Knowing the main types of roses is helpful when it comes to choosing one for your garden. After all, there are thousands of varieties out there, so knowing which to pick can be tricky.
These plants are a truly beautiful and versatile choice for backyards big or small, which is why more and more people are learning how to grow roses. 'They are easy to grow and will flower year after year, bringing amazing color and fragrance to fences, arches, borders and patio pots,' says Sarah Squire, Chairman of Squire's Garden Centres (opens in new tab). 'They are perfect for that cottage garden look and as a companion for many other plants, as well as providing blooms to cut and enjoy indoors. Without doubt, they are a must-have in my garden,' she adds. But, to get the best results, you'll want to pick the rose most suited to your needs and your plot – whether it's a sweetly-scented rambler, a brightly-colored hybrid tea, or something in-between.
To help you narrow down your options, we've rounded up some of the most popular types of roses available today, along with some top tips.
Types of roses: 11 lovely choices
Most experts would agree that there are three main types of roses: old garden roses, modern garden roses, and wild roses. Modern and old types are then divided into further categories – such as damask, alba, floribunda, and others.
If you're wondering what the difference is, let us explain. Old garden roses (sometimes call heritage or heirloom roses) have been around since before 1867. As the team at David Austin Roses (opens in new tab) says, true old roses only flower during the early summer (with one or two exceptions) and give a magnificent display. 'Many varieties have a wonderful fragrance and they are all full of character, as well as generally being extremely tough and easy to look after,' they add. You can also find repeat flowering types of old rose: these originate from China roses and were cross-fertilized with true old roses in the 18th century.
The first modern rose was 'La France', a hybrid tea, which was introduced in 1867. Other modern roses include climbing, polyantha, and floribunda types, plus many others which are very popular today for both cottage garden ideas and more contemporary plots. Modern roses tend to bloom continuously throughout the season, with larger blooms than old roses, but can be less disease resistant.
Wild roses, otherwise known as species roses, tend to be large shrub-like plants, sporting single, five-petalled flowers in early summer, followed by hips.
1. Shrub rose
Shrub roses are a modern type of rose. They are good for creating structure in flowerbed ideas, or for making a rose hedge. They are bushy, with lots of foliage, and can look lovely paired with other plants such as ornamental grasses and perennials. Many will repeat flower from June into the autumn.
Here are three of our favorites:
- If you're looking specifically for types of roses with show-stopping scent, David Austin's 'Emily Bronte' (shown above) is a fantastic choice. It's named for the Bronte Society, to celebrate the bicentenary of the famous novelist, and has neat, flat, soft pink blooms with central petals deepening to rich apricot. The scent is reminiscent of an old rose with hints of lemon and grapefruit.
- 'Ballerina' is a very pretty shrub rose, with lots of simple pink flowers held in trusses. It grows up to 4ft wide and tall.
- For small clusters of lavender-hued, cup-shaped blooms, try 'Poseidon' – a disease-resistant and hardy plant.
- 'Lady Emma Hamilton' has beautiful tangerine-hued blooms which contrast against dark foliage. It has a delightfully fruity fragrance.
2. Rambling rose
Rambling roses will enthusiastically cover your garden fence ideas, a wall, or an ugly shed with small flowers in large sprays, creating a mass of color. But, although rambling roses are dramatic, they produce only one flush of flowers a year lasting a couple of weeks, usually in early summer.
They are best suited to gardens with plenty of space, as their growth is vigorous. Given the chance, they'll scramble their long, flexible stems through bushes and into trees, and can be used as a living support for other climbing plants such as clematis. Like the sound of this planting combination? You can find out how to grow clematis in our guide.
Try these types for your garden:
- 'Paul's Himalayan Musk' is one of the most beautiful rambling types of roses you can buy. Its fluffy pale pink petals will delight you when it flowers between May and June. As a hardy perennial, a good spot is a border either in full sun or with shelter and it can climb exceptionally high (around 40ft). If you wish to cut the roses for your vase they will last between five and 10 days, which gives you a good amount of time to enjoy their scent in your home.
- 'Rambling Rector' (shown above) has a strong, musky fragrance and grows up to 25ft. It bears small, semi-double, creamy-colored flowers with yellow stamens.
