Choose the Best Roses for Your Garden

Before you toss any old rose plant into the ground, use this guide to find the rose that's a perfect fit for your space.

If you want to choose the best type of rose for your garden, but aren’t sure where to start, look no further! From classic red blooming hybrids to sprawling pink climbers, these garden roses come in all shapes and sizes. Before you toss any old rose plant into the ground, use this guide to find one that’s a perfect fit for your space. (Read more! 8 Surprising Facts About Roses)

Shrub Rose

pink shrub rose called pinktopiaphoto credit: Bailey Nurseries Inc.
photo credit: Bailey Nurseries Inc. For blooms throughout the season, grow shrub roses like this one, which is called Pinktopia.

Shrub types can grow upright, mounding or as ground covers. They’re so easy to live with and care for that you may not even think of them as roses. Their genes protect against diseases and pests that typically plague other roses. Shrub roses are generally cold hardy and rebloom throughout the growing season. However, many shrub types carry little to no fragrance. If a sweet scent is important to you, check to see if fragrance is mentioned in the plant tag information, or buy one with a name that implies scent.

Grow shrub roses in masses or as companions to other plants, and choose from an array of colors, shapes and sizes. Brand names to look for include the Knock Out family of roses, Easy Elegance, Oso Easy and Oso Happy, David Austin, Griffith Buck, Kordes, Meidiland and Flower Carpet.

Hybrid Tea Rose

peach hybrid tea rose just joeyphoto credit: David Austin Roses
photo credit: David Austin Roses ‘Just Joey’ Hybrid Tea Rose

With gorgeous, classic flowers and a perfumelike scent to swoon over, hybrid teas probably come to mind when you think of traditional roses. The plants grow 4 to 6 feet tall with strong canes (main branches) and individual blooms. The foliage, which often falls prey to diseases, doesn’t cover the lower part of the canes, giving the plants a naked or barelegged look. If that’s not your style, plant companion growers to help with screening the stalks. Hybrid teas require specific pruning regimens for best flowering. They prefer mild climates and need special protection in regions where winters are severe.

Miniature and Miniflora Roses

single yellow miniflora rosephoto credit: David Austin Roses
photo credit: jacksonandperkins.com ‘First Impression’ Miniflora Rose

Miniatures come as short as 6 inches or as tall as 3 feet, with small, hybrid tealike blooms that grow solo or in clusters. Miniflora roses feature compact plants—up to 3 feet tall—but grow full-size flowers as wide as 3 inches. Miniatures tuck well into the edges of flower borders and do well in pots. The term “patio rose” refers to any type of rose compact enough to grow in pots on a deck, not to a specific type of rose.

Climber and Rambler Roses

pink climbing roses on a brick wallphoto credit: David Austin Roses
photo credit: David Austin Roses Lean a trellis against a structure to create a wall of climbing roses with varieties like this Zephirine Drouhin.

Climbers are repeat bloomers; ramblers are not. They come from a wide range of rose types, but most are shrubs. Their canes—the thorny, woody stalks—stretch from 10 to more than 20 feet long.  However, they must be lashed to supports with soft ties, since they can’t hold on by themselves. It may take two to three years for climbers to mature and fill in. To promote better blooming, allow the canes coming from the base of the plant to grow to their full length. Keep the major ones as horizontal as possible to encourage better flowering and more shoots growing lower on the cane. (Read more! The Best Way to Grow Roses)

Floribunda and Grandiflora Roses

cluster of floribunda rosesphoto credit: David Austin Roses
photo credit: David Austin Roses Floribundas, like this Cinco de Mayo from David Austin Roses, produce dense bloom clusters on one branch.

Floribundas, also called spray roses, grow with several blooms in a rounded clump. Grandifloras resemble a blend of hybrid tea and floribunda roses, with large blooms produced both individually and in sprays. “You get the whole color scheme and look of a hybrid tea rose with shrub rose performance,” says Natalia Hamill, a manager at Bailey Nurseries, which produces the Easy Elegance rose brands. Floribundas and grandifloras both produce blooms that are more likely to have better fragrance than shrub roses. (Read more! Top 10 Best Roses)

Tree Roses

tree roses growing in a potphoto credit: David Austin Roses
photo credit: David Austin Roses Small-space gardeners can grow tree roses, like this Mary Rose from David Austin Roses, in a pot.

Tree roses, or standards, are formal and traditional. They may be from almost any rose category. Several buds are grafted to a sturdy hybrid or hardy rose cane to give it the shape of a small tree. Some even come with two different kinds of roses grafted onto the same cane. Use standards as focal points, to line a path or as partners flanking doorways. They require staking and careful pruning, and work well in containers. If you’re growing a tree rose in a cold climate, tuck it into a pot and overwinter it in an unheated space so it goes dormant but does not freeze. (Read more! Top 6 Pink and White Spring-Blooming Trees)

5 Secrets for Rose-Growing Success

1. Combine roses with other plants, including perennials, instead of isolating them. “Your garden should be an expression of what you want. There’s no recipe of what to do,” says Jacques Ferare, a vice president at Star Roses and Plants.

2. Shop for roses labeled “own root,” which means they were grown from their own cuttings. Own-root roses survive cold winters and produce shoots from their own roots, leading to fuller, healthier plants.

3. Choose newer varieties that have been bred to need less care.

4. Find small sizes to grow in containers on a sunny patio or balcony. “They’ve been doing this in Europe for years,” says Natalia Hamill of Bailey Nurseries.

5. Plant roses in full sun, where most of them bloom best—though you may find some that grow with as little as six hours of sun per day.

Deb Wiley
Deb Wiley is a freelance writer and editor from Des Moines, Iowa. She loves plants that attract birds to her garden.