Rose Classification: Just How Is Rosa Classified?

Don’t you just love the the time of year when roses are in full bloom? The sweet scent and delicate petals can be a perfect addition to your garden, but what type of rose should you get? There are many accepted rose classification systems used worldwide, yet no specific system is deemed “official.” However, The American Rose Society, in association with the World Federation of Roses offers the most popular rose classification system. Most traditional authorities throughout the world embrace this particular system to identify and assign names to roses.

What Happens With A New Rose Cultivar?

When it comes to the classification of new roses, the American Rose Society is the official registrar. They are the goup who gets to decide the categorization of new cultivars.

Let’s drill into a bit of detail.

Three Main Types In Rose Classification

Basic Rose Group Classifications

According to the American Rose Society – and they are the generally accepted guys that decide these things, the three main types of roses are the Species Roses (wild roses), Old Garden Roses, and Modern Garden Roses. Species Roses are wild-type roses and lack the degree of cross-breeding and hybridization as the other two types. They come from a variety of genus. Old Garden Roses are those that were known prior to 1867. As we’ll soon discuss further, there is fifteen sub-categories. They typically bloom in late summer to early fall. Their flowers usually produce less than seven petals with smaller blooms that last for only one season before dying back completely during winter months when not under protection against frosty weather.

1867 was an important year in the rose world because it was the year that the first hybrid tea rose called ‘La France’ was created. This started the dynasty of the Modern Garden Rose. So these originated from Old Garden Roses and are all the types created since 1867. They have ten subdivisions of their own.

When it comes to the rose classification game, the goal is simple: provide an accurate description for every known rose variety that exists today-or at least as many varieties as possible! This means new roses are continually being added or removed from this list when they’re discovered.

Species Roses (wild roses)

Species Roses, also known as “wild roses,” were the very first roses, predating man by hundreds of millennia. They are the ancestral root of all other classes of rose. They bloom annually, and their typical five-petaled blossoms are easily recognized. But watch out for thorns on these climbers or shrubs.

Found all over the northern half of the world, Species Roses thrive in moderate conditions. Their latin names always start with Rosa or ‘R’.

Dog Roses, Redleaf Roses, Gallic Roses, Cherokee Roses, and French Roses are some popular varieties of Species Roses.

Old Garden Roses

Old Garden Roses are a type of rose that have been around for many years. They are known for their beautiful, fragrant flowers and their ability to thrive in a variety of climates. 

Old Garden Roses are much younger than Species Roses. Any major rose variety classified prior to 1867 are considered Old Garden Roses.

Summer is heralded by the annual blossoming of many Old Garden Roses. Their shrubs and vines develop in many assorted sizes. Colors are varied as well, though normally Old Garden Roses have soft pastel or white blooms. Also known as “antique roses,” they don’t require extensive care, which makes them a favorite of amateur gardeners. Oftentimes, the most sought-after “antique roses” are chosen for their distinctive fragrant smell.

Hybrid Perpetual, Tea, Damask, Noisette, China, Bourbon, and Moss, along with eight others are just a few examples of the varieties of roses known as Old Garden Roses.

Old Garden Roses: Damask

Damask roses are a popular variety of Old Garden Rose, and are characterized by their deep pink or red color. These roses are often used in perfumes and cosmetics due to their strong scent.

Old Garden Roses: Alba

These types typically have dense blue-green foliage and are disease resistant.

Previously known as the Tree Roses or white rose, the Alba Roses are often differentiated by their 6-ft height. Their nouveau rose variety incorporates colors such as pink, blush, and white, accentuated by its grey-green leaves.

The Albas are resistant to disease and are hardy, thriving with minimal attention and exposure. As long as the plant is under partial shade, it can be trained as a climber.

The Alba roses are hardy and plants can flourish with very little care.

Old Garden Roses: Ayrshire

Ayrshire roses are a new classification for The American Rose Society, but very old to gardeners. Some disagreement remains as to whether these roses originated in England or Scotland, but it is likely that a lot of cultivars and hybrids originated there from native British rose.

These roses are a perennial flowering shrub that typically blooms once. They are often called “ramblers”. The Ayrshire rose has very long, flexible stems that sprout upright, spread out on the ground, or grow upward to eventually become impressive climbers.

