Getting To Know Roses

Celebrated in verse, drama and literature, roses remain a mystery for many of us. Familiarize yourself with this quintessential symbol of beauty and romance.

In all of history, roses are the most written about flower in verse, drama and literature. You’d think with as much that’s been reported we would know more about all the rose varieties available.

Yet, roses remain a mystery for many of us. To help familiarize us with this fanciful flora, I’ve compiled a brief description of each group and even included a few examples of my personal favorites.

Rose families

Antique or Old Roses

These are varieties and selections that were developed by plant breeders prior to the mid-19th century. These types of roses can be found in the lineage of most other rose types.  Example: ‘Martha Gonzales’.

Hybrid Tea Roses

Hybrid tea roses are the most popular and probably the most widely grown of all roses. Its featured trait: long, narrow buds that open to large, many petaled blooms. Generally, one bloom per each long stem. Hybrid teas are considered to mid-sized shrubs: average two-four feet tall. Example: ‘Sunbright’, ‘Fragrant’, ‘Mrs. Dudley’s Cross’, ‘Mr. Lincoln’, ‘Olympiad’.


Floribundas are derived and refined from hybrid teas. As the name suggests, floribundas are compact bushes that have multiple flower clusters on medium-length stems that flower throughout the summer. Many find them the easiest roses to grow. Example: Knockouts, ‘Chihuly’, ‘Cinco de Mayo’, ‘Easy Does It’.


Grandifloras are upright and larger – four-six feet tall – than either the hybrid teas or floribundas. They also tend to bloom continuously.  Example: ‘Veterans Honor’, ‘Sweet Surrender’, ‘Old Blush’, Carefree Beauty.


These are much smaller versions of the forementioned groups, growing less than two feet tall with proportionally small blooms. Just because they are miniature do not consider them weak. They are very hardy. Consider them for containers and borders. Examples: ‘Marie Pavie’, Marie Daly.

Climbing Roses

Climbing roses must have support from trellises, arbors or fences for them to thrive. Climbing roses are either continuous or seasonal bloomers. Some homeowners make the mistake of purchasing a seasonal bloomer and then complaining for the rest of the year. Examples: ‘Don Juan’, Lamarque’, ‘Lady Banks’, ‘Sea Foam’.

Shrub Roses

Growing upright and broad, shrub roses are hardy, low maintenance shrubs that grow any where from five to twelve feet in height depending on the variety. Flowers may be single, semi-double or double. Some types bloom only in the spring; other bloom continuously during the growing season. Example: Mutabilis.

Earth-Kind Roses

Earth-Kind roses have been researched and selected by a team of experts for their hardiness, consistent floral display and low maintenance. Example: Belinda’s Dream.

For proper rose planting and maintenance, check out our rose maintenance section. There’s also a pruning demonstration video, if you prefer.

Picture of Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson was a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System before retiring. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you're likely to find him hiking San Antonio's wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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