It should come as no surprise that this week’s article is dedicated to the flower of choice for Valentine’s Day, the rose. It is also a timely subject, being that from January to early spring is rose planting season.

Roses are classified into main classes — bush roses and climbing roses. Bush roses grow from 1 to 6 feet in height in a bush form, whereas climbing roses produce long canes that require support to keep them off the ground.

Bush roses

Bush roses are grouped primarily according to their flowering habit. The varieties of bush roses are hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda, polyantha, hybrid perpetual, shrub, old-fashioned, tree and miniature.

Hybrid tea roses are the love child of the wispy caned tea rose and the hybrid perpetual rose that produce the classic long-stemmed rose. Floribunda are the result of a cross between a hybrid tea rose and a polyantha, a dwarf rose with dense bunches of tiny flowers. They are ideal for borders and containers, flower in clusters, and are extremely hardy.

Grandiflora are tall, elegant plants with clustered blooms on stems that are slightly shorter than hybrid tea roses. They produce more abundant blooms than the hybrid tea and are very hardy. Polyantha are easy-to-grow roses bursting with blooms that are well suited for small gardens, pots and borders.

Old-fashioned roses are abundant in variety, however, very few are suited for the Alabama climate. Chinas, noisettes and teas, although well-adapted to our heat and humidity, are not particularly cold-hardy. Here in North Alabama, they may require protection or shelter to survive the winter.

Tree or standard roses are categorized not so much for the flowers they produce but for the form of the plant. These roses are simply bush roses that have been grafted on upright trunks. Many of the bush varieties can be found in tree form.

Miniature roses are compact beauties. They come in a wide variety of colors and make great container or border plants. They are also perfectly suited for balconies and small spaces.

Climbing roses

Climbing roses require support for their long canes. They are trained on fences, arbors and trellises. They cover archways and are trained to climb walls. It is important to know the growing habit of these varieties to fit your space.

Ramblers are hardy plants that can produce canes as long as 20 feet in one season, making them a perfect choice for growing along a fence. They flower once during the season on the previous year’s growth.

Large-flowered climbers are used on trellises or other types of support and grow best when trained to grow horizontally. They produce larger blooms, which are good for cutting and require heavy annual pruning, although they grow at a much slower rate than ramblers.

Ever-blooming climbers produce an abundance of blooms in early summer and a few stragglers in fall. Climbing hybrid teas, as well as climbing polyanthas and floribundas, were developed from their bush variety, usually making their foliage and flowers identical to the parent plant.

After you have made your choice about which of the thousands of varieties you are going to add to your garden, it is time to either order or go out to a local nursery and bring her home. The saying, “you get what you pay for,” is especially true when purchasing roses. Cheap, inferior roses will not be worth the time, effort and expense you will put into planting and caring for them.

Roses are graded by the number of canes that they begin with. The more canes, the higher the grade and the bigger the bush. Roses can be purchased in one of two ways — bare-root or container-grown. Bare-root roses are commonly what you would order through the mail, as they are much easier to ship than container roses.

It is important to do a soil test on the rose bed before you prepare it. This will help determine any adjustments that need to be made to the soil to get your roses off to a good start. Roses prefer slightly acidic soil, with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5 and well-drained soil.

Next week, the topic will be planting tips and the characteristics of a few striking varieties that will have you stopping to smell and admire the roses. Until next week, Happy Valentine’s Day and happy gardening.

— Irland, a member of the Limestone County Master Gardeners, can be reached at Visit for more information on the Limestone County Master Gardeners.

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