- 'Wedding Day' grows up to 35ft tall. It has apricot-colored buds which open to ethereal white blooms. A good choice for more shaded areas of your plot.
3. Climbing rose
With a continuous supply of flowers all summer and into the autumn, climbing roses have a woody framework from which new flowering shoots grow. They provide good coverage for walls, but don't grow as exuberantly as rambling roses, so they are more suited to small garden ideas.
Here are three of our top picks:
- 'Gertrude Jekyll' is a great pick for a strong old-rose-like fragrance. It offers large, pink flowers and grows to a height of around 8ft.
- Another highly-scented rose, 'Madame Alfred Carrière' bears loose, creamy-colored flowers and can grow exceptionally tall – up to 25ft.
- 'Constance Spry' smells of myrrh and has cupped, mid-pink blooms. It only flowers once per summer and grows to around 20ft tall.
4. Hybrid tea rose
The hybrid tea types of roses are the ones that often appear in shop bought bouquets, with one large, beautifully shaped flower on a long stem. They grow upright, with little foliage apart from at the base of the stem, and they usually flower three times between summer and autumn.
They can be a little more maintenance than other modern roses and don't blend well in mixed beds, so it's best to plant them in a dedicated rose border.
- 'Silver Jubilee', contrary to its name, has pinky-apricot petals. It has a sweet scent and grows to around 4ft.
- 'Blessings' is salmon pink in color and sweetly fragranced.
- 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' has perfectly-formed, medium-sized, blush-pink blooms and grows to around 3ft tall.
5. Polyantha rose
Polyanthas are another modern, low-maintenance variety which are good for small courtyard garden ideas as they're quite compact. They are known for their prolific flowers which grow in tightly-packed bunches, often in shades of red, pink, peach, or white.
Try these varieties for your backyard:
- 'The Fairy' is a timeless choice, with sprays of tiny pink flowers and a light, apple-like fragrance. It grows up to 2 1/2ft tall and 3ft wide.
- 'Perle D'or' is another small variety, with delicate, pale apricot blooms on long stems.
6. Floribunda rose
If you like loads of flowers and bold color, but are less bothered about fragrance, then this modern rose could be for you. The blooms grow in clusters, and they have a long flowering period.
A mix between hybrid tea and polyantha roses, these plants have been bred to be robust and disease resistant and have a stiff and upright form. Position them in a deep bed or border, mixed with the best cottage garden plants for a stunning show.
- This yellow stunner pictured above is called 'Belle de Jour' and has been awarded the prestigious honour of Rose of the Year 2021. It’s new from the floribunda variety and has orange-striped buds that open to reveal an abundance of golden petals that will fade to a palest yellow on their outside edges. The scent is intense, with a combination of spring flowers and the sweet notes of vanilla. It will look great in borders, beds and containers and grows up to 5ft tall.
- The glorious 'Golden Wedding' is another lovely yellow variety yet slightly smaller than 'Belle de Jour' – up to 3ft. A good pick for container gardening ideas.
- 'Valentine Heart' has medium-sized, delicate pink blooms with frilly petals and a pleasant scent. Pop it in a sunny spot, either in a border or a pot.
7. Standard tree rose
The standard tree types of roses look like lollipops, with rounded balls of blooms on top of a long, slim trunk. Created by grafting two or three cuttings of a rose on to a single stem, they can be grown in pots or planted in the ground. Just remember to plant them somewhere sheltered.
They are ideal for making a feature either side of your garden path ideas in a formal garden, or flanking a front door in pots. 'For dramatic effect, plant three or four closely together in a border,' says the team at David Austin Roses.
These roses require pruning to maintain their shape, which will also encourage larger flowers to form. Pruning should be done after the second summer of flowering – you can find more advice in our guide on how to prune roses.
Our top picks include the following:
- 'Desdemona' has peach-hued buds opening to elegant white blooms. It's a winner for fragrance with an old rose scent, and grows up to 6ft in height.
- 'Princess Anne' is recommended by David Austin Roses as 'best for flowering' as well as 'best for health'. It has large, vivid pink flowers and glossy foliage.
