Rose Types and Cultivars

Roses are grown by millions of gardeners worldwide for their beautiful flowers. To reduce the confusion of selecting between thousands of rose varieties, roses are classified into various groups.  In Iowa, several major groups of roses can be grown.   Each of these types varies in their season of bloom, winter hardiness, and maintenance requirements.  Use the information below about each type of rose to select the best rose for your landscape.

Shrub or Landscape Roses  |  Buck Roses  |   Species Roses  |  Old Garden Roses  |   Climbing Roses  |  Modern Roses  |  Hybrid Tea  |  Polyantha  |  Floribunda  |  Grandiflora  |  Miniature Tree Roses  |  More Information

Carefree Beauty Rose (Rosa 'Buckbi')
Shrub Rose - Carefree Beauty™ (Rosa 'Buckbi')

Shrub or Landscape Roses

Shrub roses (also called landscape roses) are easy-to-grow garden plants for Iowa.  Over the last 30 years, these roses have become the dominant type available at garden centers and nurseries.  Shrub roses are noted for their repeat bloom, winter hardiness, and resistance to common rose diseases.  Whenever possible, grow these roses in your garden to provide low-maintenance color all season.

Plants range in size from 1.5 to 4 feet tall and are great additions to the front of the shrub border or the middle or back of the perennial border.  They come in a wide range of flower forms (single, double, etc.) and colors, including pink, red, yellow, cream, white, and any shade in between. Because they are winter hardy in Iowa, they do not require extra protection over the winter, although some varieties will see some tip die-back after particularly cold winters.  Shrub roses are grown on their own roots (not grafted), making them easier to maintain than other modern roses like hybrid teas.  

One of the best attributes of shrub or landscape roses is that they are naturally more disease resistant to common rose diseases like black spot and powdery mildew.  This means you can grow them in the landscape without applying fungicides to keep the foliage attractive and healthy.  

Some shrub roses are cultivars of species roses and others are the result of extensive hybridization.  Many cultivars and series of cultivars are available with new selections being introduced every year.  Some of the best cultivars to consider for the landscape include: 

  • Knock Out® Series - could be the most popular landscape roses on the planet!  Great disease resistance; sometimes see winter die-back on upper stems in Iowa
  • Explorer Series - a group of very cold hardy, disease-resistant roses bred in Canada
  • Easy Elegance® Series - great flower color, disease resistance, and cold hardiness
  • Oso Easy™ Series - disease resistant, better performers in hot stressful conditions

Buck Roses

Rosa 'Folksinger'
Buck Rose (Rosa 'Folksinger')

Griffith Buck developed more than 85 roses during his tenure at Iowa State University, which spanned from the 1950s to the 1980s.  These shrub roses are noted for their free flowering habit, disease resistance, and winter hardiness. Dr. Buck believed roses should be as easy to grow as dandelions and his introductions represent some of the first shrub roses to be introduced developed specifically to be low maintenance.   

His roses are on display in public gardens and enjoyed by home gardeners across the United States and Canada. Today, Iowa State University's Reiman Gardens maintains the largest collection of Dr. Bucks Roses as part of the Plant Collections Network (PCN), a network of botanical gardens and arboreta working to coordinate a continent-wide approach to plant germplasm preservation and promote high standards of plant collections management.

Some notable buck rose cultivars include: 

  • Carefree Beauty™ 'Bucbi' (Loosely double, bright pink flowers. Heavy, frequent bloom on 4- to 5-foot shrub)
  • 'Distant Drums' (Double, rose-purple flowers with shades of gold or tan. Strong myrrh fragrance. 3- to 4-foot shrub)
  • 'Earth Song' (Soft rose-pink flowers on 4- to 5-foot shrub)
  • 'Folksinger' (Yellow flowers flushed with peach. Bushy, upright shrub)
  • 'Hawkeye Belle' (Ivory-white flowers with pink blush. Flowers possess strong, sweet fragrance. 3½-foot shrub)
  • 'Honeysweet' (Double, red-orange blooms. Strong, sweet fragrance. 3-foot shrub.
  • 'Quietness' (Double, light pink flowers possess an intense old-rose fragrance. Upright shrub)

Learn more about Dr. Buck and his roses from these publications: The Griffith Buck Roses and Griffith Buck: Rose Hybridizer.

Rose rugosa 'Ames'
Rose rugosa 'Ames'

Species Roses

Species roses are those roses found growing in the wild.  Species roses grow on their own roots and many are hardy for our growing area without requiring winter protection.  Many of these roses are native.  Most have a primary season of bloom in early summer (early to mid-June) and will have an occasional flower open through the rest of the growing season.  While flowers range in color, most have single flowers in shades of pink with a prominent cluster of yellow stamens in the center of the bloom.  Some can get large (3 to 6+ feet tall) and readily sucker forming a large colony.  Those that spread aggressively should be given the space to spread out or divided regularly to maintain their size.

