Roses are one of the most popular plants in the garden. They are beloved for their beautiful flowers and intoxicating scent. There are many types and varieties to choose, from climbers and ramblers to elegant standards and tiny miniature varieties.
Many people think that roses are difficult to grow and are put off by the complexities of taking care of them and especially pruning them. However, planting and caring for roses is easier than you might think. When looked after they can live for many years, even decades, so they are well worth the investment of time.
This guide will help you choose suitable roses for your garden and teach you how to plant, care for and prune your roses so you get an abundant display of blooms year after year.
There are many different types and varieties of roses and this can be a little overwhelming at first. However, they are divided into categories which makes it easier to find the exact rose for your needs.
Roses are divided into three main groups base on their history, breeding and how they grow.
These groups are:
Wild roses are, as the name suggests, wild varieties that have been growing in the countryside for generations with no human interference. The flowers of these roses have five petals and are usually pink, red or white. They also feature beautiful rosehips after their once-yearly flowering. They are hardy and low maintenance and birds love their hips. The flowers are not as intricate and showy as modern varieties, but they have a simple beauty all of their own.
Old roses are types that have been around since at least 1867 without being bred or changed. Old roses flower once a year in early summer. These varieties are known for their highly scented blooms. They are hardy and easy to grow, requiring little pruning to keep them in shape.
Hybrid roses have been developed by taking all the best features of old roses and combining them to create new varieties. These modern varieties have been bred for colour and fragrance and to bloom for longer periods than old roses. In addition, they have been bred to increase their resistance to disease.
Hybrid tea roses come into this category and these are the types found as cut flowers in florists.
Within this group are two categories, floribunda which has sprays of small blooms and grandiflora which have large blooms that may be single or clustered.
Within the above groupings of roses, there are also different forms of rose
Miniature roses are only 30 cm – 90 cm (1-3 feet) tall and are often used in containers or as houseplants. Their flowers are tiny but perfectly formed. If you have a very small garden, these types give you all the pleasure of roses without taking up much room.
Climbing roses do not actually climb by themselves, but they can easily be trained across a trellis, obelisk, arbour or pergola. They will provide an abundance of blooms and add real classic beauty to your garden.
This group includes hybrid teas, floribundas and English roses. Shrub roses come in a myriad of colours and often bloom throughout summer. Some are more sprawling in habit and can be used for ground cover. Bush roses reach a maximum height of 1.2 metres (4 feet) while shrub roses are larger.
Standard roses are created by grafting a bushy rose variety onto an existing cane. These plants look wonderful in containers on patios and around seating areas. However, these are the highest maintenance of the rose types needing careful pruning to maintain their shape as well as protection through winter.
This can all be quite confusing so below is a list of ten great varieties to get you started
This delightful old-fashioned style variety has lovely warm pink blooms and flowers repeatedly throughout summer. It also has a wonderful sweet scent. It’s a fairly compact hybrid shrub rose growing to 1 metre (3.5 feet).
This species rose has single deep red flowers and beautiful red hips. It reaches a height of around 2 metres (6 feet).
This modern climber has large, dark pink double blooms that are highly fragrant. It repeat flowers throughout summer. This variety reaches a mature height of around 2 metres (6 feet).
This hybrid variety is a gorgeous apricot colour. The flowers are in long open sprays and abundant from mid-summer through to autumn. The fragrance is lovely. It has green foliage that is bronze-red when young.
This miniature rose has a profusion of orange-red flowers on a tiny but perfectly formed 30 centimetre (1-foot) shrub making it perfect for growing in a pot or at the front of the border.
‘Etoile de Hollande’
If you dream of having roses round the door, this lovely climbing variety will suit your perfectly. It has rich red flowers and a delicious strong fragrance.
‘Frau Karl Druschki’
This is an old rose variety that is arguably one of the most beautiful white roses. It features huge, double flowers of pure white. It is not the most fragrant rose, having only a light, fruity scent. This plant reaches an ultimate height of around 2 metres (7 feet).
For a classic, highly scented red rose you can’t get better than this hybrid tea rose variety. It has double velvety red flowers that are highly scented. This dramatic variety has buds that are so dark they are almost black and contrast beautifully with the purplish new foliage of this plant. It likes a warm climate so may need to be planted in a pot and moved somewhere nice and sheltered in winter.
‘Lady of Shalott’
This lovely orange-flowered standard rose repeat flowers and can reach a height of 2 metres (7 feet). It has a warm, spicy fragrance and is also very disease resistant.
This stunning floribunda variety has deep wine-coloured buds that open to plummy purple. The scent is also lusciously spicy. All in all, a rose to make your mouth water. It will reach a height of 1.2 metres (4 feet). This variety seems to have more intense flower colour when planted in a cool but bright situation.
Though many people are daunted by the thought of growing roses they are not as hard as most people think. As long as they are watered and fed well they can live for decades. Pruning them is also not too difficult.
Roses like plenty of sun, ideally at least six hours per day.
