Do you know your hybrid tea from your bourbon? If so, belly up to the yard and drink in all the delicious scents and sights the rose-filled garden has to offer. Those still thinking I’m referring to beverages should probably read on…

Alister Stella Gray rose

‘Alister Stella Gray’ is a Noisette rose.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Ambridge Rose David Austin Rose®

‘Ambridge Rose’ is a David Austin Rose® with lots of petals and great fragrance.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Blueberry Hill Floribunda rose

‘Blueberry Hill’ is a Floribunda rose.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Carefree Delight rose

‘Carefree Delight’ is a modern shrub rose.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Empress Josephine Gallica rose

‘Empress Josephine’ is a Gallica rose.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

La Ville de Bruxelles Damask rose

‘La Ville de Bruxelles’ is a Damask rose.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Le Vésuve China rose

‘Le Vésuve’ is a China rose.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Peace hybrid tea rose

‘Peace’ is a hybrid tea rose.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Rosa rugosa wild rose

Rosa rugosa is a wild rose.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Souvenir de la Malmaison rose

‘Souvenir de la Malmaison Rouge’ is a Bourbon rose.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

The Fairy shrub rose

‘The Fairy’ is a Polyantha shrub rose.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

Tournament of Roses Grandiflora rose

‘Tournament of Roses’ is a Grandiflora rose.

Photo Credit: Lane Greer

The difference in roses goes way beyond color and fragrance. These popular plants can be divided into more than two dozen categories based on origin, flower shape, growth habit, number of petals…the list goes on. In 1979, in an attempt to stop the madness, the World Federation of Rose Societies separated all roses into three large categories: wild roses, old garden roses and modern roses. Within these categories are other classifications. Here’s the breakdown:

Wild Roses

This category includes climbing and shrub roses. True wild roses have five petals and are sometimes called “species roses.” Other roses that fit in this category are the ones that look wild but have actually been bred in cultivation. (They generally have small flowers on large, sprawling plants.) Wild roses only bloom once each year, and they have good insect resistance and fragrance. They aren’t grown as much as other types, but they’re important because they’ve been used for centuries to breed new roses.

  • Climbers: This one really explains itself. Climbing roses have to be attached to their support structure using twist ties, wires or the like. They’re available in every color and range of petal numbers. Use them on arbors or to hide the ugly side of the tool shed. (Climbers are also found in the old garden and modern rose categories.)
  • Shrub roses: Flowers are produced on large shrubs and tend to cover the outside of the plant. These shrubs are usually hardy and often bloom continuously during summer. (They’re also found in modern roses.)

Old Garden Roses

In general, old garden roses are large, hardy shrubs that don’t need a lot of fuss. They have large, fragrant flowers that bloom once (possibly twice) a year. Types in this category include Alba, Bourbon, Centifolia, China, Damask, Gallica, Hybrid Perpetual, Moss, Noisette, Portland and Tea roses. There are several climbers in this group as well. You may also hear these plants referred to as “antique,” “old,” “heirloom” or “heritage” roses.

  • Alba: The flowers of these plants are white or pale pink. Most cultivars have many petals and bloom in summer on shrubby plants. They’re tough roses and don’t get black spot.
  • Bourbon: Bourbons are hybrids of Damask and China roses. The flowers are large and fragrant with numerous petals. They typically bloom in early and late summer. Most are highly susceptible to black spot.
  • Centifolia: Also called the cabbage rose, these roses have 100 or more petals per bloom. They’re a cross between Damasks and Albas.
  • China : China roses bear large clusters of medium-sized flowers that bloom throughout the summer in shades of pink and red.
  • Damask: Damask roses are pink or white with numerous petals. They were bred in parts of Persia, and the crusaders brought them back from Damascus, a city in modern-day Syria.
  • Gallica: Sometimes called French roses, gallicas are very fragrant with lots of petals. Their red, reddish-purple or pink hues are often described as being “rich” or “intense.” The flowers are flat (not pointed like hybrid teas), and plants bloom once in summer.
  • Hybrid Perpetual: These plants bloom all summer, primarily in red and pink tones, with large flowers and good fragrance.
  • Moss: Moss roses make up a large group with varying characteristics, but they’re mostly pink, with some whites and dark reds. They look very similar to Damasks and Centifolias. Most flower only once a year.
  • Noisette: Generally fragrant, this rose group has lots of white, yellow and apricot varieties and tends to bloom later in summer.
  • Portland: Named after Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, the second Duchess of Portland, all Portland roses are pink or red, with semidouble or fully double flowers.
  • Tea: Old tea roses originally came from China and were called as such because they were carried on ships carrying tea leaves. Their color range includes white, pink, yellow, buff, apricot and red – basically all the possible rose colors. Tea roses bloom throughout summer.

Modern Roses

Any rose that was developed after 1867 is considered to be a modern rose. There are five subcategories in this group: bush, shrub, groundcover, miniature and climbing.

  • Bush roses are grown for their single, large, long-stemmed blooms. They’re not the easiest roses to grow and often lack fragrance, but they’ll bloom repeatedly throughout summer. Bush roses come in four types: Floribundas offer flowers that occur in clusters. Hybrid teas are long-stemmed roses that look like the classic florist’s roses. Grandifloras are long-stemmed roses with medium-large flowers. (They’re a cross between hybrid teas and floribundas.) Polyanthas are small bushes growing only about 3 feet tall and are covered with clusters of small flowers. They bloom throughout the summer and are good for containers.
  • Modern shrub roses include David Austin Roses® (or English roses), hybrid musk and other shrub roses developed after 1867. David Austin blooms look like old roses, but they were bred beginning in the 1960s. They’re very fragrant, have good disease resistance and bloom continuously throughout summer in every possible rose color (pink, white, red, yellow…). Musk roses originally came from Turkey and have been important in breeding new plants because they’re disease-resistant. Most musk roses available today are hybrids. Their small to medium-sized flowers are very fragrant, blooming in shades of white, cream, pink, buff and red.
  • Groundcover roses, such as the Flower Carpet™ Series, spread out and cover the ground quickly, blooming throughout summer. Plants grow about 3-4 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Some popular shades are yellow, pink and white, and red.
  • Miniature roses are never more than 2 feet tall and are best displayed in containers or indoors, since they tend to get lost in a landscape. They’re available in all colors.
  • Modern climbers are just like the climbers listed under “Wild Roses,” except these modern beauties were developed after 1867.

While the range of flower types is extensive, one thing remains the same: Roses are an overall extremely beautiful group of plants – and cherished by many throughout the world. From fragrance to color, size to habit, there’s definitely a rose out there for everyone!