Species roses to consider include growing in Iowa include: 

  • Meadow Rose (Rosa blanda)*
  • Carolina Rose (Rosa carolina)*
  • Prairie Rose (Rosa arkansana)*
  • Sweetbriar Rose (Rosa rubiginosa)
  • Persian Yellow Rose (Rosa foetida)
  • Rugosa Rose (Rosa rugosa)

* Native to North America

Old Garden Roses

Old garden roses, or simply old roses, are those varieties created before 1867. Why the year 1867? This year was established by the American Rose Society to commemorate the introduction of the first hybrid tea rose. All roses introduced after 1867 are considered to be modern roses. Old roses are very fragrant and offer a wide variety of growth habits ranging from 3 to 4 feet to more than 10 feet tall. 

Old garden roses include:

  • Gallica rose (Rosa gallica)
  • White York Rose (Rosa × alba)
  • Cabbage or Moss Rose (Rosa × centifolia)
  • Damask Rose (Rosa × damascena)

Climbing Roses

Climbing Roses on Trellis over path
Climbing Roses have long, vigorous canes that can be grown on a trellis or other support.

Climbing roses are vigorous-growing roses that produce long canes that require support.  They don't "climb" as they do not have tendrils or a twining habit, but like other vining plants, they require a trellis or structure.  Canes of climbing roses can reach 5 to more than 20 feet long.  When not trained to a fence, wall, trellis, or structure, the roses can be allowed to sprawl out over a garden bed or hillside. 

Most climbing roses bloom profusely in late spring and have sporadic bloom over the remainder of the growing season.  Flowers can be single or double in pink and other typical colors for rose blooms.  While many cultivars of climbing roses exist, only a few will perform well in Iowa because most are not reliably winter hardy. Some cultivars are grafted, but those that will grow well in Iowa should be grown on their own roots. 

Many climbing roses bloom on the previous year’s growth but suffer extensive winter dieback.  As a result, even those cultivars that may survive the winter see too much winter dieback and bloom little or not at all.

The following roses are noted for their hardiness, vigor, and disease resistance and are the best options for Iowa landscapes.

  • ‘William Baffin’ produces semi-double, deep pink, 3-inch flowers.  The center of each blossom contains bright gold stamens.  Plants bloom heavily in June with light bloom through summer.  ‘William Baffin’ can attain a height of 8 to 10 feet.  It can be grown as a large shrub or climber.
  • ‘Henry Kelsey’  has long, arching canes that can grow 7 to 9 feet long.  It can be grown as a climber or arching shrub.  ‘Henry Kelsey’ produces semi-double, medium red, 3-inch flowers.  Golden stamens highlight the center of each blossom.  ‘Henry Kelsey’ blooms heavily in June with light repeat bloom. 
  • ‘John Cabot’ bears deep rose-pink, semi-double, 3-inch flowers on 6- to 8-foot-long canes.  The blossoms are moderately fragrant.  Plants bloom heavily in June with light to moderate bloom through summer.  ‘John Cabot’ can be grown as a spreading shrub or as a climber. 

Modern Roses

Of the three primary groups of roses (species, old garden roses, modern), modern roses are some of the most recognizable.  They include any rose cultivar introduced after 1867, the year the first hybrid tea rose, 'La France,' was introduced.  Modern roses include hybrid tea, polyantha, floribunda, and grandiflora roses, among other types.

Hybrid Tea

Rosa 'Tiffany' Hybrid Tea
Hybrid Tea Rose (Rosa 'Tiffany')

The hybrid tea rose is traditionally one of the most popular rose types.  Flowers are produced singly on long stems from early summer until frost. This makes them great to grow as cut flowers.  Blooms are almost always double in various shades of pink, red, white, yellow, cream, coral, lavender, and orange.  

Shrubs are vigorous growers reaching heights of 2.5 to 6 feet tall.  Plants are usually grafted.  Hybrid tea roses are not fully winter hardy in Iowa and require winter protection to grow year to year.  Additionally, without regular fungicide applications, many hybrid tea roses suffer from common foliar diseases like black spot and powdery mildew, which can leave plants almost leafless by the end of the growing season.

Hybrid tea roses to consider growing include:

  • 'MEItroni' Francis Meiland® (Pink)
  • 'Meibderos' Elle® (Orange, Pink)
  • 'Jactwin' Love (Red, White)
  • 'BALpeace' Love and Peace® (Pink, Yellow)
  • 'Macauck' Olympiad™ (Red)
  • 'FRYxotic' Sunset Celebration™
  • 'HILaroma' Secret™ (Pink, Creamy Yellow)
  • 'JACrite' Rio Samba™ (Red, Yellow)
  • 'JACGodde' Tahitian Sunset™ (Orange, Pink, Yellow)
  • 'Mr. Lincoln' (Dark Red)
  • 'TANorstar' Tropicana™ (Coral, Orange)
  • 'Jactou' Midas Touch™ (Yellow)
  • 'Peace' (Pink, Yellow)
  • 'First Prize' (Pink, Ivory)
Rosa 'Red Fairy' Polyantha
Polyantha Rose (Rosa 'Red Fairy')


The polyantha rose is a cross between Rosa multiflora and the hybrid tea roses. Polyanthas perform well in massed plantings because of their low growth (2 feet).  These roses are often grafted.  Some are winter hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 4 or 5, but others are not and would require winter protection.  