Correct watering is key to promoting a healthy, long- flowering rose. Shrub roses and those planted in pots will need 5 litres, while climbing, rambling or standard roses will need 10. Water newly planted roses every other day. Once established, once a week should suffice except in very hot, dry weather when they may require more, especially if container-grown. Roses that are planted against walls may also require more watering as the soil there is dry, and walls and guttering may prevent rain from reaching it.
Check the soil with your finger and if it feels dry, water your rose deeply.
If you see signs of flowers wilting this is a good indication that your rose needs watering.
Always water your roses at the base and not on the leaves or stems as wet foliage can encourage fungal diseases.
Roses are quite hungry plants and will do best in rich soil. You should add plenty of well-rotted manure before planting. If your soil is sandy or poor, you may need to use extra fertilizer and/or well-rotted manure as well as watering more frequently.
You should feed your roses with a specialist rose food in late spring and again in late summer. This second feed will encourage repeat flowering. In addition, your roses will appreciate a 3 cm (1 inch) thick mulch of bark chippings in spring. Apply the mulch after weeding and watering the area.
Roses can be planted at any time as long as conditions are amenable. Do not plant roses when the ground is frozen or waterlogged. It is also wise to avoid times of drought.
Roses will do best if planted in a position with plenty of sunlight and out of strong winds. They will also be happier without intense competition from other plants so give them plenty of space.
You should allow 60 cm (2 feet) between roses and 100 cm (3 feet) between roses and other plants.
Bare rooted roses should be soaked in a bucket of water for 24 hours before planting.
Climbing roses will need support and training, however, shrub roses will not require any support.
You should dead-head your roses regularly, as much as possible, to encourage repeat flowering. Dead heading stops the roses from putting their energy into seed production and so leaves more energy for producing new blooms. Of course, large ramblers and climbers may be difficult to deadhead, but these vigorous plants will not suffer much from having their blooms left on.
You should continue to dead head up until September.
Some standard roses may need extra winter protection, especially if grown in a pot. It is wise to check the specific requirements of your variety. In general, wrapping the pot in bubble wrap should be enough to keep the roots warm. You should also move the pot to a nice, sheltered position.
Pot grown roses should be repotted once their roots begin to fill the pot as they will no longer be getting enough nutrients from the soil. Choose a pot slightly larger than the existing one and repot using a loam-based compost.
Looks good with
Roses, of course, look wonderful in a traditional cottage garden. They are also a lovely addition to the border. As they offer little winter interest it is worth planting them with structural evergreens so that the plot does not look too bare out of season.
Roses are wonderful for training over structures and, as they do not actually climb themselves, they will not damage buildings and walls. They will, of course, need to be supported with trellis or wires and trained over their support.
Pruning roses seems complicated because the different types have different needs. Once you have established the variety of rose you have the process is actually quite straightforward.
In general, pruning can be undertaken at any time between November and March. However, do not prune if the soil is waterlogged or during frosty spells.
The aim of pruning is to encourage a nice shape to your rose as well as encouraging plenty of flowers. You should also remove any weak, diseased or dead growth.
When pruning, make a slanting cut to about half a centimetre above an outward facing bud. This will encourage the new growth in an outward direction and avoid a congested centre.
Start by removing any diseased or damaged wood back to healthy growth. After this, follow the directions below for your specific type of rose.
Bush/ shrub roses
For bush roses, first, prune out damaged or diseases stems and those that are crossing each other or overcrowded. Prune the remaining growth back to three or four buds above the previous years cut. For floribundas and English roses prune back to five or six buds above last year’s cut.
Modern shrub roses also require pruning to establish an open centre. In general, cutting back the main stems by around a third and side shoots by a half should encourage a nice branching framework.
Patio and miniature roses
Pruning these small roses is the same as pruning bush roses but on a smaller scale. In addition, maintain a nice balanced shape by cutting back any wayward and overlong shoots.
For standard roses, the idea is to create a nice balanced shape in the head. Simply cut back the stems to about six inches long. Do not leave the head too large as this may make it vulnerable to wind damage. If the plant is congested, you can cut out two or three of the older stems in the centre to create a more open structure and allow good air circulation.
Climbing roses should have all diseased or damaged growth removed and then flowering spurs should be cut back by two thirds.
Ramblers are very vigorous and require harder pruning. They flower on new growth so remove one in three of the oldest stems and tie in new growth to take its place. Overgrown ramblers can have some of their old, woody stems cut back to the ground. Leave about six healthy new stems and secure these to the supports.
Propagating roses also depends on the type of rose you have. Many roses are grafted onto different rootstock, especially standard roses. However, you can try taking cuttings or propagating by layering or suckers.
Propagating by suckers
For roses that are grown on their own roots, such as species roses you can propagate by cutting off a sucker from the main plant and replanting it.
Propagating by layering
For shrub, climber or rambling roses, the easiest way to propagate is by layering. Choose a stem that reaches the ground and make a cut on the lower part of the stem where it touches the ground. This is where the new roots will form. Do not cut more than halfway through the stem. Bury this part of the stem in the ground. You can secure it with a forked twig if necessary. Once the new plant has rooted, you can cut it away from the parent plant and pot it up.
