A guide to Central Texas Roses

Roses can be a beautiful, easily-grown addition to any yard that has lots of sun and room for them to grow. (To thrive they need a minimum of 6-8 hours sunshine per day.)

Bourbon roses, known for their amazing, heady fragrance, can be large shrubs, climbers or smaller more manageable bushes.

But within the rose family there are different groups and classes, and if you understand these, you’ll have a better understanding of which roses will work best in your yard, and which ones will give you the shape, color or fragrance that you’re looking for.    

Roses are divided into three main groups: antiques, old garden, and modern. The groups are then divided into classes.  These give us an idea of how a rose will grow, bloom and thrive in a particular area. 

Some classes, for example, do best with a heavy pruning every year, and others are better left alone. 

Antique Roses: This class contains roses that were introduced before 1867, when the first hybrid tea rose, La France, was introduced. In some cases many of these roses have been grown somewhere on this planet for more than 1000 years. So you could say those still in production are the ultimate tried and true.

Tea roses are the predecessors of our modern hybrid teas. They typically have larger blooms full of petals with a high center common with florist roses.  The buds are smaller than hybrid teas and the stems shorter, but most tea roses have a wonderful light fragrance. The bushes tend to be large and round and they bloom heavily in the spring and fall.

China roses are one of my favorite rose classes. They are sturdy and can bloom nine months out of the year. Generally large shrubs (with some climbers), they are hardy and drought resistant. This is one of the classes found on abandoned homesteads throughout the state.

The best thing about bourbon roses is their amazing, heady fragrance. Bourbons can be large shrubs, climbers or smaller more manageable bushes. 

Polyantha roses are smaller bushes, with smaller flowers borne in clusters at the end of the branches. They bloom profusely and are very easy to take care of. 

Old Garden Roses: Though not technically antiques, these roses have been around long enough to have proven their mettle in our tough climate.

Hybrid Musk roses really hit their stride starting in the 1920s. They are large shrubs that can also be trained as small climbers and can take five hours of sun a day and still bloom well. They have a nice musky fragrance and bloom in clusters. My family has several musk roses that have been passed down for more than 60 years. 

Older Hybrid Teas have been around so long that they’re now grouped in with the other antiques and old fashioned roses. They tend to have longer stems and higher centers than the tea roses. Some of their blooms, like Peace, can be quite large and showy. They also have more of an upright, slender growth habit than their predecessors.   

Modern Roses: This is the ‘everything else’ group. These roses are more recently developed than the previous group, but still contain some great rose varieties. It is with the modern roses that we start to see the huge full flowers that florists crave and the vibrant colors not seen in antique and older roses. Oranges and bright yellows especially make their mark with the newer introductions.    

Shrub roses were never meant to be classified. They were developed to grow and behave like blooming shrubs. Knock Out roses are probably the best examples of this class. They are for the most part disease resistant, fast growing and heavy blooming. 

Hybrid Teas and Grandifloras are two classes of roses developed for their flowers. They have large, full, bright flowers on long stems . . . perfect for floral arranging. They can require a little more care than other classes and need yearly hard pruning, but they can’t be beat for their blooms.

Floribunda roses are best thought of as the original shrub roses. These are smaller bushes (under 4’ typically) with lots of blooms. They usually perform very well with little oversight and don’t need much pruning except to keep their shape.

Last but not least an amazing tale of survival known as Peggy Martin. This rose was discovered after Katrina had ravaged its home-site, where she had sat for weeks under brackish water only to come out alive on the other side. This thorn-less, climbing rose has gained traction over the last 12 seasons because of this resilience and is a fine addition to any landscape. Happy rose gardening everyone!

If you have a gardening question, send it to Amanda or Chris via   email: iathyme@yahoo.com. (Please put ‘Ask Chris Winslow’ in the subject line.) Or mail your letter or postcard to: Ask Chris Winslow. It’s About Thyme: 11726 Manchaca Road, Austin, TX 78748.

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