Tree roses are very unique plants to have in your garden, but they don’t come about naturally. Generally speaking, tree roses are plants that have a minimum of three parts all grafted together. You’ll get a hardy rose rootstock, a rose cane that serves as the plant’s trunk, and a very showy hybrid rose at the top. To ensure you get the best look possible, the hybrid rose at the top should be a rebloomer, resistant to disease, and very hardy.
Tree roses can have a problem with colder temperatures, especially if the grafted area is from bud unions. You want to protect the tree roses during the winter months by laying it on its side in a shallow trench and mulching around it with leaves. Also, it can be a good idea to stake the trunk to prevent damage. However, if you get it right, tree roses will become a focal point in your garden, and we’ll dive into how to care for them with several types below.
Tree roses are unique-looking plants that add a pop of color and welcome fragrance to your yard.
Growing Tree Roses
When it comes to fertilizing, watering, and planting your tree roses, you can usually treat them as you would a shrub rose. So, when you pick out a spot to grow them, you want to find one where they are protected or out of the heavy winds. They can break or blow over easily otherwise.
Plant your tree rose at the same depth it was previously growing in the container. For bare root plants, you want to plant them with the lower bud just above ground level. The exception to this is in zone seven or lower, where you want to sink your plant’s bud union an inch or two below the soil level. After you plant it, you’ll have to do a few things to keep the tree rose happy and thriving.
For plants that weep or have heavy heads, you’ll want to keep this area pruned back by half during the winter months for the first few years as this encourages the stem to grow. Once the plants finish blooming, prune them back slightly. If you want them to stay upright, you have to stake the standard tree roses. Since a piece of petal pipe or rebar at least 12 inches into the ground next to your plant so it sticks a few inches above the graft union, ideally into the bushy top of the plant. If you don’t do this, your plant can fall over or tilt and fail to thrive.
You can easily put a green garden hose piece over the metal to camouflage it a little, and this also provides a buffer for the rose against the metal. Secure your stake to the plant stem using a flexible material. Floral tape or cut up nylons have a little give, so they work very well. Check your straps every few weeks for signs of deterioration, constriction at the stem, or breakage and adjust or replace as necessary.
Some people choose to use plastic or bamboo stakes, but we warn against doing this. You’ll need something very solid for this task like a thick piece of hardwood or metal. Wooden stakes are something you’ll replace every few years, but treated wood can last longer. As the tree grows, you’ll have to adjust the stake’s height to keep up.
However, there is one exception with wooden staking that you have to know about. If you pick tree roses that don’t get much more than a few feet tall at full maturity, and they come with wild rose scions, you can remove the stake after a few years of growth. You should just monitor the plant after you do and get ready to replace the stake if the plant starts to lean. If you get heavy snow, you’ll want to give your plant additional support or shake it off gently after it gets snow on it to prevent breakage under the weight of the head.
17 Types of Tree Roses
While there are dozens of types of tree roses available, some are definitely more popular than others. We’ve picked out 17 options that have been around for a while or are brand new in the past few years for you to consider below.
There are many types of tree roses available, but some are more popular than others, and you can get heirloom varieties too.
1. Chrysler Imperial
First up is a very idyllic rose that comes with the classic, velvety deep red petal coloring and a powerfully rich rose fragrance. It’s a hybrid tea rose that produces impressively large flowers when it blooms, and it’s been around since 1953. You can also purchase this plant in bush form to help fill in your garden.
Double-Decker tree roses are standard, and they come with two roses of the same variety that get grafted one above the other on the stem to create a pretty cascading effect. This plant may keep several inches of space between the rose grafts too, so they won’t be bunched together on the stem. This tree rose usually tops out at 48 inches, and it will require extra support or staking to keep the dual heads upright on the stem.
3. Double Delight
Since 1977, the light fragrance and the eye-catching color combination of this tree rose has made it one of the most popular picks. It keeps the stunning color in cool nights and warm days too. You’ll get larger flowers when it blooms, and it’s a hybrid tree rose that is also available in bush form.
