Graceful, fragrant, and surprisingly tough, antique roses prove their staying power in modern-day gardens. You can grow them yourself with these tips.

By Miranda Crowell
June 21, 2019

All roses have a nostalgic, old-fashioned feeling, but that's not what we mean by antique roses. Antique garden roses are defined as any type that predates 1867. They generally have bushier forms and looser, more fragrant flowers than modern roses. Antique roses only bloom once a year, and the flowers only last a few weeks. Some gardeners consider a downside, while others find it makes them appreciate the flower even more.

Antique Rose Growing Tips

Roses have a reputation for being finicky, but antique rose varieties are tough in the garden. That's why they've lasted so long.

Soil

Healthy soil ensures a healthier plant. Do a soil test via a local extension service and amend your soil based on its recommendations before planting. Till in 2–4 inches of compost and pour on a liquid treatment of mycorrhiza, a beneficial microbe.

Water

Roses like a deep watering, but not too often. To determine a schedule in dry climates, start by watering well then watch the plants for a few days. When they droop, you’ve gone a day too long; move your watering day up.

Pruning

Most old roses do best when only lightly pruned for shape and to remove crossing canes. For onetime bloomers, prune a week or so after flowering ends; for repeat bloomers, the best time to prune varies by climate.

The Best Antique Roses for Your Region

To ensure a long-lasting relationship with your rose, pick one well-suited for your climate; it will ward off disease better. Here are some of our favorite antique roses in each region.

‘Zéphrine Drouhin'

Northwest

‘Jacques Cartier’: Large flowers with 80-plus petals.

‘Zéphrine Drouhin': Thornless climber; tolerates some shade.

‘Souvenir du Président Lincoln’: Fully double; repeat blooming.

‘Dupuy Jamain’: Double flowers on a tidy plant.

‘Madame Plantier’: Can be trained as a climber.

‘Lady Banks’

West and Southwest

‘Grandmother's Hat’: Can reach 12 feet tall.

‘Lady Banks’: Small flowers on slender branches.

‘Sophie's Perpetual’: Double flowers bloom over a long period.

‘Lamarque’: Long stems with yellow-tinged flowers.

‘La Pactole’: Handles drought once established.

Rosa mundi

Midwest

‘Harison's Yellow’: Exceptionally tough; unusual licorice scent.

‘Reine des Violettes’: Sumptuous magenta flowers.

Rosa mundi: Striking white-striped petals.

Rosa altaica: As prized for the maroon hips as the flowers.

‘Rose de Rescht’: Fuchsia flowers fade to pink.

‘Stanwell Perpetual’

Northeast

Rosa virginiana: Golden center pops against pink petals.

‘Great Maiden's Blush’: Fluffy, especially fragrant flowers.

‘Russelliana’: Prolific flowers; rambling habit.

‘Stanwell Perpetual’: Arching shrub; continuous bloom.

‘Madame Legras de St. Germain’: Smells of citrus.

‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’

South and Southeast

‘Silver Moon’: Vigorous climber.

Rosa moschata plena: Ancient species with loose, pointed petals.

‘Clementina Carbonieri’: Rare blend of coral and salmon.

‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’: Flowers fade to white.

‘Souvenir d'un Ami’: Strong tea fragrance.

Antique roses have a history, which makes them even more special to grow. These are varieties that your great-grandmother may have grown in her garden. With the right care and careful selection, you can grow these full, colorful blooms in your garden, too.

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