8. Damask rose
Damask roses are part of the old rose category. There are two types: summer damasks and autumn damasks. The summer types tend to have rather a sprawling growth habit and only flower once a year, whilst autumn types are more compact and can bloom twice (once in summer and once in fall).
Almost all of them have strongly-scented flowers, often in shades of white or pink. Three of our favorites include:
- 'Celsiana', which has sprays of semi-double, pale pink flowers with yellow stamens and a heady fragrance. It can grow up to 6ft.
- 'Hebe's Lip' has white petals with a red tip, and a strong, myrrh-like perfume. Again, it can grow up to 6ft.
- 'Quatre Saisons' is an autumn damask, so will flower twice in a year. It has medium-sized, pink flowers and grows up to 5ft.
9. Grandiflora rose
A modern rose, grandifloras are a mix of hybrid teas and floribundas – with the clustered blooms of the former and the repeat-flowering nature of the latter. They tend to have large blooms and make a good addition to the best cutting garden flowers.
Two of our favorites include the following:
- 'Mother of Pearl' has pale pink petals and blooms prolifically from summer to fall. It has dark, semi-glossy leaves and grows to around 4ft tall and wide. If you're looking for something highly fragranced, however, this won't be the rose for you.
- 'Radiant Perfume' has large, yellow flowers which emit a pleasant lemony fragrance. It grows up to 6ft tall and 5ft wide.
10. Ground cover rose
Sometimes called landscaping roses, ground cover roses are, as you'd expect from the name, low-growing and sprawling by nature. They're a modern type, and sport small, repeating flowers throughout the season.
A hardy, easy-care choice, ground cover roses are good if you're on the lookout for low maintenance garden ideas.
Here are two of our top picks:
- 'Partridge' offers single, long-lasting flowers in a pretty white hue, followed by hips. It grows to a mere height of 1ft in height, but up to 10ft in width.
- 'Hampshire' has bright red blooms with yellow centers. It's more compact than 'Partridge', with a height of 1ft and a spread of 2ft, and has a very light fragrance.
11. Alba rose
According to the team at David Austin Roses, alba roses date right back to the Middle Ages. These old roses are incredibly hardy and disease-resistant, and are undemanding, with little pruning needed.
They can also tolerate partial shade much better than other varieties, so may make a good addition to your shade garden ideas. You'll find them in tones of pink or white.
Try these picks for your borders:
- 'Pompom Blanc Parfait' has pale, pompom-like flowers in a lilac-pink tone and small, greyish green leaves. It grows slowly, up to 4ft in height.
- If you're looking for a larger rose, try 'Alba Maxima', which dates right back to 1500. It has a beautiful fragrance, white flowers, and grows up to 6ft tall.
What are the best roses to grow for cutting?
It's lovely to be able to bring roses indoors to brighten up corners of the home, your desk, or the kitchen table. You are most likely to want ones that smell divine as well as look gorgeous, and will hold their beauty for a good few days when cut.
Here are three choices to try:
- 'Summer Song', an English shrub rose, has stunningly vibrant orangey-red blooms with a sweet tea perfume.
- 'Duchess of Cornwall' is a hybrid tea rose with good vase life when cut. It offers large, cupped flowers in a peachy pink tone and has a pleasantly spicy fragrance.
- 'Windermere', another English shrub rose, has a fruity scent and creamy-yellow blooms which turn paler over time. Its stems are almost thornless.
As Squire's Garden Centres says, 'Roses last longer indoors if you cut the stems early in the morning while the air is cool. For added impact, why not combine with cut stems of alchemilla, alstroemeria, salvia or phlox which all grow in a sunny garden?'
An experienced freelance journalist, editor and columnist writing for national magazines and websites, Fiona now specialises in gardens. She enjoys finding and writing about all kinds, from the tiniest town plots to impressively designed ones in grand country houses. She's a firm believer that gardening is for everyone, and it doesn’t matter if you have a single window ledge or an acre, there’s always peace and joy to be found outside. The small town garden of her Edwardian terraced house is currently a work in progress as she renovates the property, but her goal is always to fill it with flowers, climbers, colour, fragrance – and as many of her treasured vintage finds as she can possibly fit in.
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