Iceberg is one of the top 10 tree roses in the world, and it’s one of the best plants to plan your landscape around. It’s been around since 1958, and it’s a floribunda plant that produces medium flowers. As a bonus, this plant comes in bush form, and it’s very vigorous, disease-resistant, and floriferous.
5. Julia Child
Just before Julia Child passed away, she picked this tree rose to have her name, so it’s a newer addition that has only been around since 2006. You get medium flowers up to 3 ½ inches in diameter, and it as a pretty buttery gold coloring with a unique licorice candy scent to it. It’s also available in bush form.
6. Just Joey
Just Joey is a tree rose that originated in England in 1972, and it’s a very popular type of rose in landscaping in California as it offers large, ruffled flowers in soft apricot coloring with a very fruity scent. You can get it in bush form too, and it’s a hybrid tea rose.
7. Mister Lincoln
The powerful and pretty damask rose scent combined with the red, velvety petals make this tree rose very popular. It’s been around since 1965, and it makes a statement in landscapes throughout the United States. This hybrid tea rose comes with medium-green foliage to help the flowers pop even more.
A miniature tree rose is a plant that only gets 18 inches tall at full maturity. Many nurseries carry this rose type, and Gourmet Popcorn is a popular yellow cultivar while Rainbow’s End is a soft pink. If you want to get a pop of color in small spaces or rock gardens, this is the type of tree rose to use as they’re hardy and don’t spread a huge amount. You should note that any rose that measures 36 inches or more from the top of the trunk to soil level are standard roses instead of miniature. You should also consider adding two feet of trunk height to the 18 inch measurement to ensure you have enough room.
As the name suggests, this tree rose would be nice for your patio container plant garden. These are standard roses that reach 24 inches tall, and many nurseries use floribunda and shrub roses to get the final product. In fact, Home Run is a popular red shrub rose and Julia Child is the popular floribunda. They are great in limited spaces like patios or balconies.
Patio roses are usually smaller cultivars that fit nicely in a larger container and produce an abundance of buds.
10. Polar Joy
Polar Joy is a newer tree rose variety that is hardy enough to grow by itself without having to worry about needing a trunk or rootstock of other roses. It’s a type of double-decker rose that is a standard with two roses of the same variety that get grafted one above the other on the plant to create a cascading, full effect.
11. Pom Pom
Star Roses are a very popular style of pom pom tree rose that you can get from many nurseries or online. To create this tree, growers use miniature roses grafted onto a four foot stem, like the Sonia Sunblaze, which is a soft pink color.
12. Pope John Paul II
This tree rose has only been around since 2013, but it’s quickly gaining a reputation for being one of the most fragrant, finest white roses available. It offers a unique fresh citrus scent, and it produces large roses up to six inches in diameter that are pure white. It’s a hybrid tree rose that you can also get in bush form.
As we mentioned, any tree rose that measures 36 inches or more from the top of the plant to the soil level falls into the standard category. They’re harder to find, commercially speaking, but you can find trees that get between 48 and 60 inches tall. You want to add two feet to the trunk measurement to get the full height it can achieve. They graft a hybrid rose to the top of the trunk, and this graft can be a floribunda, shrub rose, grandiflora, miniature, or hybrid tea rose. Knock-Out roses, Bonica, Iceberg, and the Betty Boop series all work well with standard tree rose designs.
15. Sweet Madame Blue
This is a showstopping tree rose that produces clusters of flowers that offer very long-lasting blooms in lavender-blue tones. These flowers get up to 3 ½ inches in diameter, and they offer a moderately spicy and sweet scent. You can get it in bush form, and it is being introduced to the general market in 2022.
16. Two Colors
Growers create this tree rose by grafting two rose varieties onto one 36-inch trunk to get a bi-color look. One popular pairing for this setup is the Brilliant Pink Iceberg and the white Iceberg on a single stem. You’ll want to stake the trunk more as it’s slender, and it also has to support the weight of dual grafted roses. Patio roses are popular types of bi-colored plants that get up to 24 inches tall.
