Texas Cooperative Extension,
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
Professor and Landscape Horticulturist
Some roses actually bloom better in the fall and winter than in spring. This is especially true of some of the old Tea roses and Chinas that are enjoying a renewal of interest among gardeners in the South. Teas and Chinas are classes of roses that contain many varieties. Many of these were popular during the 19th century. Literature suggests that many southern homes enjoyed cut roses for the Thanksgiving and even Christmas table. The China roses may be used as cut flowers but are generally not as appropriate for cutting as the Teas. Chinas are known for their lavish display of flowers in the garden.
A photograph of ‘Mrs. B.R.Cant’ (Tea, 1901) accompanies this article. It is among the most robust of the Tea roses sometimes attaining a height and spread of 8 feet, with dozens of silver-rose petals tipped with dark rose. The flowers are full and fragrant. It blooms all during the growing season, but flower size, quality, and volume are far greater during spring and fall. Although it will occasionally be attacked by black spot disease, it will usually thrive without spraying if it is placed where air circulation and sunlight are good. Another great Tea rose very popular in Texas is ‘Mrs. Dudley Cross’(Tea, 1907). Mrs.Cross is a lovely pale yellow tinged with pink. Stems are nearly thornless, and disease resistance is excellent.
Among the best China roses for Texas gardens are ‘Old Blush’(pink), ‘Mutabilis’(yellow, pink, and crimson), and ‘Ducher’(white). ‘Old Blush’ was the favorite rose of Texas pioneers because it was tough, bloomed freely, and easily rooted from cuttings. ‘Mutabilis’ is sometimes known as the "Butterfly Rose" since a large bush in bloom resembles a cloud of butterflies. Mature China roses can reach 6 to 7 feet unless frequently pruned. ‘Ducher’ is pure white and also blooms profusely in the fall.
China and Tea roses are best adapted to the southern two thirds of the state. Winter temperatures in far North Texas and the Panhandle limit their use to areas in the garden where they can receive some winter protection during cold spells. November through February are ideal times to root roses from cuttings. Old garden roses thrive as "own root" plants and most do not need to be grafted onto a hardy rootstock to thrive. For information on rooting roses from cuttings click on Rose Propagation.