The Different Types of Roses: An Ultimate Guide

The Different Types of Roses: An Ultimate Guide

Roses are one of the most classic, timeless garden plants. But when the Rosa genus offers over 300 species and several thousand varieties created over the centuries, where do you begin? With so many different types of roses, how can you decide on a rose bush for your own backyard garden and landscaping?

Each rose variety features its own unique characteristics and features. Some roses offer gorgeous continuous blooms that keep a garden looking lovely from spring to fall, while others are incredibly straightforward to maintain and offer cane-like rambling stems.

With all the rose classifications and countless hybrids defined by the American Rose Society, Jackson & Perkins offers this helpful guide to distinguish the different types of roses available to plant in your garden or surrounding landscape. Here is the ultimate guide to exploring each one. 

The 3 Main Rose Categories

While there are many varieties of roses, most rose specialists would divide them into three categories: Old Garden Roses, Wild Roses and Modern Roses. Most of what you’ll find today in gardens are considered Modern Roses, which were bred to bloom large blooms continuously throughout the season, unlike an Old Garden Rose.  

The 3 Main Rose Categories

Old Garden Roses

Often referred to as “antique” roses and “historic” roses, the Old Garden Rose has been around since before 1867. Double-flower blooms emit a notably strong-scented fragrance, but they only bloom once per season, unlike Modern Roses. Since they are a time-tested variety, Old Garden Roses have evolved with the advantage of being extra hardy and disease-resistant. 

Wild Roses

Considered the wildflower type of rose, Wild Roses, or “species roses,” lack the cross-breeding history and hybridization of other modern varieties. Wild Roses typically have a single bloom with a five-petal flower. The easiest way to determine a Wild Rose is in their color–they’re almost always pink! In fact, it’s an anomaly to find a red or white Wild Rose. A yellow Wild Rose is super rare

Modern Garden Roses

As you browse Jackson & Perkins’ extensive rose collection, Modern Garden Roses are more likely what you’ll find. Modern Roses were bred after 1867, taking the place of heritage Old Garden Roses. As mentioned above, there are certain distinctions between the two. Where Old Garden Roses bloom once per year, Modern Roses offer a continuous bloom, as well as a larger bloom size. Florists and homeowners will love Modern Roses for their longer vase life, too. The only disadvantage to these Modern Roses is that they typically lack a robust heady fragrance and are less hardy and disease-resistant. 

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Specific Rose Varieties

Within these three main categories listed above are a countless variety of roses. However, below are some of the more common ones you can find, along with their benefits and unique blooming features.

Climbing Roses

Climbing Roses

Climbing roses are not a class, but more of a description. In other words, you may find grandiflora or floribunda climbing roses. Despite the name, climbing roses can’t quite climb as efficiently as vines. Also referred to as “rambling” roses, they have sturdy and upright (sometimes arching) canes, which can be trained when provided support. However, these canes can grow up to 15 feet, which reach great heights along a trellis wall, garden fences and arbors and pergolas. In general, climbing roses tend to produce more flowers when grown horizontally rather than vertically like most rose varieties. Producing large blooms, almost all climbing roses are repeat bloomers. 

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Hybrid Tea Roses

Hybrid tea roses are one of the most popular classes of roses, and it’s not hard to understand why. With bountiful, ornate blooms that sprout from long stems and reach anywhere from 30-50 petals, the hybrid tea rose creates a dazzling display in any garden. And horticulturists have had quite the field day with them, breeding thousands of hybrid varieties. Outdated hybrids make way for the new on a constant basis. 

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Grandiflora Roses

Regarded as a subgroup class of hybrid tea roses with floribunda features, the grandiflora rose was created in the last century. The perfect combination between the two, grandifloras present elegant showy blooms that appear in clusters like the hybrid tea rose, and a constant growth cycle like that of the floribunda. Each cluster also consists of three to five blooms. Overall, their shrubs are larger and stand taller than hybrid teas. While not as popular as its close cousins, the grandiflora is still quite hardy and vigorous, so don’t overlook it for your garden and landscaping. 

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Floribunda Roses

Floribunda Roses

Floribunda roses are another favorite rose class. Similar to grandifloras, a floribunda rose presents a large cluster of flowers. With a continuous bloom, it will last much longer than the six- to seven-week cycle of hybrid tea roses or grandiflora roses. Floribundas are also much easier to care for and offer practically a hands-free experience. 

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Polyantha Roses

Similar to floribunda roses, the polyantha rose plant is shorter with smaller blooms. While this may not be suitable for some backyard landscapes, polyantha is perfect for edgings and hedges. It’s not unusual to find these rose bushes completely covered in clusters of their small flowers with a prolific bloom that lasts from spring to fall. Polyantha roses also come in a variety of hues and colors, such as bright whites, lovely soft pinks and bright reds. A hardy rose, polyantha has remained a more popular option for novice gardeners and horticulturists due to their low-maintenance and disease-resistant qualities. Grow them in a small garden space or even in a container. 

Miniature Roses

A form of the hybrid tea or grandiflora rose, miniature roses and miniflora roses are typically shorter and a bit more compact. Miniature roses can grow anywhere between 15-30 inches, whereas a miniflora rose offers intermediate-sized blooms closer to the size of a floribunda.

