How Do I Choose the Best Hardy Roses?

Britt Archer

Some people shy away from planting roses because they consider them to be both too needy of extra care and impractical because of their geographic locations; this can be especially true in colder northern climates. There are hardy roses, however, both modern and vintage varieties, that will thrive despite the more challenging conditions and that often need little extra care. Choosing the best hardy roses should start with determining which agricultural hardiness zone you live in, then selecting a variety that is known to tolerate the temperatures and conditions in you specific zone.

Vintage roses are often sturdier than newer varieties.
Vintage roses are often sturdier than newer varieties.

In the United States, gardeners can consult a map of hardiness zones published by the Department of Agriculture. These maps provide information on different regions’ temperature variations. In Canada, the government’s agricultural arm publishes a similar map. There is also a hardiness zone map designed for Europe. Gardeners who live outside these areas can determine which zone their garden correlates to by determining the lowest temperature that occurs in their area.

Roses can be difficult to grow in many geographical areas.
Roses can be difficult to grow in many geographical areas.

Some especially hardy roses will thrive with practically no care, as their ancestors did when planted and then left forgotten in old cemeteries or beside abandoned houses. These nearly lost varieties, often shrub roses, can be found in a category known as “old roses” or “vintage roses.” They were searched for and found by determined rescuers known as rose rustlers, who then bred them and brought them back to popularity with modern gardeners.

Choosing winter hardy roses doesn’t have to be a difficult endeavor. Modern gardeners can be spared the trial-and-error their ancestors endured by consulting today’s many plant and rose catalogs, which almost always provide information regarding the zones where a species will thrive. You can find climbing roses, shrub roses and cold-resistant roses by consulting these catalogs as well as rose breeders. Other excellent sources of knowledge for your specific area are the local agricultural extension and local gardening experts. Libraries, too, often have guides that are specific to the region where they are located.

The method of planting roses to ensure their survival varies in different zones to ensure they remain protected over harsh winters, according to some experts. In general, the farther north the hardiness zone, the more protected the roots will have to be when planting roses, especially bare-root roses. In colder climates, the bud union is planted deeper than if, for example, the rose was planted just a zone or two farther south.

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