The Roses in My Garden

Obviously, the idea of growing roses in Florida wouldn't get such a negative response from most people if they hadn't already tried some roses without success. So I can't simply tell Florida gardeners they really can grow roses and then leave it at that. It's only fair to also give them a heads-up as to which roses I grow. However, this is by no means an exhaustive list of every possible rose that will like your Florida garden. There are many others that would grow well here if I had the room. I have had to make some agonizing decisions that ultimately meant the exclusion of many beautiful roses that I'm sure would have performed just fine except that they grow into huge bushes. There's also that old maxim, "ya can't have everything", although my dear husband probably believes I have never heard of that one.

To read more about the roses on my list, I recommend going to the best database of information on roses - .  Just type in the name of the rose, and you'll find a description, photos, lineage, gardener comments, where the rose is being grown and where to buy it online.  HMF is not particularly useful for size estimates in Florida since plants grow much bigger here than in many other areas due to our long growing season and abundant sunshine and rain (usually). Also, any reference to "disease resistance" should be taken with a grain of salt since most times the diseases they mean are not the ones we have in Florida, i.e., a few types of black spot. Roses can also be searched for by class, so if you wanted a list of all Tea Roses, just select Advanced Search, then Class, then Old Garden Roses, and then Tea - or any other class.

My roses are mostly own-root, and the list below is divided by class. Tea, China and Noisette roses are no-brainers in Florida. Our climate is perfect for them. They don't mind our steamy weather, and they are happiest in the heat if the soil is not allowed to dry out. Choices within other classes are more limited. That's where word-of-mouth recommendations are so useful, especially if you have chosen not to spray chemicals for disease control. I get around that by not growing roses that are susceptible to fungal disease, a mostly trial and error proposition once you get out of the Tea, China and Noisette classes. 

The list of roses that have ever lived in my garden is much longer than this one. Disease is only one reason for their departure. I happen to have soil with lots of limestone in it which raises its pH. Very low pH can be raised and kept raised relatively easily by periodic applications of lime, etc, but high pH is a losing battle. What is is (although I do apply sulfur regularly to keep them as happy as possible). Mine is naturally in the low 7.0's and after amending stays in the high 6.0's. Hybrid Musks and a lot of Polyanthas don't prefer pH this high or at least didn't in my garden. So check your pH.

Besides choosing the right rose to grow, the other factor is the soil they grow in. Everyone knows Florida soil is basically different grades of sand. If a rose is planted in native sand, chances are it will not do well for very long. Sand does not retain water. On the contrary water rushes right through it, headed for the aquifer. To add insult to injury, the water takes nutrients with it when it goes. Great for cactus, I guess, but not roses. Sand also hangs out a big WELCOME sign to root-knot nematodes, the buggers that cause decline in many plants by blocking the flow of water and nutrients up from the roots to the top of the plant. To mitigate this less than great situation, one could remove lots of the native soil and haul in clay and organics and make one's own loam but only if one were rich and had nothing else to do with one's money. What I did was haul in free composted horse manure and purchased topsoil, pine fines, alfalfa pellets, Milorganite, and other organics. (Plain kitty litter can be added, too, since it's basically clay.) When it's initially all mixed up, it still looks like sand but with black clumps in it. In six months, however, it will be all black, and the newly arrived earthworms will be having a grand old time.

Tea Roses
Alexander Hill Gray
General Gallieni
Le Vesuve
Madame Antoine Rèbé
Madame Lombard
Maman Cochet
Maman Cochet, Climbing
Mrs. B. R. Cant (on Fortuniana)
Rhodologue Jules Gravereaux
Rosette DeLizy
Souvenir de Pierre Notting
White Maman Cochet

China Roses
Hermosa (2)
Louis Philippe (2)
R. chinensis serratipetala

(Some roses of this class have Tea Roses in their heritage. These are usually good choices. Not all of mine do, but they're pretty healthy.)
Borderer (2)
Clotilde Soupert (2)
Clotilde Soupert, Climbing
Etoile de Mai
Leonie Lemesch
White Pet (2)

Bourbon Roses
(The short-caned Bourbons of the 'Souv de la Malmaison clan' do well in Florida along with the long-caned Bourbon, Maggie.)
Souvenir de la Malmaison (3)
Souv de St. Anne's