Ayrshire roses can be cold hardy as far north as Hardiness Zones 4 or 3.

Old Garden Roses: Bourbon

These are the original repeat-flowering roses and derive their name from the location of the first members of class, at Ile de Bourbon in Indian Ocean. Plant size can range from 2 to 15 feet tall.

Bourbon roses have their origins on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, close to Madagascar and Mauritius when Reunion Island was called Ile Bourbon. Their ancestors may be damask and China roses. Their popularity went from the mid-1800s to about 1830.

Old Garden Roses: Boursault

Boursault rose is a hybrid that produces low-growing, semi-fragrant climbing shrubs and blooms on old wood or canes.

Old Garden Roses: Centifolia

The Dutch roses provide a unique spot in the rose world. Many consider these flowers as Brugmansia and are often known as “cabbage roses.” They tend to have more than 100 petals, are winter hardy and once bloomed.

Old Garden Roses: China

This rose group often repeat blooms to form tight clusters on the stem. They have few thorns and are generally temperate-hardy, not surviving well below USDA zone 7. The flowers tend to appear in small groups or layered along each other rather than all on one flower stalk. China roses originated in Southeast Asia and are one of the most popular varieties in the world.

Old Garden Roses: Hybrid China

Small, with flowers that repeat and have a spicy scent. They need protection from the cold in order to survive well as they aren’t hardy plants.

Old Garden Roses: Hybrid Gallica

Flowers are fragrant and come in brilliant colors. Blooms are once bloomed, and plants are 3 to 4 feet tall.

Old Garden Roses: Hybrid Perpetual

These roses were popularized during the 19th century and have been assigned an elaborate classification system which consists of these characteristics: they are six feet tall, upright, scented with a color range ranging primarily to pinks and reds.

Old Garden Roses: Moss

This group gets its name from the pine-scented oleoresin released from the thorns on the peduncle, just below the bloom. Plants are generally winter hardy and 3 to 6 feet tall. Some varieties are repeat bloomers.

Old Garden Roses: Noisette

They were introduced to France when Philippe Noisette moved to Charleston, South Carolina in 1817. Their large, sprawling plants reach between 20 and 40 feet tall. They produce large clusters of fragrant blooms.

Old Garden Roses: Portland

The Duchess of Portland roses are a small group, smaller in stature, repeat blooming and most of them have very short peduncles. They are descended from crosses involving hybrid gallica, damask, centifolia and hybrid china.

Old Garden Roses: Tea

The best cultivars of the family are Climbing Teas, which are consistently tall cultivars. Generally, it is possible to grow Teas in the first year. Tea roses grow best when only lightly pruned. They are one of the immediate ancestors of modern hybrid teas.

Modern Roses

Hang on to your hat becasue this gets a bit detailed!

Modern Roses are the newest class of roses, deriving from Old Garden Roses. Modern Roses include any variety of rose classified since 1867. Not only are they the most recently identified roses, they are also extremely popular.

In contrast to the delicate colors of an Old Garden Rose, the Modern Rose is vivacious and full-bodied. Unlike Species Roses and Old Garden Roses, with the proper care most varieties of Modern Rose will bloom more than once per season. This characteristic is one of the reasons they are so appealing to horticulturists.

On the finicky side, these roses are particular about their surroundings, preferring a warmer climate. Gardeners and florists are just crazy about Modern Roses.

The most well known types of Modern Roses are the hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribunda, there are seven other types as well.

Roses are first placed in one of these key groups. They are then further categorized according to size, ancestry, color, blooming characteristics, growth habit, date of introduction, and scent. This results in about 36 additional categories to perfectly describe your favorite Modern Rose in the finest of detail.

Shrubs are easily distinguished by their sprawling habit. There are five popular subdivisions within the class: hybrid kordesii, hybrid moyesii, hybrid musk, hybrid rugosa and shrub. They can grow 5 to 15 feet or more in every direction given the correct climate and growing conditions.

Hybrid Tea

The hybird tea is probably the most popular class of Modern Rose. One particularly important instance of this variety was the wildly popular ‘Peace’ rose in 1945 which was the start of the modern elegant style of hybird tea. Since then, thre has been thousands of hybrid tea varietes introduced.

The Hybrid tea class includes one color variation-pink; two pattern variations – striped/spotted (floribunda) and semi-double/double (grandiflora); and three size variations in flower – single, semi-doubles, and doubles.