Finally, weeping tree roses are four to six foot standard forms that get grafted with a spreading ground cover type of rose like the deep pink China Doll or the Red Meidiland rose. Climbing roses are also popular, and they take the weeping effect a step further and drape right by the ground. It’s typical to get tree roses that stand between 48 and 60 inches so you can really enjoy the weeping effect.
Pruning Tree Roses
One of the biggest projects with having tree roses and keeping them healthy is pruning. Not only do you need to prune to help the plant keep the shape, but you need to watch out for suckers.
If your tree rose comes grafted onto “Dr. Huey” roots, you’ll have to prune more regularly. Commercial growers love tree roses with these roots as they grow very healthy and fast, but the aggressive root system will come at a price later. Since it’s so popular, your tree roses will produce very dark red flowers if it has this root system in place as many of them started out as tree or grafted roses before the rootstock took over.
To stop this from happening, you’ll want to diligently tear or cut any suckers that you find below the top graft union as soon as they appear. You can gently tear the suckers off by hand because you take the base with it, and this makes it unlikely that it’ll grow back in this spot. If the suckers start growing out of the ground, you’ll scrape away the soil and rip or trim the sucekrs out at the base before refilling the soil and tamping it down.
The pruning technique you use depends on the look you want. If you want to keep a topiary, compact shape, you’ll trim it for shape in the later winter before the shoots start to emerge. You can keep this shape during the summer months by deadheading and removing any branches that are very long or sticking out. Don’t do any huge pruning projects in the summertime.
If you plan on keeping a more natural shape with your tree rose, you’ll prune it like you would any shrub rose. This means that you’ll prune out any weak, dead, or diseased areas as you see them. During the later winter months, you’ll prune away a third of hte length, depending on the type, and any canes that are rubbing or crossing.
Pruning tree roses allows you to keep a unique shape and look, and this is an ongoing project that you’ll do all spring and summer long.
Watering Tree Roses
Watering your tree roses requires special care and attention. While the rose varieties you get today are more resistant to disease, watering them properly will minimize the risk and keep your roses looking beautiful. Always water the soil instead of the plant, and pour water directly onto the soil while avoiding getting it on the stem, flowers, and foliage. This stops water from sitting directly on the plant tissue as this can create the best breeding conditions for fungal diseases.
It’s also better to water less frequently but deeply than it is to offer them a shallow drink each day. Watering deeply encourages the plant roots to grow deeper, and this makes it more resilient in times of drought or extreme heat. Add a few inches of mulch to the soil’s surface to help keep the roots cool and retain water longer. When you water, do so until you see runoff seeping from the drainage holes in the container. In spring, fall, and winter, you should be able to water every two or three days, or longer if your plant slips into dormancy. During the peak summer temperatures, you might have to water once a day.
Transplanting Tree Roses
Anyone who owns a tree rose knows from experience that this ornamental plant demands a lot of effort and time to keep it looking nice and healthy. Things like moving off the property, construction, and changing cultural conditions may dictate that you have to transplant your tree rose or lose it. Transplanting your tree will help preserve the plant you babied to his point. Although transplanting your tree rose can happen throughout the year, the best time to take on this project is in the early spring or late winter months when the plant is dormant. To do so, you will:
Step One – Water
Two to three days before you transplant your tree rose, you want to drag out the garden hose and water it. Water the soil to a depth of 15 to 18 inches as this will hydrate your plant and loosen up the soil. In turn, excavation will be much easier on the plant and on you.
Step Two – Choose a New Planting Site
You want to pick out a new planting site that get full sun and has rich but well-draining soil. Pick an area that also gets a moderate amount of air circulation while having protection from stronger winds. You should add superphosphate over the site at .06 to .08 pounds per square foot. Using a rake, spread a three-inch layer of mulch over the area, and mix the material into the top 15 to 18 inches of soil.
Step Three – Dig the Hole
Once you have prepared the soil, it’s time to dig the hole at your new site using a shovel. You want to space this hole between 24 and 36 inches away from any other plants. The hole should be between 15 and 18 inches deep and 12 to 18 inches wide.
