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Types of Roses

By Lisa Russell ; Updated September 21, 2017

A wannabe rose gardener is faced with a lot of decisions when choosing what to plant because there are several families of roses, each with hundreds and sometimes thousands of individual varieties. Since the requirements for cold hardiness vary so much within each family, that's often the deciding factor for choosing which types of roses you'll grow. Understanding the differences between families will help a budding rose gardener narrow down the decision.

Climbing Roses

Climbers and ramblers are distinctive in that they grow very long, pliable canes. That's the only thing that sets this variety apart. Some bloom once in a season while others bloom continuously. The type of flower created by climbing roses varies as greatly as the whole family of roses, with some being very small while others are large. Some have just a few petals while others have several. The only thing they have in common is their ability to cover fences and walls, adding vertical beauty to any garden. They can be trimmed back in areas with very cold winters. These roses are not recommended for areas below zone 6. If you're in one of the colder zones, plant your climbing roses in a container that you can bring indoors, or plan to wrap insulate them in the winter. Wait until the ground has thawed and new leaf buds begin to open before fertilizing.

Antique Roses

Although hybridization and cross-breeding are natural occurrences, it is generally agreed that all roses grown before 1867--when the first hybrids were accepted, named and acknowledged by science--are officially "old garden roses." Also called heirloom roses, this family of roses includes wild roses, the ancestors of all rose cultivars. Old garden roses don't require heavy pruning, but after they've reached 3 years old, they can tolerate it. Enthusiasts recommend gentle pruning throughout the growing season, including the removal of dead flower heads, diseased branches, small branches or branches that are growing in the wrong direction, crossing the main stem.


If you suspect this word is a combination of "abundant" and "floral" then you might be on to something. These hybrid rose bushes bloom in clusters nonstop throughout the flowering season. These roses do well in wet climates, but some varieties don't handle winters well. To encourage more blooms, trim off the dead flower heads periodically. Fertilize frequently throughout the growing season and avoid a hard pruning. If you live in an area with very cold winters, pay attention to the zoning advice for your floribunda variety, some aren't as cold-hardy as others.

Hybrid Teas

The hybrid tea, also called the modern rose, is agreed to be the first deliberate cross-breed of roses. Found naturally occurring through Europe, they didn't gain much attention until Henry Bennett, an English farmer, deliberately bred them through artificial cross-pollination and presented them to the public. Hybrid teas take on characteristics of the tea rose, generally an abundance of petals, buds that bloom in bunches and a profuse blooming period, with characteristics of other roses, depending upon how they're bred. The high center of the flower head and the presence of sprays of flowers is typical of a hybrid tea. Most varieties are very fragrant, low-growing and winter hardy. The old garden teas have stalks that sometimes can't hold the weight of the flowers, resulting in droopy blooms. One of the "selling points" of these early hybrids was that the stems were strong.


Often mistakenly called tea roses, the polyanthas are small rose bushes with bunches of tiny flowers. Most of these are in shades of pink and red, but white, yellow and orange polyanthas have been introduced. The polyantha family is a hybrid, with new varieties still being introduced. Since there are over 500 varieties of polyantha, the care instructions vary greatly. Generally, they do not require pruning and are winter hardy. Check your specific variety, however, and be aware of your growing zone.

Miniature Roses

Miniatures, roses with smaller flowers, generally grow shorter than other varieties, usually 12 to 36 inches tall, making them ideal for the edge of the garden or under a window. Some are climbing and can be grown as ground cover or trained to a low fence or wall. They do not require pruning, but clipping spent flower heads will encourage a longer blooming season. They grow well in pots. They are cold-hardy, making them an excellent choice for colder climates. To make matters more confusing, some varieties of miniatures, like the Hurdy Gurdy, a climber, can grow very tall. Kitty Belendez, of the Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, has one that's reached a height of over 8 feet tall. She states that miniatures are the easiest rose to grow because they require very little care. They generally need lots of sunshine, one hard pruning before the winter and periodic deadheading. If you wish to fertilize, make sure that the soil is wet . Repot miniature roses as needed if they're not planted in the ground.


About the Author

Lisa Russell has been a writer since 1998. She's been published in Rethinking Everything Magazine, Playdate, AERO and Home Educator's Family Times. She has a Bachelor of Science in business marketing management and a professional background in marketing, education, cosmetology and hospitality.