In general, the floribunda is characterized by its profusion of flowers in trusses with more than one flower open at once. This class offers unmatched garden displays and blooms for extended periods of time as opposed to the hybrid tea that exhibits a cycle every six-to-seven weeks on average.

This class is an unrivaled favorite for providing beautiful, colorful and large-scale garden displays. They are generally hardier than hybrid teas, easier to care for and more reliable in wet weather.

This type of rose was first produced by crossing Hybrid tea Roses with Polyantha roses ‍— the result is a beautiful large-flowered class that’s perfect as an informal hedge or border planting. They produce many flowers per stem but only once during each growing cycle (usually from spring to early fall).

In terms of color varieties, Floribundas are more limited than Hybrid Tea Roses, with the majority of their blooms being pink or mauve in hue.


When a cross was made between the hybrid tea ‘Charlotte Armstrong’ and the floribunda ‘Floradora,’ it brought together characteristics of both kinds in one flower. To accommodate this, the Class of grandiflora was created. The first rose class to bear this designation was called ‘Queen Elizabeth.’

Grandiflora’s are single bloom type with two color varieties-red or white. The pattern variety includes either full flower size of semi double; the colors that can be found in this classification system include rose types such as: red, pink and white.


Polyantha’s are a popular type of rose that is also known as the “Garden Rose.”

They are often smaller than Hybrid Tea Roses and more manageable to grow. Polyantha’s come in many colors and are typically hardier then Hybrid Tea Roses. They also require less pruning maintenance, making them a favorite with many gardeners and flower enthusiasts alike!

The plants tend to produce clusters of small blooms rather than the few large flowers produced by modern roses that have been developed for show purposes only – such as in rose competitions or on formal occasions.

These roses have been hybridized with other types such like Floribunda, Hybrid Tea, and Miniatures.

It is a popular misconception that Polyanthas are not as fragrant – this simply isn’t true! In fact they may have the strongest fragrance of all types because their clusters produce so many more scent molecules at once than do single roses or modern rose varieties with less petals per cluster like Hybrid Tees.


These are the smallest of all varieties and come in two color variations (white or red). Patterns vary, but not as much.

They are traditional dwarf shrubs with few or no thorns. The blooms may grow to a foot in diameter (30 cm) and are double-petalled, like Tea Roses for example; some have the fragrance of their larger cousins such as Hybrid Teas – but not necessarily all varieties within this classification system would be fragrant.

Traditional miniature roses have been bred to stay under a foot in height, which makes them ideal for use as ground covers and low-growing areas around foundations or walkways – they are also popular choices with those who want large volumes of flowers without the care required by larger rose bushes like hybrid tea varieties would need.


A category of roses that are smaller than the Miniature size and typically have fewer petals. The plants may grow up to three feet in height or more, depending on variety; some early blooming minifloras can reach a foot at most with as few flowers per plant – like one bloom for every two-three inches (50-75 cm) in height.

Minifloras grow best as container roses and do not tolerate winter wetness or frost well, so they are better suited to milder climates than other types of rose varieties like hybrid teas – which can withstand a wider range from cold temperatures with less damage caused such that the blooms open fully despite snow.

Large-Flowered Climber

The climbing roses in this classification system have flowers that grow anywhere from 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm) across and are single petalled, like varieties of Alba Rose.

Climbing Roses come with the advantage of being able to easily cover large areas – they can also be grown on a trellis or arbor as a climbing rose.

Climbing roses can be classified as either Climber or Ramblers, depending on the style of their flowers and how they grow in relation to other plants around them – this is because climbers have stiffer stems that are more upright while rambler varieties tend towards being softer-stemmed with branches growing along at ground level.

Hybrid Gigantea

Hybrid Gigantea roses are the largest of all rose varieties, in terms with both height and flower size. They can grow up to 36 inches (91 cm) high by 24-36 inch wide flowers that come as singles or double petalled like an Alba Rose variety would have – these usually last for about three weeks before wilting.

Gigantea roses were classified as Hybrid Tea varieties and were developed in the late 1960s by Dutch breeder Pieter Willem Kweekel – they have a very strong fragrance, complex colors that range from light pink to dark red-violet with an occasional white bloom or variegated leaf types available too!

