Do Roses Need Full Sun or Shade to Grow Best?

Updated: Jun. 27, 2023

Gardeners often wonder "Do roses need full sun?" While many varieties do, some roses can survive and thrive in other exposures.

Roses are beloved, but they’re notoriously finicky. Many people hesitate to try them in their own gardens, in part because they worry they can’t give them the right lighting conditions. But do roses need full sun, or do they prefer other exposures? Read on to find out.

Don’t miss these pretty pictures of roses from home gardeners.

Do Roses Need Full Sun?

275448723 1 Nancy Butterfield Bnb Bypc 2021Courtesy Nancy Butterfield
Roses are sun-loving plants but they will struggle with excessive heat and drought.

The majority of rose varieties do need bright sunny conditions. Many of them require at least 4 hours of direct sun a day, and flower best with a full 6 to 8 hours.

However, these sunny conditions are also part of what makes growing roses well a challenge. The very lack of shelter that provides abundant sunlight also often exposes plants to stronger effects from the elements. Too much wind can loosen the roots, causing the plant to grow at an angle. Over time, this can damage and even kill a rose.

Roses also need regularly moist soil, which is harder to maintain in full sun conditions. Be sure to mulch thoroughly around your plants, and water deeply at least twice a week during the hot summer months.

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What Happens When Roses Don’t Get Enough Sun?

253325841 1 Lee Angst Bnb Bypc2020Courtesy Lee Angst
Morning sun is important to keep foliage dry

Lack of sunlight can cause a variety of problems for roses. Morning sun is especially important, as it dries any moisture from the foliage. Wet leaves are more susceptible to disease.

Roses also rely on sun to help them flower well. When a plant gets too much shade, it may cease flowering altogether. The flowers that do appear are often smaller. That being said, it’s worth noting that in shady conditions, rose blooms may be richer in color, and they generally last longer than those in full sun.

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Can Roses Get Too Much Sun?

While most roses can take almost any amount of sunlight, they definitely feel the stress of too much heat. In hot, dry conditions with temperatures in the 90s, the foliage is likely to wilt. If these conditions are short-term (such as a heat wave in the Midwest or Northeast), provide some temporary shade with sun-reflecting umbrellas or light-colored shade cloth. Be sure to bump up your watering as well, since soil will dry out much more quickly.

If you want to grow roses in areas with very hot summers, position them to receive at least four to six hours of morning sun, then provide shade during the hottest part of the afternoon. Water directly at the base of the plant once the sun goes down, so moisture goes right to the roots instead of evaporating.

Learn surprising facts about roses.

Are There Any Roses That Grow in the Shade?

ballerina shrub roseVia David Austin Roses
Ballerina shrub rose

Yes! Because roses grown in the shade produce fewer blooms overall, your best bet is to choose a rose that flowers abundantly. That way, you’ll still get plenty of sweet blossoms to enjoy. Shrub roses often do well in indirect light, and many varieties are fragrant as well. Climbers can also work well, since they’ll work their way up to any available sun.

Check out the best types of roses for every garden.

Roses for Full Sun

mardi gras roseVia Jackson & Perkins
Mardi Gras rose

These full-sun varieties are also heat-tolerant, making them a good choice in more challenging climates like the Southwest or Southeast.

  • ‘Mardi Gras’: This Floribunda grows large musk-scented flowers in a gorgeous blend of pink, orange, and yellow.
  • ‘Koko Loko’: Looking for an unusual bloom? The neutral mocha brown flowers with lavender undertones of this Floribunda are sure to catch the eye, while the strong fragrance delights the nose.
  • ‘Ebb Tide’: Deep purple blooms and exceptional fragrance make this Floribunda a popular choice in any garden. The warmer the weather, the deeper the bloom color!

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Roses for Part Sun or Indirect Light

peggy martin rose, do roses need full sunVia Jackson & Perkins
peggy martin rose

Prolific bloomers with strong disease resistance are your best choice in low-light conditions. Give some of these a try.

  • ‘Peggy Martin’: Known for its ability to withstand harsh conditions, this rose even survived two weeks under 20 feet of salt water after Hurricane Katrina. It’s a climbing rose, with large double pink blooms that give off a light, old-fashioned fragrance.
  • ‘Ballerina’: The simple five-petal blossoms of this hybrid musk shrub have a delicate feel of bygone days. It boasts so many flowers that even shady conditions can’t slow it down much.
  • ‘Playboy’: If you want the colors of ‘Mardi Gras’ in a shade-tolerant variety, try this shrub rose. The light apple scent makes it a unique choice.

Next, check out the top 10 prettiest hybrid tea rose varieties to grow.