Propagating by cutting
Choose a healthy stem from the current year’s growth.
Make the cutting around 25 cm (10 inches) long cutting just above a bud at the top and just below a bud at the base. Remove all the leaves except one at the top.
Dip the stem in rooting hormone powder and insert into prepared pots of a mixture of potting medium mixed with equal parts of horticultural grit.
Water well and put the pot in a warm position out of direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist at all times.
Pot up individually once the cuttings have rooted.
Common Rose Problems
Roses are susceptible to several pests including aphids and scale
Aphids such as greenfly and blackfly enjoy making their home on roses. These sap-sucking insects can cause discoloured and distorted leaves. They should be scraped off, sprayed off with a jet of water or sprayed with an insecticidal soap. You can also use an insecticide designed for roses.
Brown scale may appear as dark brown shell-like bumps on the stems. These bumps are actually the waxy coating the mature insects cover themselves with. These insects suck the sap of the plant and excrete honeydew which can cause a sooty black mould to develop.
Spraying with a suitable insecticide can be done in early July when the young insects are present. Avoid spaying when the plant is in flower, however as you could harm pollinating insects. Spraying will not remove the existing scales, but it should kill off the new insects and prevent more scales appearing.
Roses are often susceptible to fungal diseases. You should keep a close eye on your roses as these diseases are easiest to treat if they are caught early. Older species types of roses are less affected than more modern hybrids.
This fungal disease causes orange or black spore pustules to appear on the undersides of leaves. There may also be pustules on the stems and you may notice distorted growth. Many modern varieties have been bred to be resistant to this disease.
You should prune out any affected growth as soon as it appears in spring. Collect fallen leaves in autumn and destroy them. You can use a fungal spray to contain the disease. If the problem persists and causes a serious loss of vigour to your plant, it may be worth replacing your rose with a more resistant variety.
Rose black spot
This is the most serious fungal disease that roses suffer. You will see purplish-black patches on the leaves. The leaves may then start to go yellow and drop. Losing leaves affect the vigour of the plant as it is unable to photosynthesize.
To prevent the spread of the disease, remove all fallen leaves in autumn. Apply a mulch in spring to prevent spores from being blown back onto the plant. Water your rose at the roots rather than on the leaves and stem.
A fungicide spray may need to be used for badly affected plants.
Rose powdery mildew
This is another fungal disease that often affects roses. You may see a white powdery coating on the leaves and shoots of your plant. The fungus may also cause yellowing and distorted leaves. The mildew may also spread to the stems and flowers causing buds not to open.
You should remove all affected growth as soon as possible. Improving air circulation can help prevent this disease. This disease thrives in hot dry conditions so water plants regularly and apply a mulch to retain moisture.
Giving your rose a feed may help it fend off attack but avoid feeding with too much nitrogen as this can encourage weak sappy growth that is more susceptible to the fungus.
Q Many of my climbing rose’s stems have failed to flower this year. What could be wrong?
It sounds like your rose may have been affected by a condition called rose blindness. The cause of this is unknown though it may be linked to adverse weather conditions. You could try cutting back the stems of the blind shoots by half to stimulate new growth. It may also help to feed your rose with a rose fertiliser and applying a mulch.
When you next prune your rose, remove some of the older wood to encourage new growth and the production of flowers.
Q My double-flowered rose has many buds, but they are dying before they open. Is there anything I can do to prevent this in the future?
Your rose is suffering from a condition known as flower balling. It is usually caused by wet weather conditions that are closely followed by warmer, drier weather. The outer petals get wet and then when the weather warms they dry into a papery shell that prevents the bud from opening.
If the weather is very changeable there is not much you can do about this problem. However, you can avoid exacerbating it by increasing air circulation around the plant to allow the buds to dry out more easily before becoming baked by the sun.
In addition, you should make sure you water your plant at the base, rather than all over and especially avoid getting the flower buds wet. It is also wise not to water the plant in hot sunny conditions. If affected, your rose may benefit from being watered in the evening, so it has a chance to dry gradually rather than being baked by the sun while damp.
If you plant is container grown, you could move it indoors or into a conservatory or greenhouse when rain is forecast.
Q Several parts of my rose seem to be dying. The tips of many shoots are going brown and some branches have completely died. What is wrong with it?
Your rose seems to be suffering from rose dieback.
This can have a variety of causes including adverse weather and fungal diseases.
You should take a look at your plant and check that conditions are optimal for its growth. Ensure it is well fed, well-watered and getting enough sun. Make sure it is not sitting in waterlogged soil or being overcrowded by surrounding plants. You should also check for pests and diseases. Remove any diseased or damaged wood and any branches that are crossing over or rubbing against one another.
If the conditions are right, and your plant is not suffering from pests or diseases then it is likely to have been just the weather conditions. Give it a dose of fertiliser and you should soon see signs of recovery.