Hybrid Wichurana

Hybrid Wichurana roses were bred in the early 20th century by a Belgian rose breeder, Henri Vanden Brande – this is classified as one of his own Hybrid Tea types. The flowers are usually more light pink with darker edges and they grow to be up 36 inches (91 cm) high at their average height while growing in a bush shape.

The blooms are quite large and have an average of six rose petals per single bloom with long stems that typically measure up to 16 inches (40 cm) – this is different from most Hybrid Tea roses which usually only grow 12-18 inch flowers on short, stout stem lengths!

Hybrid Wichurana are considered a low-maintenance rose type, which means they typically require less water than other types such s Grandiflora roses.

It is important to note that there are many different types of Hybrid Wichurana available, and they all have their own unique characteristics; this makes them a popular option for people who want beautiful flowering bushes in the garden!


Shrub roses , also known as tough roses, or English roses, are typically not very large and have a bushy shape with many blooms at the end of each stem.

Some rose enthusiasts mistakenly call these “Rugosa” plants because they don’t bloom every year like other types do – instead Rugosas flower sporadically over several seasons in their lifetime!


So there you have it. It is truly mind-boggling with all the complexity. Roses are usually not seen by the average person as having all this classification complexity.

Even with all the methods of classification, horticulturists still cannot possibly identify every rose. Hybrid roses, for example, seem to fall into a class of their own.

Not every expert agrees on just one method of classifying roses. However, the system that seems to work the best is the one created by the American Rose Society. This may be why the American Rose Society’s rose classification method is used by the majority of the world’s rosarians.

Additional Rose Classification Terms

Repeat-flowering roses: Bourbon was the first repeat-flowering roses. The best repeat-flowering roses are the modern shrub roses, which have been bred to flower over a long period from late spring until autumn.

World Federation of Rose Societies: The World Federation of Rose Societies (WFRS) is an international organization that represents rose growers and enthusiasts around the world. The WFRS promotes the cultivation and appreciation of roses, and works to advance the knowledge of rose growing through research and education.

Heritage roses: Heritage roses are old-fashioned roses are rose types that existed since before 1867.

Number of rose species: There are over 100 species of roses.

Gallica roses: Gallica roses are a type of old garden rose that is characterized by its dense, compact growth habit and its large, double flowers. The flowers of gallica roses can be found in a wide range of colors, including pink, red, purple, and white.

Bourbon rose: A Bourbon rose is a type of rose that is named after the Bourbon dynasty of France. These roses are characterized by their large, double flowers and strong fragrance.

Hybridized roses: hybridized roses derive their class from their parentage.

Centifolia: These are a Dutch hybridized rose. These rosess derive their class name from the flowers frequently containing more than 100 petals.

Polyantha roses: Polyantha roses are a class of rose that is known for its dense, compact growth habit and its profusion of small, five-petaled flowers. These roses are typically very hardy and easy to care for, making them a popular choice for gardeners of all levels of experience.

Antique roses: Antique roses are a type of rose that has been around for many years. These roses are often passed down from generation to generation and are known for their unique beauty and fragrance.

Moss roses: Moss roses are a type of rose that is characterized by its moss-like appearance on the surface of the petals. The mossy effect is created by a dense covering of tiny hairs, which can be either white or green in color. Moss roses are also known for their strong fragrance, which is often described as being similar to the scent of strawberries.

Portland rose: The Portland rose is a hybrid rose that was developed in Portland, Oregon in the early 1900s. It is a cross between the Hybrid Tea rose and the China rose. The Portland rose is characterized by its large, double blooms and its strong fragrance.

Grandiflora roses: Grandiflora roses are a type of rose that is characterized by its large flowers. These roses are typically hybridized roses, which means that they are a cross between two different types of roses. Grandiflora roses are known for their beauty and their ability to produce an abundance of flowers.

David Austin roses: David Austin roses are a type of rose that was developed by David Austin in England. They are known for their old-fashioned appearance and strong fragrance.

Native roses: Native roses are species of roses that occur naturally in the wild.


I’ve been around farming all of my life. Farmers Life Blog is a way I can share my passion for all things farming and gardening and hopefully share some of my knowledge and experience through the process. Shootin' the breeze doesn't have to be confined to the front porch anymore, now there's a whole world to share my deep and abiding love with.

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