Skip to main content

Rose Types for Your Perennial Garden

I have a deep interest in nature, gardening, and sustainability. The local arboretum is my universe of learning, and my garden is my lab!

This looks like an heirloom or "old rose," probably a Centifolia judging from the number of petals on the flower.

This looks like an heirloom or "old rose," probably a Centifolia judging from the number of petals on the flower.

  • Shrub Roses
  • Rambling Roses
  • Rugosa Roses
  • Bourbon Roses
  • Gallica Roses
  • Noisette Roses
  • Damask Roses
  • Alba Roses
  • Centifolia Roses

Roses That Require a Minimum of Care

Shrub Roses

These roses come in a wide variety of colors, with rose sizes about half an inch (as in the Fairy Hedge rose) to larger flowered roses (like the popcorn type and drift roses, which are relative newcomers in the world of roses). I've had my fairy hedge rose for two decades and have never had a day's worry with this beauty. These rose types have very few—if any—of the problems that plague some hybrid tea roses.

Compact in size, my Fairy Hedge rose is about two feet high and wide, and my drift roses are about the same size. The drift roses are usually a little wider than tall though. During the summer, simply cut off the dead parts that have already bloomed to encourage more blooms. During the fall, let the rose bush develop hips for the birds. For those who do not know what hips are, they are the rounded or sometimes oblong seed packets that develop after the rose has bloomed. They are beautiful and interesting in their own right.

Rambling Roses

These roses climb right up a trellis, and surprisingly, many types are nearly thornless. These roses also send shoots off in many directions, explaining their name and nature. Their colors include burgundy, deep red, white, yellow, pink, and light pink. A normal rambling rose will only bloom once during the growing season, but if you have an English rambling rose (which is a cross between the English and rambling roses) then you will have a repeat bloomer. They scramble up walls and trellises with a profusion of small blooms. I call these the rowdy roses because they bloom and grow with such abandon.

The Lady of the Lake by David Austin is a gorgeous example of an English rambler. A rambling rose has flexible canes (stems) and lots of sprays of flowers. You can encourage these stems to grow on rounded or arched forms with ease. Simply attach the canes to the structure with bendable soft ties found at garden centers. Make sure the ties are covered in a soft material because you don't want to damage the canes.

Rugosa Roses

These roses hail from Korea and Japan. Hearty, healthy, very fragrant flowers. They can tolerate temperatures that drop to minus 50˚F. These have not been altered much from the time they have been discovered. The rose hips are the highlight of the plant—high in vitamin C, large, and showy. The colors of the flowers include rose to white. Some hybrid varieties include yellow. They tolerate drought, which is unusual for a rose, and are almost pest-free. They have developed their hardiness from the type of environment in which they came from, the salt-sprayed shores of Japan and Korea.

Their leaves have a wonderful textural quality of deep veining and crinkled petals. This variety of rose also falls under the shrub roses. Although it is considered a shrub rose, height can vary from four to six feet and is generally as wide as it is tall, with a rounded form. This rose doesn't require much except room to grow. With this in mind, these roses are not good for a small garden because of their suckering habit, which allows them to develop into large impassable shrubs. This is a very thorny rose. So when pruning, make sure to wear long leather garden gloves.

Bourbon Roses

These also fall under the wide category of old garden roses. They were developed by the French rosarians in the 1800s. This is an athletic rose. When I say this, I mean it has the endurance of an athlete, and not much bothers it. It shrugs off pests and diseases with ease. And because it has been around since the 1800s, it has had the chance to build up an arsenal of defenses. This is important for any flower. Allow it to develop its defenses on its own without babying it. Bourbons are round or globe-shaped with many, many petals, and there are subcategories within the bourbons.

Gallica Roses

Although these roses are from the old rose category, they are so healthy and hardy that they also deserve a place under this category. Please see information under the old rose category for their habit, history, and character.