Noisette & Tea-Noisette Roses
Duchesse d’Auerstadt
Reve d’Or

Shrub Roses
Belinda's Dream
Bow Bells *
Darcey Bussell*
Graham Thomas *
Hyde Hall *
Jude the Obscure*
Lady of Megginch*
Lilian Austin *
Mary Rose *
Pat Austin *
Peach Drift (2)
Red Drift (2)
Richard's Rose
St. Swithun *

      * David Austin roses

Hybrid Musk Roses
Nur Mahál

Hybrid Tea Roses
Bride's Dream
Chrysler Imperial (2) (on Dr. Huey)
Curly Pink
Iridescent Pink
Madame Abel Chatenay
Naga Belle
Pope John Paul II
Stephen's Big Purple

Gold Medal (on Dr. Huey)

Bolero (on Dr. Huey)
Hot Cocoa (on Dr. Huey)
Moondance (on Dr. Huey)
The Charlatan 

Miniatures (Bush & Climbing forms)
(Chosen as a way to buy more roses (they're small) to fill in the vast emptiness of the garden before the roses grew big.)
Green Ice
Pink Above All
Sweet Chariot (2)

Damask Perpetual & Hybrid Perpetual Roses
(These roses are an experiment in my garden. They are renowned for their fragrance and for the fact that they are block spot magnets. I thought I would give them a shot, knowing full well I may not be able to tolerate  their disease. They are in their second year, both in pots, and Marchesa Boccella has done especially well, but Rose de Resht was quite wimpy and not growing much and died, possibly because her pot was flooding from faulty irrigation.)

Marchesa Boccella

Large Flowered Climbers
Fourth of July
Full Moon Rising

Other Climbers
Francois Juranville (Hybrid Wichuriana)

Found Roses
Cracker Pink aka Pink Pet


  1. So beautiful. I love your garden.

  2. I am happy to have found you through a recommendation. I am just starting my rose garden, it's great to see all the beautiful roses doing so well for you.
    I am looking forward to reading your blog.

  3. Hi, Laura,
    I’m glad you found me, too. Are you in Florida? Please feel free to email me about your garden. Another good resource is the Antique Roses Forum on GardenWeb. You can search for threads on your topic and really gain a lot of information.

    Keep me posted on what you’re doing. I love to hear about real live gardeners and their gardens.

  4. Are any of your roses on Fortuniana root stock? I live in north Florida, St. Johns county and I have to part with don Juan, one clotilde and probably my Maggie all due to nematodes. Breaks my heart.

    1. Hi, Doc's Mom, I have one rose on Fortuniana. I'm sorry you've had losses due to nematodes. It would break my heart, too. I've only lost two butterfly bushes that were planted in builder's sand to nematodes. My roses are mostly own-root OGRs except for a few recent grafted moderns, and my garden beds are extremely amended with organics. Since I could not easily obtain OGRs on fort (and since I don't like the growth habit of Fortuniana budded old garden roses, I elected to go the route of organics, the theory being that as the organics decompose they give off acids that nematodes do not like and they are repelled.

      When I originally dug my beds, I removed half of the native soil to a dept of 20+ inches (more in some areas) and replaced it with composted horse manure, topsoil, pine fines, and anything else organic that I could find. And every spring I topdress with a few inches composted horse manure. My roses are up to five years old. I have a young Maggie and Clotilde on their own roots. I'm assuming that your lost roses were not on fort (Dr Huey? own-root?) and not in amended beds. Is that correct?

      I would suggest that you heavily amend those areas where the lost roses were (as much of the beds as possible, not just the holes) and try again with own-root. Fortuniana-budded OGRs are hard to find. The Central Florida Heritage Rose Society in Lakeland has annual sales of OGRs that Dr. Malcolm Manners of Florida Southern College grafts himself, but I know of no other source. Well, Nelson's has a few but not Maggie the last time I looked. Take care and keep in touch, and let me know how it's going for you.

  5. Sherry, My soil was amended but not to the degree that you did, and were on their own root stock. I have started to buy some organic soil amendments and will probably use them next week. I want to replace the ones I lost, but want to give them the best chance.
    I looked at Nelson's selection and no Maggie. I will keep trying. Thanks so much for your help!!

  6. Extremely helpful post, Sherry. Thank you for sharing your experiences.


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