Hardy Shrub Roses

Published On: February 1st, 2023


There are few plants more imbued with romance than the rose. It is certainly understandable why roses are among the world’s most beloved flower and have been a favorite of gardeners for centuries. While historically roses have been notoriously difficult to grow, recent breeding programs have resulted in garden roses that are cold hardy and disease resistant. These roses, referred to as Hardy Shrub Roses, are the plants we grow here at Heyden’s Gardens.

Today’s hardy shrub roses have been bred to be resistant to common troublesome diseases of rose foliage such as Black Spot and Powdery Mildew. They have also been selected for cold hardiness and are grown on their own rootstock, rather than grafted. This last feature means that if a particularly cold winter were to kill the top growth to the ground, the rose could still potentially re-grow from the roots the following season.

There are hundreds of hardy shrub roses available, in a tremendous range of flower colors and plant height & form. While we can’t carry them all, the roses we grow fall into several general categories:

Easy Elegance® series

Developed in Minnesota for superior cold hardiness and disease resistance. Easy Elegance® roses combine the floral beauty of traditional hybrid tea roses with the low maintenance of shrub roses, offering the best of both worlds. Superior Disease Resistance. Staff Favorite :)

Winter Hardiness: Zone 4

Easy Elegance 'Kashmir' combines the look of a hydrid tea rose with the durability of a hardy shrub rose_photo by Zannah Crowe
Flower Carpet Amber Rose photo by Zannah Crowe

Flower Carpet® series

Flower Carpet® Roses are the world’s number one ground cover rose. Developed to produce abundant flowers on low growing plants with glossy, exceptionally disease resistant foliage, one plant can produce 1,000 flowers in a season! Winner of over 25 International Rose Awards.

Winter Hardiness: Zone 4/5

Rugosa Roses

These heritage roses are extremely winter hardy and tolerant of neglect. A bit courser in habit than other shrub roses, Rugosa roses produce highly fragrant flowers followed by large, decorative rosehips. They are extremely cold hardy, drought tolerant, exceptionally disease resistant, and their prickly stems make them resistant to deer browsing.

Winter Hardiness: Zone 3

Knock Out® series

Developed right here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Introduced 20 years ago and selected for long bloom period and easy care. Inducted in 2018 into the World Federation of Rose Societies Rose Hall of Fame. Knock Out® Roses are the #1 rose brand in the United States.

Winter Hardiness: Zone 4/5

Oso Easy® series

Developed for cold hardiness, glossy disease resistant foliage, and range of flower color.

Winter Hardiness: Zone 4

David Austin® series

Classic English roses, renowned for their exquisite fragrance and luscious many petalled flowers. While not as hardy and durable as many of the above, David Austin® roses have a devout following.

Winter Hardiness: Zone 5

Care of Shrub Roses

Hardy shrub roses do not require winter protection in our climate. They may exhibit some winter die back during harsh winters but simply pruning out dead or damaged stems in early spring will allow them to regrow new healthy growth.

Most hardy shrub roses will produce flowers throughout the growing season, making them perhaps the longest blooming of any landscape shrub. Deadheading, or removing spent flowers, is not necessary but will encourage the plant to rebloom more profusely.

Selective breeding has made hardy shrub roses much more care-free than earlier roses, but your rose bushes may still need some pampering. Keeping your garden plants well-watered and fertilizing with a slow-release organic fertilizer will assist them in staying healthy and staving off disease. However, if plants are stressed or environmental conditions such a high humidity are conducive to disease development you may need to treat your roses occasionally for fungal diseases. There are both organic and conventional fungicides available.

As anyone who gardens with roses knows, one of their biggest drawbacks is that Japanese Beetles love them. Japanese Beetles are active for 6-8 weeks in summer and, while they will not kill your shrub roses, they can be very bothersome. Find complete information on Japanese Beetle control, click here.

By Zannah Crowe