Roses are a favorite of many Michigan gardeners but many gardeners give up growing roses after a few bad experiences. There are roses that grow well in Michigan and that most gardeners can grow and others that will always be a challenge. Gardeners need to know something about rose varieties before they purchase them, so they know just what to expect when they plant them.
Tea roses are the roses with long pointed buds, so often found in florist shops. They are beautiful, but not easy for Michigan homeowners to grow. Tea roses have long stems, usually with one bloom to a stem. They may bloom all summer if conditions are just right. They come in almost any color imaginable and many also smell good, although there are several rose “scents” and some roses have no scent at all.
What makes tea roses hard for Michigan gardeners to grow is that almost all tea roses are grafted. A hardy rose is used for the root system and a tender top part that produces the beautiful flowers is grafted onto that. This is seen as a slight bulge on the stem. When planting tea roses the graft union should never be put under ground.
The top part of the tea rose is rarely hardy in Michigan and must be protected in the winter. If a tea rose dies all the way to the ground what returns in the spring will be from the hardy root stock, usually a rose with flowers similar to the wild rose, which blooms only in the spring. Zones are often not mentioned in tea rose descriptions, as winter protection is expected, but some tea roses may indicate which are best for different zones.
Tea roses are heavy feeders and prone to many diseases. If you want nice looking tea roses, you’ll need to follow a program of preventative care, which includes fertilizers, fungicides and insect controls. Tea roses don’t do well in mixed flower beds or borders. They need good air flow and their need for special care should mean they are placed in beds of their own, properly spaced and mulched. If you truly want tea roses you can set up a special rose garden.
In Michigan expect a heavy dieback on the canes of many varieties over the winter. These will be slow to bloom the following year. Some people actually treat tea roses as annuals, buying nice sized bare root roses each spring, planting them and enjoying them through the season and not worrying if they don’t return next year.
Grandiflora roses are very similar to tea roses. Most are grafted roses, but some are grown on their own roots. The blooms are similar to tea roses but are slightly smaller and appear in clusters arranged like a candelabra with one bud on top. Grandiflora roses vary in hardiness and their susceptibility to disease. Some of the newer ones, especially those on their own roots, are hardier than tea roses, but may still require winter protection.
Grandifloras bloom for a long time, as long as they are well fed and watered. Some grandifloras have disease resistance bred into them. Grandifloras blend a bit better into mixed beds and borders, but still do better in their own bed.
Floribunda roses have loose, open blooms that appear in clusters like a ready made bouquet. The individual roses are generally smaller than grandifloras or tea roses. Floribundas bloom most of the summer in generous quantities if happy.
Some floribundas are grown on their own roots and others are grafted. Some of the newer ones are hardy enough to survive Michigan winters well, especially those grown on their own roots, but check the variety description for zone hardiness. Many floribundas are now disease resistant, calling for less spraying.
Floribundas do blend well in mixed beds and borders if not too crowed and they make good hedges. Some larger ones make a good single accent or focal plant.
Hardy roses- Landscape roses- ground cover roses
These roses are a relatively new category and encompass many sizes and shapes of plants as well as flower types. The thing that makes them ideal for Michigan homeowners is that few of them are grafted and most will return from the roots even if they are killed to the ground. Still, read variety description to make sure the ones you buy are hardy for your zone. ( Most of Michigan falls into zone 5- there is some 4 and 6. )
Many hardy roses are also disease resistant and if the homeowner can tolerate minor disease and insect imperfections they don’t require many pesticides. These roses blend well into mixed beds and bloom prolifically through the summer. Pay attention to the mature size however, hardy roses range from 5-6 feet high and wide to 12 inches high and wide.
Most hardy roses have floribunda type flowers, however a few have tea rose or grandiflora shaped blooms. Unfortunately most hardy roses do not have good scent, although a few are starting to come on the market with nice scents.
Hardy roses can be used for hedges, ground covers, color in mixed beds and even in containers. They are the roses to grow for those that like plants with minimal fuss required. Some names out there are the Knock out series, Carefree series, and Brownell roses which come in a number of colors and bloom style.
Old English, moss, Old fashioned shrub
There are some older roses that are generally large and shrub-like, grown on their own roots that generally bloom only once, in the early summer. Older roses varieties that may have another flush of bloom later in the season are often called perpetual roses.
Some of these older roses have marvelous smelling blooms, most of which open into flat clusters of blooms. Pastel colors dominate. Some are extremely hardy but others are not. Check the variety description for zone hardiness. Choose varieties that look make attractive shrubs after they quit blooming and that may have prominent rose hips for winter interest. Some of the older varieties are prone to fungal disease and may need to be sprayed if you want them to remain nice looking in the landscape.
If you have room for them, these older roses can be nostalgic charmers, great for heritage and cottage gardens. You will be helping keep some of the varieties alive.
Tree roses can be tea, grandiflora or floribunda roses that are grafted onto a root stock that can be trained into a tree form. Beautiful to look at, they are not hardy in Michigan winters. They can be buried to over winter them or put into cold, but frost-free, bright storage. They should probably be grown in containers to make winter storage easier.
Tree roses require regular fertilization, watering, spraying and pruning to maintain their shape. They are a bit fussy but do make excellent focal points in an attractive pot.
Climbing roses also come in a variety of sizes and bloom types, although blooms are generally small. Some older, hardy varieties bloom only in the spring. Check newer varieties for zone hardiness. Some are grafted roses and for good Michigan survival and bloom they need to be planted in protected areas or taken off the trellis, laid on the ground and covered for winter.
Since the canes of climbing roses are very exposed to winter weather they are prone to lots of die back and after a hard winter some climbers may have few or no blooms. They vary in disease resistance, but most may need some protection from fungal disease.
This is also a broad category. There are many bloom types, sizes, colors and hardiness factors. Miniatures may overlap into groundcover rose and climbing rose categories.
While the bloom and leaf size is small, plant size may not be, so check the description. Surprisingly many miniatures are grown on their own roots and will reliably return after a Michigan winter. Plant them at bed edges so they aren’t overwhelmed by larger plants; use them in rock gardens or in containers.