Polyantha roses to consider growing include: 

  • 'The Fairy' (Pink)
  • 'Cécile Brünner' (Light Pink)
  • 'Kendyl Marie' (Pink)
  • 'Ellen Poulsen' (Pink)
  • 'SPEvuk' Lovely Fairy® (Dark Pink)


Rosa 'Iceberg' Floribunda
Iceberg® Floribunda Rose (Rosa 'KORbin')
Rosa 'Scentimental' Floribunda
Scentimental™ Floribunda Rose (Rosa 'Wekplapep')

The floribunda rose is a cross between the hybrid tea and the polyantha. They grow 2 to 3 feet tall and produce continuous clusters of flowers on medium-length stems.  Flowers are typically double and form in clusters.  Plants will rebloom throughout the season, especially if deadheaded.  Most floribunda roses are grafted and are more prone to disease issues like hybrid tea.  These roses are not winter hardy in Iowa and require winter protection.

Floribunda roses to consider growing include:

  • 'Wekvossutono' Julia Child™ (Gold)
  • 'Europeana' (Red)
  • 'Harpageant' Easy Does It™ (Apricot, Orange)
  • 'Jaclace' French Lace™ (White)
  • 'JACum' Intrigue™ (Purple)
  • 'Meimonblan' Marmalade Skies™ (Orange)
  • 'Baiprez' Rainbow Sorbet™ (Orange, Pink, Yellow)
  • 'Wekplapep' Scentimental™ (Red, White)


Rosa 'Twilight Zone' Grandiflora
Twilight Zone™ Grandiflora Rose (Rosa 'WEKebtidere')

The grandiflora is a cross between the hybrid tea and the floribunda with the best qualities of both. The flowers (usually double) are produced singly or in small clusters. Plants will rebloom throughout the season, especially if deadheaded. The 3 to 6-foot tall plants are useful in a background setting. Grandiflora roses are typically grafted and are prone to disease issues without regular fungicide applications.  These roses are not winter hardy in Iowa and require winter protection.

Grandiflora roses to consider growing include:

  • 'Queen Elizabeth' (Pink)
  • 'Wekbepmey' Strike It Rich™ (Golden Yellow)
  • 'Meikanaro' Sunshine Daydream™ (Cream, Yellow)
  • 'Wekisosblip' Wild Blue Yonder™ (Mauve, Purple)
  • 'MEIsponge' Cherry Parfait™ (Red, Cream, White)
  • 'WEKfunk' Dick Clark™ (Red, Cream)
  • 'JACient' Tournament of Roses™ (Pink)
  • 'Mount Hood' (White)


Rosa 'Rise N Shine' Miniature
Minature Rose (Rosa 'Rise 'N' Shine')

The miniatures are useful for edging and containers, both indoors and out. The plants are typically winter hardy but still benefit from winter protection throughout Iowa.  Miniatures can be found in many different flower forms and colors.  Plants range from 6 inches to 3 feet tall, with most around 18 inches in height.  With proper cultivar selection, many disease issues can be avoided.  They are not typically grafted and are often found growing in containers for indoor display in winter.  While plants can grow indoors for a short time, they are best planted outdoors in the garden.

Miniature Roses to consider growing include: 

  • 'Decjoy' Joy (Pink Blend)
  • 'Macangeli' Agnelita (White)
  • 'Over the Rainbow' (Red Blend)
  • 'Wekboulette' Midnight Fire (Russet)
  • 'Zlemarianneyoshida' Petit Pink (Pink Blend)
  • 'Byibloomthyme' Petite Peach (Apricot Blend)
  • 'Chessie's Favorit' (Dark Red)
  • 'Morpoly' Cal Poly (Yellow)
  • 'Spoboom' Boomerang (Red Blend)

Watch this video to learn more: Gardening in the Zone: Minature Roses

Tree Roses

Tree Rose Graft Union
The graft union can be seen at the top of the stalk just below all the branches.
Tree Roses
Tree Roses are any cultivar of rose grafted on to a high stem.

Tree roses (sometimes called standards) are rose plants grafted atop tall stems to create a tree-like form.  Hybrid tea, floribunda, and grandiflora types are often used to create tree roses, but any type, including miniatures, could be grown as a tree rose.  Tree roses are great for adding height to rose beds, perform well in containers, and make excellent focal points.  Tree roses can be difficult to grow in Iowa because they are typically created from rose types that are not winter hardy and therefore require extensive work to overwinter.  

More Information

Last reviewed:
June 2023