Growing Roses: Where Do I Begin?

The Rose Family Is Huge

There are thousands of diverse rose species and varieties to grow. That great diversity, along with demand for easy-to-grow plants, has brought us the incredibly popular landscape varieties like Knockouts, Flower Carpet and Drift roses. But there are other types of roses with unmatched character, substance and beauty out there that will also perform well in your garden. Here are a few suggestions.


Award-Winning Fragrance

Great fragrance never goes out of style. Up to 2013, the American Rose Society ( awarded the James Alexander Gamble Fragrance Medal to varieties with outstanding fragrance. Less than twenty roses won, including popular hybrid teas such as Mister Lincoln, Fragrant Cloud, Sutter’s Gold, Double Delight and Secret. There are also winning floribundas like Sunsprite and Sheila’s Perfume, and even a miniature, Sweet Chariot. Growing fragrant varieties like these in your garden gives you a reason to literally stop and smell the roses. Here are a few of our favorites


Single Flowers

Single-flowered roses can have 4-8 petals, but usually have five. They have a totally different character than the familiar double roses, which can have up to 100 petals. Single roses are more open-faced, almost like dogwood blooms. Some also have very prominent yellow stamens. Many popular landscape roses have single flowers, but more spectacular are the large flowered varieties of climbers like the deep velvety red Altissimo, deep red Dortmund, Eyepaint which are red with white eyes, and Sally Holmes which are white often touched pink. The pink hybrid tea Dainty Bess, the red shrub Home Run and the white flowering shrub Starry Night are also excellent, as are many old-fashion and species roses.


Wild And Wonderful Colors

There may not be a true blue or black rose, but just about every other color, or combination of colors, is available, including the increasingly popular striped roses.

Striped varieties include:

  • Fourth of July – a red and white climber
  • Oranges ‘n’ Lemons – a yellow and orange shrub
  • George Burns – a red and yellow floribunda
  • Purple Tiger – a shocking purple and white, striped and blotched floribunda

There are also new Eyeconic roses, including:

  • Lemonade and Pink Lemonade – which produce yellow or pink flowers with unique red centers


Stunning Bouquets

The fragrant roses listed above are obvious choices for cut flowers, but go beyond fragrance and great color combinations and also think texture. The full-petaled English roses are perfect as cut flowers, providing fragrance and old-time elegance. Roses with large clusters of small flowers, like Gourmet Popcorn, can add a special touch to bouquets. A great rose bouquet can also other include other types of plants. Try foliage from plants like ornamental grasses, ivies or Purple Smoke Tree in your bouquets, or branches with colorful fruit.


Local And Proven Favorites

Local rose societies, wholesale rose nurseries, state cooperative extension offices, and organizations, such as the American Rose Society and All-America Rose Selections, publish regional lists of recommended roses. For example, varieties designated Earth-Kind roses have proven by the Texas AgriLife Extension to be especially well-adapted to Texas. The Earth-Kind testing program is spreading to other states as well. On a national level, American Rose Society members regularly evaluate and score rose varieties. Varieties designated member’s choice, such as Home Run, Julia Child, Hot Cocoa, Gemini and Knockout, are roses with the highest garden ratings.


Perfect Companions

Certain plants are ideal companions for roses, making them look better than if they were planted alone. For example, hybrid tea roses are often open and unsightly at the base of the plant. By planting low, spreading plants in front of these roses, such as hardy Geraniums, Lambs Ear’s, or variegated Salvia, you cover the bases, compliment the flowers and improve the overall look. Bold, upright plants like Salvias and ornamental grasses, and silver foliage plants like Dusty Miller and Artemisia are also natural rose companions. Learn more about perennial combinations and planting tips.


Roses With Personality

Many roses are named for celebrities, presidents, singers, movie stars and a myriad of other famous people. With some more recent introductions, the specific rose to be used as a namesake was actually chosen by the celebrity. For example, the mauve hybrid tea rose Barbra Streisand was selected by ‘Babs’ herself! Be careful which celebrity roses you let interact, however. For example, you might think twice about placing John F. Kennedy too close to Marilyn Monroe. Learn how roses get their names