Step Four – Orient Your Tree Rose
Find the side of the tree rose that faced north previously. Once you do, tie a cloth strip or stink around one of the branches on this side of the orientation. Dig a ring around the base of the tree rose that is roughly 7 to 10 inches from the trunk. Dig the hole between 15 and 18 inches, and push your shovel blade downward to sever the roots. Push your blade to the bottom of the trench while tilting the handle back and pushing downward to dig horizontally across the root ball. Repeat these steps, working around the trench until the root ball comes free from the ground. Lift the tree rose very carefully from the ground and put it in a wheelbarrow to transport it to the new planting site.
Step Five – Examine and Trim the Root Ball
Look at the root ball on your tree rose. You want to prune away any broken, dead, or mushy roots you find. Put your root ball into the center of the prepared hole at the new site. Turn your plant so that the branch that has the cloth or string faces north. Gently spread any exposed roots you have outward at the bottom of the hole. Adjust the depth of your hole as needed to position the top of the plant’s root ball so it’s even with the surrounding ground.
Step Six – Start Filling in the Hole
Fill in ½ of the hole around the root ball with the displaced soil. Gently tamp the soil down around the root ball. Fill the hole with water using your garden hose and allow the water to drain away completely. Fill the remainder of the hole with the rest of the soil.
Transplanting your tree rose can be a big project, but if you do it right, your plant will thrive in the new spot.
Step Seven – Create a Basin
Next, you’ll build a three or four-inch high ring mound around the perimeter of your newly planted tree rose.This will create a basin for water right over the root ball of your plant. Fill the basin with water and allow the water to drain downward through your soil. You want to fill in any depressions or holes created by the draining water using additional soil.
Step Eight – Stake the Plant
Drive a stake into the ground on either side of your newly planted tree rose, and make sure it’s three to six inches from the trunk. Wrap a cloth strip or string around the base of the trunk and one of the stakes. Tie the ends to form a knot. Tie the string or cloth strip tight enough to provide the trunk with support, but it should be loose enough that the trunk can move slightly. Tie a piece of string or cloth every 12 inches along the trunk to your stake. Repeat this process with a second stake on the opposite side of your tree rose.
Step Nine – Mulch
Finally, spread a one-inch layer of mulch using a rake over the planting site. Keep the mulch roughly four inches away from the trunk of your plant. Water the tree rose when the top two or three inches of soil dry out during the first two weeks after the transplanting process. You want to avoid watering too frequently to keep the soil from getting soggy.
Winter Care for Tree Roses
During the winter months, your tree roses will need more protection. You can heap up pine boughs around the plant stems, or you can wrap them in burlap. If you live in a very cold planting zone, we recommend that you do both.
In zone six or below, you may also want to prune the head back by half before the winter months to reduce the chances of breakage or frost damage under the heavy weight of the snow that accumulates. If you live in an area that dips below 0°F in the winter and you’re determined to add a tree rose to your garden, you’ll plant it in a container so you can move it inside or dig it up each winter. Bury the entire plant in a trench that is a foot deep and cover the trench with pine boughs or mulch.
Special Needs for Your Tree Rose
Tree roses are very tender plants, so they require special protection during the colder months in everything but the warmest climates. You can grow them in containers and bring them indoors when they’re dormant and keep them in a cool space with little water until spring. There are also some things to keep in mind about any standard tree rose you grow in containers, including:
- Container plants require more frequent watering and feeding
- Containers can have problems with soil compaction that you have to watch for
- Hanging baskets can work for smaller roses
- Plants in containers are more prone to freezing and overheating
- There are limited tree roses that’ll work well in containers
- You have to move your plants indoors or winterize them before snow flies
- You’ll repot your container plants as they grow
We’ve outlined 17 types of tree roses and the main points to caring for them. Although they can be finicky and require a lot of care to keep them healthy, they’ll reward you with a unique look that adds height, color, and fragrance to your landscape.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.