9 Best Types of Roses to Grow, Plus Tips for Choosing the Perfect Ones for Your Garden
Roses offer beautiful colors, wafting fragrances, and more to our gardens. But with so many different types of roses to pick from, it can be challenging to figure out which ones you should grow. First, ask yourself what's most important to you in a rose. Rank characteristics such as easy care, fragrance, continuous flowering, and wildlife value in a list. Then consider your garden conditions. If you have a spot with full sun (six hours or more), rich soil, and mild winters, just about any rose will thrive for you. If not, don't worry. Some of the most beautiful and fragrant roses love shade, sand, swampy soil, and even the coldest winters. This simple guide will help you find the perfect type of rose that checks every box on your list.
Different Types of Roses
One of the best ways to zero in on the type of roses you want to grow is to consider the classifications of Modern, Old Garden, and Wild Roses that rose experts use. Wild roses are just, well, wild and as individual as nature made them. Modern and Old Garden Roses are each divided into classes. Those classes each have a different focus on specific characteristics.
Another way that rose experts and organizations such as the American Rose Society group different types of roses is by growth habit, dividing all roses into climbers, shrubs, and miniatures. This can be a helpful starting point if you know you want a rose that will grow up the side of a building, for example. Then you can narrow your choices to a climbing rose. Among climbers, if you want one with strong fragrance and continuous bloom but you don't have full sun or the best soil, you might consider a Noisette, a class of easy-to-grow climbers with all these characteristics. If you like the colorfulness of Noisettes but live in a colder area, a more hardy climbing Polyantha may do better. If you have an ideal growing site and want a shorter climbing rose with modern florist-style roses, you might pick a climbing version of the Hybrid Teas or English Roses.
After you've thought about where you want your roses to grow, and the characteristics of your ideal rose, take a look at these major types of roses to focus your search for the best rose variety to plant.
Modern Roses (1867 – today)
Most rose varieties you come across will probably be modern. What sets these types of roses apart from earlier roses is how they were created: through a precise breeding process using a wider range of exotic rose parents. Modern roses represent breakthroughs in color, cold hardiness, flower form, fragrance, and growth habit. All of the classes listed here typically bloom all season.
Old Garden Roses (pre 1867)
You may prefer to call these antique, heirloom, heritage, or vintage roses. Most of them don't exist anymore, but those that are still around survive because they lavishly reward gardeners with some of the most sophisticated floral forms and scents that roses have to offer. In many cases, they remain unrivaled by modern roses in sheer refinement of flower and scent.
If you want to grow a rose in sand or swampy soil, or simply want to create a naturalistic planting or meadow, you can't beat wild roses. Only a handful of them repeat flower through the season like Modern Roses, so if you want all-season bloom, look for Rosa rugosa and its hybrids or the Repeating Swamp Rose.
You'll see rugosas naturalized in the sand on beaches or in traffic medians in New England and Canada. You only have to see a rugosa once to remember its exotic leathery leaves and thick stems. However, it may be most beloved for a heavy scent of Old Rose and clove and its large vitamin C-packed hips. It's also one of the few roses that's relatively unappealing to deer.
If you want to go native, go for the Repeating Swamp Rose. It's similar to other native North American roses, except for its repeat bloom. The fragrance is strong Old Rose, it has few thorns, and perhaps best of all, it has red foliage in the fall. Unlike almost every other rose, it thrives in wet soil and shade.
Growing Conditions: full sun to part shade in almost any soil
Size: 4-7 feet tall and wide, sometimes spreading into a wider colony
Zones: Rugosa, 3-10; Swamp Rose, 4-9