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Miniature Roses

Shrub Roses

Shrub roses tend to sprawl wide and large, anywhere between five and 15 feet in every direction. Able to withstand harsh winters, shrub roses are notable for their cold hardiness. In addition, their blooms are produced in bountiful clusters.  

Shrub roses have several subcategories, one of which is the David Austin English Rose, which fits within the shrub rose category. 

Groundcover Roses

Groundcover roses, also known as “landscape” roses, are a rose variety bred to have the best of all worlds: a beautiful garden rose with a vibrant color, graceful formation and lovely fragrance, as well as a low-maintenance benefit. Groundcover roses are perfectly suited as a space filler, allowing them to sprawl outward as they reach no higher than three feet. As a whole, groundcover roses are both disease- and pest-resistant and offer continuous flowering. One of the best low-maintenance roses, these are ideal for novice rose growers and gardeners. 

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Alba Roses

As one of the oldest garden roses dating back to 100 A.D., alba roses are a hybrid style that offers tall, graceful bushes with cool-tone blue-green foliage. Their blooms, which perk up once around the late spring/early summer time frame, can often be found in pale pinks and crisp whites. One of the hardiest rose varieties, alba roses are disease-resistant, easy-to-maintain and can be planted and grown abundantly in both shade and colder climates. 

Bourbon Roses

First introduced in France on the Île Bourbon in 1817, Bourbon roses are thought to be a cross between China roses and Damask roses. Bourbon roses feature wonderful full blooms, which can be found in a variety of hues and shades of white, pink and red. Bourbon blooms also lend a strong, heady fragrance, but not as pungent as the drink itself. Grow a Bourbon rose bush near a trellis and train it to climb and adorn the space with repeated blooms all season long. 

Centifolia Roses

Centifolia Roses

Centifolia roses, also known as “cabbage” roses, have blooms that, well, resemble a cabbage head. In other words, they have thin petals that tightly overlap, offering a unique texture. Sometimes, you may come across “Provence” roses, which are similar, named after the section of France where they were once grown. 

Centifolia roses can be found in a variety of colors, such as white and pink. Their blooms often grow so large and proliferous that they weigh down the stem and appear to droop and nod off to sleep. With an exceptionally lovely scent, this specific rose variety is often used as an essential oil in perfumes and fragrances. However, enjoy it while it lasts because it only blooms once in early summer.

English/David Austin Roses

More commonly called David Austin roses after the British rose breeder, these roses come in hundreds of varieties. Quite popular among consumers and retailers alike, these rosette-shaped roses have the heady scent of an Old Rose variety, but also a continuous blooming as well as a broad range of colors like that of Modern Roses. David Austin roses are for more experienced growers and gardeners, as they are susceptible to diseases and less hardy, which takes more maintenance and attention. 

English/David Austin Roses

China Roses

A more exotic variety, China roses were introduced to the Western world in the late 18th century. As a complex group, this unique rose has benefited from hybridization immensely. China roses often emit a lovely fragrance and present compact and bushy blooms that come in various colors, such as bright reds, soft pinks and cheery yellows. 

One of the most significant advantages of this hybrid rose lies in its resistance to diseases and its ability to have repeated blooms from summer to late fall. The one drawback to China roses is that their silky petals are quite delicate, needing protection during colder months and climates. The best way to grow these petite roses is in a small container, which you can bring inside at the end of the warm season. 

Damask Roses

Damask roses are considered some of the most ancient roses, even originating in Biblical times. They are so old that there are two varieties: the Summer Damask and Autumn Damask, blooming in each season, respectively. The only difference is that the Autumn Damask (also called the four seasons damask) offers two blooms, both in the summer and fall. Damask roses come in a wide variety of colors, from bright silvery whites to deep pinks. Like the centifolia, Damask roses give off an exceptionally fragrant scent, which is extracted and used as an essential oil in perfumes and other scented items. 

Gallica Roses

Like the Damask rose, gallica roses are quite ancient. Some varieties even date back to the 12th century. Sometimes called the French or Provins rose, gallicas offer a lovely scent, which is used for perfumes. More notably, this rose’s unique petals have been used for antibacterial, astringent and tonic medicinal purposes. 

In addition, gallica roses are found in many shades, such as pinks, reds, purples and even with a two-tone white stripe. Sadly, their beautifully layered, tightly clustered blooms can only be seen once during the summer. A hardier Old Garden Rose variety, gallicas are tolerant of shady areas and colder climates. 

Rose Bush

Find a Favorite Rose Type for Your Green Space

With the many different types of roses available, it can be quite overwhelming. But once you become acquainted with the distinct features that lie in the shape of their blooms, the length of canes and–if you have a good nose for it–their amazing scents, you can begin to differentiate each variety. 

If you are a novice rose-grower, discover and choose an easy-to-maintain variety from our Roses for Beginners collection and gather a few supplies, such as specially formulated fertilizers and all-natural pest controls to get started. 

Before long, you’ll have a proliferous rose bush to clip, creating a bouquet display and lovely scent within the home. 

Find The Perfect Roses for Your Garden

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