Gardeners limited in space can enjoy all the fun of rose growing by cultivating miniature roses in containers. They also adapt well to flowerbed edging, front-of-the-border socializing with perennials and annuals, and low hedges.
Miniature roses first came into being in the early 1930s as an accidental result of rose hybridizing. Since then, master miniaturists have created many jewel-like varieties featuring perfectly shaped tiny blooms on clean, healthy plants that generally stay under 2 feet.
Miniature roses respond to all the care basics of regular-size roses -- deep irrigation, sunshine. and regular fertilizing -- but they do need extra winter protection in colder climates. To ensure the plant doesn't die back to the roots, in Zone 5 and below, bury the rose plant in a mound of soil.
Top Varieties of Miniature Roses
A new breed of landscaping roses came about with the advent of shrub roses, which offer beautiful ways to fill in borders and cover bare earth. These low-growing groundcover roses are useful for mass plantings in a border, under a tree, and to mix colorfully with perennials or shrubs. Use them to line a path, cover a slope, or plant them in hanging baskets or window boxes for a bloom-spilling display.To reinvigorate groundcover roses each year, cut them back by two-thirds while they're still dormant, in early spring.
Floribunda roses offer a bouquet on every branch. The small flowers look like elegant hybrid tea blooms but appear in clusters rather than one flower per stem. Floribundas are a cross between polyantha species roses and hybrid teas, combining hardiness, free flowering, and showy, usually fragrant blooms. Sizes of these hardy roses vary from compact and low-growing to a more open habit and heights of 5-6 feet, ideal for tall hedges. The foliage on floribunda roses tends to shrug off diseases, making for a low-maintenance plant that delivers maximum impact with its continuous bloom cycles. Most floribundas require very little spring pruning—just removal of dead or damaged wood.
Shrub roses take the best of the hardiest rose species, and combine those traits with modern repeat blooming and diverse flower forms, colors and fragrances. Some shrub roses may grow tall, with vigorous, far-reaching canes; others stay compact. Recent rose breeding has focused on developing hardier shrub roses that need little to no maintenance.
Grandiflora roses blend the best traits of hybrid teas and floribundas. They produce the same elegantly shaped blooms as hybrid teas, but in long-stemmed clusters that continually repeat, like floribundas. The plants tend to be tall (up to 7 feet), hardy, and disease-resistant. Because of their size, grandifloras are suited to hedging and flower-border backgrounds. This rose category was created to accommodate the unique 'Queen Elizabeth' rose introduced in 1955.
One of the biggest challenges for late 20th-century rose breeders was restoring fragrance, while improving the vigor of new rose introductions. English-style roses provide a lush, romantic solution. The flowers are densely filled with petals, much like antique roses, and most possess a strong fragrance that harkens back to old-fashioned tea roses. Yet their growth habits, health, and, most of all, their tendency to repeat bloom, are an improvement on their ancestors. English roses are a good choice for cutting gardens, as their full, intensely perfumed flowers make sumptuous bouquets. Some varieties climb if left unpruned, and can be trained along a fence or arbor. Shown here is Heritage English rose.
The acrobats of the rose world, climbing varieties develop long canes well adapted to training on pillars, fences, arbors, and gazebos. Most climbing roses are mutations or variations of bush-type varieties. They develop either large, single flowers or clustered blooms on a stem. Climbers may bloom once a season or continually, depending on the variety. Climbers can be trained to bloom more heavily by leading their canes in a horizontal direction. Loose anchoring to a support will encourage young plants to climb.
If you favor a slightly wilder look in your garden, look to the ancestors of the roses you grow and enjoy for many of the same admirable qualities. Most species roses offer small blooms, and they usually appear only once a season, but the landscaping benefits make them worthwhile to include in borders and background plantings. Most species roses can tolerate extreme weather conditions and because of their colorful hips (fruit), they are good choices for attracting birds and other wildlife to the garden. The canes are often vigorous and arching. Stems may be highly colored but are almost always thorny, making large species good candidates for privacy hedging and deer-frequented areas.
Hybrid teas traditionally produce the showiest blooms. In fact, most roses at florist shops are hybrid tea varieties. Today's rose breeding emphasizes fragrance as well as plant vigor. The form of a hybrid tea rose is tall and upright, with sparse foliage toward the base. The blooms develop singly on long stems, and the buds are often as elegant as the open blooms.Hybrid teas require careful pruning while still dormant, in early spring, to ensure good air circulation through the plant and development of vigorous, healthy canes. A sunny location with well-drained, fertile soil, and rose food applied at least three times a season, will guarantee abundant flowers to enjoy in a vase. Protect roses in climates colder than Zone 6 with heavy mulching around the base of the plant.
More Varieties of Miniature Roses
'Amy Grant' Rose
Rosa 'Amy Grant' bears light pink blooms in a classic hybrid tea form poised on glossy, disease-resistant foliage. The plant grows 2 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9
'Baby Boomer' Rose
Rosa 'Baby Boomer' offers gorgeous, baby-pink blooms atop long stems, so they're perfect cut flowers. The foliage is glossy and dark green. Plants grow 2 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-10
'Baby Love' Rose
Rosa 'Baby Love' usually outperforms all other roses, large and small. Single buttercup-colored blooms continually smother the upright plant. The bright green foliage is exceptionally disease resistant. Plants grow 3 feet tall. Zones 5-9
'Black Jade' Rose
Rosa 'Black Jade' features midnight-red, almost black buds that unfurl into velvety red flowers. The plant grows 2 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-10
'Carrot Top' Rose
Rosa 'Carrot Top' bears double-petal, sizzling orange flowers. The rounded plants grow 12-16 inches high. Zones 5-9
'Dancing Flame' Rose
Rosa 'Dancing Flame' features cerise-pink edging on yellow petals. An abundant bloomer, it also has glossy, disease-resistant foliage. It grows to 2 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9
'Gourmet Popcorn' Rose
Rosa 'Gourmet Popcorn' produces cascading clusters of fragrant snowy-white flowers all season on a disease-resistant plant. It grows 2 feet tall. Zones 5-9
'Little Artist' Rose
Rosa 'Little Artist' shows off semidouble ruffled blooms that open to reveal a splashy color scheme of scarlet petals with large white centers. It blooms profusely and grows 16 inches tall. Zones 5-9
'Magic Carousel' Rose
Rosa 'Magic Carousel' offers rounded petals edged in red that frame snow-white centers. The vigorous plants grow 18 inches tall and wide. Zones 5-11
'Rainbow's End' Rose
Rosa 'Rainbow's End' blooms feature lemon-yellow petals highlighted by scarlet edging. The colors stay true when grown indoors or outdoors. It grows 22 inches high and wide. Zones 4-11
'Sun Sprinkles' Rose
Rosa 'Sun Sprinkles' is an award winner with perfectly formed, deep yellow blooms that have a spicy scent. This variety features generous flowering and glossy, dark green foliage. It grows to 2 feet tall. Zones 5-9