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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose; By any other name would smell as sweet.”
- William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 scene 2




Most everyone loves roses. They have been with us for millions of years and have been cultivated in Asia for the last 5000 years.  Cultivated varieties which were repeat bloomers were introduced in Europe about 1800. These were of great interest to hybridizers and led to our modern day roses. This landmark is used to divide our roses today into “old roses” (those cultivated in Europe before 1800) and “modern roses” (those cultivated after the turn on the 19th century).


The rose has prominence throughout recorded history especially during the Roman Empire. Roses have important symbolic representations in most all religions to this date. Roses are now the most commonly grown flower and have obtained their due prestige by becoming the National Flower of England and The National Floral Emblem of the US. A variety of hybid tea rose, "Oklahoma Rose" is our state flower.


The classification of roses is primarily based on growth habit and character of blossoms. The two main categories now are Bush Roses and Climbing Roses. The plants in these two categories are listed in the tables below. Many of our roses today are grafted onto sturdy rootstock.


Types of Roses


Bush Roses

Repeat Bloomers


Hybrid Teas


Most popular, bloom from May to frost. Usually have one bloom per stem. Valuable for Cut flowers.



Smaller blossoms in clusters, very hardy, blooms all season. Good for beds, shrub borders.



Hybrids of floribunda and hybrid tea. Large blossoms in clusters. Hardy, make good cut flowers

Tree Roses


Bush cultivars grafted onto large heavy root stock several feet above ground. Often only semi-hardy, needing winter protection. Nice for containers.

Polyantha Roses


Have large clusters of small one-inch flowers similar to climbing roses. Hardy, low maintenance.

Miniature Roses


Few inches to a foot or so tall, small flowers which are repeat bloomers. Many uses in gardens and containers.

Hybrid Perpetuals


Heavy bloom in spring, large fragrant flowers, hardy, minimum care, leggy, not commonly available.

Shrub Roses

Some are

Collection of wild species, hybrids, varieties that have bush/shrub structure. Small spring flowers and attractive foliage make them useful for hedges. See separate page on Knock-out roses.

Old Garden Heirloom


Spring flowers less attractive than today’s hybrids, but fragrance is better. Nice form, hardy, little care.

English (David Austin) Roses


Cross of old roses and modern hybrids, very fragrant, disease resistant.


Climbing and Pillar Roses

Repeat Bloomers




Vigorous, may produce canes 20’ long each season. Small spring flowers in clusters bloom on last year’s growth. Hardy but have disease issues (mildew).

Everblooming Climbers


Slower growing than ramblers, heavy spring blooming, some bloom in fall. Hardy, moderate disease resistance.

Climbing Hybrid Tea


Similar to bush hybrid teas but not as many blossoms. Disease and winter damage issues.

Climbing Floribunda and Polyantha

Yes, some

Climbing cultivars of bush plants. Hardy, may flower all season

Ground Cover and Carpet Roses


Produce long canes covering ground, banks, walls. Small fragrant flowers in spring, hardy




Rose culture



Specific details of plant selection, soil preferences, step-by-step planting recommendations, fertilizing and pruning are found in OSU’s informative fact sheet, HLA-6403: Roses in Oklahoma. This should be your first stop when considering rose care. Information below is the bare-bones outline of care. Also be aware that a new rose disease, "rose rosette" has appeared in Oklahoma and is causeing severe devastation of many roses. Go to OSU fact sheet Epp-7329 "Rose Rosette Disease" for details.



Site Selection and Preparation: Roses are like vegetables, they need at least 6 hours of sun daily and they perform best in fertile well drained soil. They need plenty of space between individual plants and rows of plants.  Roses prefer an acidic soil, preferring a pH of about 6.0. Perform a soil test to determine what your soils pH is, as well as the levels of basic nutrients.


Roses simply will not do well in overly sandy soil or in heavy clay. Sandy soil cannot hold water and nutrients, while clay soils hold too much water and is difficult for roots to penetrate. Adding generous amounts of organic material to these soils will help, but with soil extremes, it may be best to plant in a raised bed or plant in containers.


Planting: Many roses are sold as dormant barerooted (no soil) plants and February and March are the preferred times to plant them. Hardened container grown roses may be planted anytime. Fall planing may be done if generously mulched to prevent freezing. In spring do not plant actively growing roses until the danger of frost is past. See fact sheet referred to above for details on soil preparation, depth and spacing of plants.


Maintenance: Keep beds weed-free by hand and by using mulch. Any loose mulch which allows good air flow will prevent most weeds. Irrigate rose plants when needed. It is better to water after the soil begins to dry, then try to wet the soil down to 18 inches. Deep watering encourages the roots to grow deeply.


Fertilization: For recently planted roses, wait about a month before fertilizing. Existing plants will benefit from fertilizer in early April and every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Try to base the fertilizer on the results of a soil test. If the area has been fertilized in the past, use a nitrogen (first number on the bag) fertilizer according to labeled directions. Keep the fertilizer away from the stems and gently till into the soil. Do not fertilize roses after mid-July. This may be extended to mid-August if a short acting liquid fertilizer is used and the plants are kept irrigated. Fertilizing later may cause late season growth susceptible to winter-kill.


Pruning: Most roses benefit from pruning. They are pruned to improve shape, increase air-flow, to remove dead canes and to regulate flower size. Each type of rose has its own recommended type of pruning which is detailed in the OSU fact sheet linked above.


The time to prune is in the spring, typically in mid-March after the danger of a late freeze is past. Pruning stimulates new tender growth and if done too early, it may be damaged by a late freeze.