with masses of compact blooms. Miniflora blooms are slightly larger.
These roses are available in smaller versions of most hybrid tea roses as well as some of the other rose classes.
Sometimes called landscape roses, this variety shows how versatile roses are. They are low-maintenance and have the same fragrance and beauty as most other roses.
They can sprawl in the garden beds to fill gaps and do not grow very high.
Flower Carpet Coral
You can expect clusters of pretty, single flowers of coral with a near-white center. They are continuously produced and are up to 2 inches with as many as 60 flowers on a stem. They have decent disease resistance.
Flower Carpet Pink Supreme
This is naturally very similar but has a rather bright lipstick pink color. It produces masses of blooms for much of the year. These roses are tolerant to heat and humidity and generally grow to about 1 to 2 feet.
Flower Carpet Scarlet
It’s all the name. This is a vigorous groundcover, much like the above but with striking scarlet blooms.
Groundcover roses also come in shades of white, yellow, red, apricot, and peach.
English Roses or David Austin Roses
Possibly one of the most prolific and famous rose breeders of all time was David Austin. The English rose breeder sought to create continuous blooming roses with old rose fragrances.
His first commercial rose was introduced in 1961, the Rosa 'Constance Spry'. He went on to create more than 190 different breeds of roses.
While they are extremely popular and have many advantages, they are not as hardy as the old roses and tend to need a bit more love and care.
While it is not possible to cover all of his many varieties, here are some of the more famous and popular options:
This is an annual bloomer with fragrant light pink blooms. The shrub spreads well, up to 8 feet wide, and a height of 8 to 20 feet. The height makes it a winner for a climber.
Another tall shrub rose, also with pink flowers, is the Shropshire Lass. It has large blooms and a more subtle scent.
This David Austin rose has a subtle fragrance with large semi-double pink flowers that bloom prolifically for several months. While it grows slowly it reaches up to 5 feet.
These delightful blooms are apricot in color and fade to white at the petal tips. It has a powerful fruity aroma. Blooms have up to 70 petals.
The Heritage has large pink blooms with 26 to 40 petals in a rosette formation. The rose is relatively free of thorns, blooms repeatedly, and has a pleasant fragrance. It is not good for the vase as the petals fall off quickly. It grows to about 5 feet.
This is a fast-growing climbing shrub with medium blooms in yellow that lighten towards the edge. It can grow up to 8 feet. It blooms repeatedly, often in large clusters.
The orange-red buds turn a rich yellow with an apricot middle making for a striking bloom. The flowers are large and have a pleasing fragrance. The shrub grows to about 5 to 6 feet. It is happy in hot conditions.
A Shropshire Lad
Another attractive large bloomer is A Shropshire Lad. The rosette flowers have multiple quilled petals that are peach with lighter tips. It grows to around 4 to 6 feet and has a powerfully fruity aroma.
Grace has full bold apricot blooms with petals that lighten towards the tips. These blooms present in abundant clusters. It grows to roughly 5 feet.
What makes these flowers distinct is the light pink petals that are yellow on the reverse side. The blooms are large cups in small clusters. Jubilee Celebration produces a powerful raspberry lemon fragrance. The bush grows 3 to 5 feet.
Queen of Sweden
This David Austin creation has medium-sized blooms that start apricot-pink and gradually become pinker over time. Growth height is 3 to 5 feet.
The flowers on this shrub rose are large mid-pink blooms in a cupped form, reminiscent of old roses. It has a myrrh fragrance and grows to around 4 feet. It is a fast grower.
Lady of Shalott
Lady of Shalott produces medium-sized chalice-shaped salmon flowers with a yellow underside. They grow in small clusters and bloom for many months. It has a subtle clove or tea aroma. The bush grows to around 4 feet and can be trained on a low fence or trellis as it has long arching stems.
This is one of the more popular pink rose bush types. It is orange to salmon-pink with medium rosette blooms. It grows to about 4 feet. They a great for cut flowers for the vase.
Dame Judi Dench
The medium-sized flowers are apricot-orange while the outer petals are a lighter shade of apricot. It grows to about 5 feet. The shrub rose grows vigorously and flowers prolifically.
Many of the roses in various classes above and below are also David Austin breeds. Read more about David Austin Roses here...
You will find several different species of roses under the description of climbing roses. It refers more to their growth habit than the exact variety. As the name suggests, these roses “climb”. That is not to say they have tendrils and attach like vines, but they can be trained over a trellis, fence, pergola, or archway.
Floribunda and grandiflora are often the best types of climbing roses. The canes can grow up to 15 feet plus. They will bloom repeatedly and will create a spectacular display if trained correctly. A bit of care and maintenance is needed to keep the shape looking at its best.
This is a tall rambling rose with clusters of delicate medium-sized pink roses. It is a vigorous grower, and the blooms have a fresh apple aroma.
The Alchymist is hardy and has large yellow blooms with a fruity fragrance.
A favorite climbing rose is the Eden. It blooms repeatedly and profusely in large soft pink blooms.
The bold scarlet double-flowers on this climber are medium in size and grow in clusters. The leaves are glossy.
Fourth of July
The Fourth of July is a fast-growing climber with a unique striped bloom in white and velvety red. The continuous blooms last for a long time and grow in large showy sprays. It has a spicy fragrance.
Sometimes called tree roses, these are great for landscaping. They are tall roses that are grown on a large single bare stem with foliage and flowers at the top. They can be created from most tall growing varieties with Floribunda being a good option. This class includes old but mostly modern roses.
A larger rose that needs some space is the shrub rose. It is cold hardy and can grow from 5 to 15 feet and will grow in all directions if not pruned back.
Blooms are frequent, large, and come in impressive clusters.
Many of the roses we describe, except for the rampant climbers and the groundcover roses can fit into this class. Some are small and compact while others grow much taller. Most David Austin English Roses fall into this category. While most that you come across will be modern roses, old roses can also be found in this category.
Selecting the Best Rose Variety to Grow
Deciding on the best type of roses to plant will depend on several factors. Rose selection is critical if you want to appreciate the beauty and enjoy your treasures.
Here are a few things to consider:
Size and Growth Habit
While some roses are small and compact, others need more space. Decide on the size that will suit the space you are looking for.
All roses will need some sun to bloom successfully but can handle a lot of shade. Think about how much sun the rose will get before making your rose selection.
The same applies here. Some roses can handle the heat or the cold better than others. Choose one that will work in your environment.
Ease of Maintenance
Some roses are hardy and require minimal effort while others need a fair amount of attention. If you do not have the time to care for roses, go for one of the hardier varieties.
Roses are available in a vast range of colors. While you can mix things up, most people decide on a combination of colors in a certain area of the garden.
While some roses do exceptionally well in a vase, others do not last that long. If plan to grow roses for cut flowers, decide on some that will work well.
Not all roses have the same type or strength of fragrance. If you are looking for a beautiful aroma from your rose bush, aim for one of the more fragrant varieties.
With such a dazzling choice of roses, it is no wonder many people have difficulty deciding between the various types of rose options.
Which rose variety is best will depend on your taste, climate, intended use, garden size, and design. With so many great options to choose from there is something for all spaces. Selecting the best rose or roses for your needs is the first part of an exciting journey.
Now that you know more about the various types of rose varieties and their selection, you can make an informed decision on the best options for your needs.