This is an example of a wild rose.  Note the simplicity of form, yet it is still a rose.  So, yes, there are roses with just five petals, and roses with a hundred petals or more!

This is an example of a wild rose. Note the simplicity of form, yet it is still a rose. So, yes, there are roses with just five petals, and roses with a hundred petals or more!

The Old Garden Roses

Gallica Roses

These are the oldest known roses to date, but I have also placed them under the category of roses with minimal care requirements. These beautiful roses were grown by the Greeks and Romans and then later cultivated by the French in the 17th century. Their colors are mainly mauve, deep red, and purple. This is a small, bushy rose with many flowers on the shrub and many petals on the flowers. Dark green leaves adorn this low shrub. This is a handsome shrub in or out of bloom.

Noisette Roses

These are roses that originate prior to 1825. They're another old garden rose that is a prolific bloomer with a spice-like fragrance along with being a climber. Grow this one around an arched arbor for a memorable entryway to your garden. Blush Noisette has petite, many-petaled flowers in the lightest pink possible. This is a delicate-looking beauty that belies its inner strength.

Interesting fact: despite its French-sounding name, the noisette was created in America by crossing a musk rose with a china rose around 1811. This was done by John Champneys and was newly named Champneys' Pink Cluster. Then a worker who lived or worked on the estate with Mr. Champneys sent seeds of this rose to his brother in France. His name was Phillip Noisette, and he started experimenting with seedlings and came up with the familiar Noisette. The rest is history. An important consideration about this rose is that these are not winter hardy, except in the South. So, this is not a northern rose. They love the heat and are hardy in zones 7 through 10.

Damask Roses

These roses are also ancient and date back to biblical times. They are another excellent rose type, well known for their hardiness and disease resistance. These roses were originally found in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean world. As always, seeds travel with people, and when the crusaders went into Europe, they took their rose seeds with them. The Damask is a combination of rosa gallica and species rose. These roses like fertile soil and are very thorny. They have a relaxed growing habit and can grow to seven feet tall.

Alba Roses

Tall and elegant, these roses are show-stoppers. They have an upright habit and can be grown as a beautiful hedge. Usually, they grow as wide as they are tall. They can grow up to 8 feet tall. They don't have a lot of prickles, so they are easy to handle. They are also very content in dappled shade. Their leaves are a blue-green-grey color and add to the overall soft appearance of the plant.

These beauties are very hardy and can be grown in zones 3 through 9. They are about as carefree as you can get. They bloom once in the spring. Their perfume is memorable and they date back to the Middle Ages. This is known as the Shakespeare Rose. The color of these roses is limited to a blush pink, a very light pink, and white.

Centifolia Roses

As the name implies, these roses have 100 petals or more. They are quite lovely and full and have many different fragrances. They are also known as cabbage roses. They bloom once around mid-summer. Though because their fragrance is amazing, you might wish they would bloom all summer long. Disease-free and very hardy, these roses originated when Dutch breeders hybridized them in the 17th century. The roses have a rounded form opening up to a many-petaled wonder of fragrance and beauty. These are the roses you want to bury your face in, but be careful of the thorns, there are lots of them! Colors range from lavender to dark pink.

These look like classic tea roses. You can usually tell these flowers by their high centers.

These look like classic tea roses. You can usually tell these flowers by their high centers.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Claudia Smaletz


Claudia Smaletz (author) from East Coast on June 29, 2019:

Hello, I have not heard of these, from what you have stated, those are some hardy roses. What colors are available in this type? And, thank-you for reading my hub and the information.

Oleda Alvey on June 29, 2019:

I am in zone 5 so the Canadian explorer roses are for me. Good to minus 30 there is john cabot, jp connell,

and many others.

Aldene Fredenburg from Southwestern New Hampshire on September 19, 2018:

Thank you! I have it in my mind that when I get my own home, I want to be surrounded by flowers, and your info on roses that require a minimum of care fits the bill! Although the other roses are intriguing, too.