Plants, like people, can get an undeserved reputation for being difficult. Such is the case with roses. The hybrid roses of last century needed a lot of attention – spraying, dusting, and pruning – to get it to flower. Today’s roses are much more reliable performers in the garden. Give them water and sunshine and you’ll have roses year after year.
Selecting a Rose: Three Questions to Answer
To get some suggestions on how to select a rose, I contacted Christopher VanCleave, the Redneck Rosarian. VanCleave is a member of the American Rose Society and contributor to Southern Garden Living Gardening Book. He suggests that you should start by asking yourself three questions when buying roses:
How much room do I have to grow a rose? – Most roses need 6-8 square feet but some may need much more. In recent years rose breeders have developed more compact rose bushes that fit in today’s smaller gardens. Read the plant tag carefully to select ones that fit your spot.
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How much time do I have for maintenance? – Be honest with yourself. If you only want to do gardening once or twice a year, then minimal-care landscape roses are best for you. If you have more of a green thumb, consider the other varieties.
What color rose do I want? – If you want to cut roses for enjoyment indoors, color is key. A rose that grows flowers you don’t like will be neglected.
Which Type of Rose Is For You?
There are many kinds of roses, each with their special virtues. Here’s a quick run-down on the six basic types you’ll find at the nursery:
Hybrid Tea – These are the ones most commonly sold. They usually have one flower on each stem and are long lasting in a vase. The classic ‘Mister Lincoln’ and ‘Peace’ roses are in this group.
Floribunda – Old-style roses (i.e. grown before hybrid tea roses) with compact flowers growing in clusters. Examples include ‘Iceberg’ and ‘Julia Child.’
Grandiflora – This group of roses blends the best characteristics of hybrid tea and floribunda roses. They usually have several blooms on one stem and are long lasting. However grandiflora bushes can be quite large – as tall as seven feet – so this is not the type for patio gardeners.
Miniature – A class of roses commonly found in gifts as a growing plant, not cut flowers. They are frequently grown 3-5 in a pot for quick color. If you get this as a present, repot them into a larger container and move it outside where it will bloom for several years.
Landscape or Shrub – About half of all roses sold today are in this category. This easy-care category has gained great popularity since the ‘Knockout’® series of roses became common in pubic landscaping. They have been bred to grow compactly so they can be pruned yearly (like a shrub) but flower all through the growing season (like traditional roses). My personal favorite is the ‘Flower Carpet’® rose group.
What About Bare Root Roses?
This early in the year, you may see roses for sale in “bare root” form. These can often be a bargain because they are less heavy (no pot or soil) and cost less to ship. As long as the roots are still moist when you buy them, they can easily be planted immediately and will grow just as well as potted roses purchased later in the spring.
Plant Now and Get a Jump on Spring
As I finish this blog I’m remembering that below freezing weather will soon hit my Texas garden. This just confirms what the calendar says – winter is still here. But it’s not too early to shop for a new rose for your garden. Order one now for early spring planting.