About Heirloom Roses

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Heirloom roses (also called old roses or antique roses) are the types of roses that existed before 1867, at which time the first hybrid tea rose was introduced in France.

Duchesse D'AngoulemeTuscany Superb Rose
Photos courtesy of Love of Roses.
The following ancient roses generally bloom only once each growing season and tend to be hardy and disease resistant:

  • Rosa alba (alba or white rose)
  • Rosa centifolia (cabbage rose)
  • Rosa damascena (damask rose)
  • Rosa gallica (provins rose)

The following repeat-blooming old roses were first bred in the 18th and 19th centuries:

  • Hybrid rugosa roses grow in just about any area. They are disease resistant, can handle less than perfect soil, and only need about three hours of sunlight a day. They bloom in large clusters and flower repeatedly throughout the season.
  • Hybrid perpetual roses are often prone to disease but tend to be cold hardy.
  • Hybrid musk roses are disease tolerant and easy to grow.
  • Bourbon roses tend to be disease tolerant.
  • Noisette roses tend to prefer warmer weather.
  • Polyantha roses are large plants with small flowers. They are hardy roses that are the forebears of the modern floribundas.

Heirloom Roses are Diverse and Hardy

Antique roses come in a wide array of colors, sizes, fragrances, and flower forms. With varieties of every shape and size, they can easily fit into your garden space whether you want short or tall plants or even climbing roses. With the number of different species, you’ll find an antique rose to suit your personal tastes.

Heirloom roses are hardy plants. They are easy to care for and thrived for centuries without the use of pesticides. You can also grow some old roses in northern climates, though not all are suitable for cold climates.

Heirloom Roses are Easy to Care For

Caring for old roses is similar to caring for modern roses. To thrive, all roses need four things: sun, soil, drainage and water, and proper air circulation.

  • Sun: Plant your old roses in a location where they will receive at least six hours of sun each day.
  • Soil: Start with a good quality garden soil and then mix in manure and compost to increase the nutrient levels.
  • Water and Drainage: Water the roses regularly, but the key is proper drainage so the roses have the water they need and the rest can drain away. Roses do not thrive in wet, soggy soil.
  • Air Circulation: Do not crowd the roses together. They need room to grow and breathe.

Most antique roses either do not need pesticides or have an aversion to them. You will rarely have to use pesticides, and if you do, use them sparingly.

Prune the roses in the spring to remove dead or diseased wood.

Updated: October 10, 2013 — 4:01 pm

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