mister lincoln hybrid tea rose

Great Rose Varieties for the Southwest Garden

My test rose garden, with my favorite ‘Olivia Rose’ showing off its pale pink blooms.

It’s not a surprise that roses are the world’s most popular flower with new rose varieties being introduced each year. They tempt us with new colors, prolific blooms, and lower maintenance requirements. Now is a great time to select roses for your garden as January through February is the best time to add roses to low to mid desert regions (zones 9 & 10) while it’s best to wait until spring for zones 8 and lower.

I’m going to share with you my favorites that will thrive in the arid southwest with little fuss while adding welcome beauty to your garden.

In coming up with my list of favorites, I must admit to a long-standing love affair with roses. Twenty-five years ago, I had more than 40 different hybrid tea roses in my Phoenix home where I learned through trial and error which ones did best in our hot, arid climate, and those that just couldn’t cut it.

Today, I have a dedicated rose garden where I test new rose varieties for several rose growers to see how they fare with the intense dry heat of Arizona summers.

‘Mister Lincoln’ hybrid tea rose
Hybrid tea roses

These are a well-known modern rose variety and are famous for their large, upright blooms. If you only plant one rose, I highly recommend ‘Mister Lincoln,’ which has deep red blooms that are highly fragrant. It’s not fussy and grows 4 to 5 feet tall. Other notable hybrid tea varieties that do well in arid climates are ‘Bewitched,’ ‘Chicago Peace,’ ‘Pristine,’ ‘Rio Samba,’ and ‘Touch of Class’.

‘Olivia Rose’ David Austin shrub rose
Shrub roses

These are a newer class of roses that have rapidly become my favorite due to their superior disease resistance, low maintenance, and beauty. They have a bushier, rounder shape than the more traditional V-shape of hybrid teas, and don’t need to be deadheaded (pruning off old roses) as often as with other types. David Austin roses are a type of shrub rose that has the beauty and fragrance of old-fashioned roses. I have several kinds, but ‘Olivia Rose’ is my absolute favorite, as its pale pink blooms appear throughout the year – even in the hot summer. ‘Abraham Darby,’ ‘Darcey Bussel,’ ‘Graham Thomas’ and ‘Lady of Sharlott’ also do very well.

‘Flower Carpet’ Pink Supreme – Photo courtesy of Tesselaar Roses
Groundcover roses

This type of rose grow 1 ½ to 2 feet tall, are very disease resistant, and don’t require deadheading. I must admit to being somewhat new to growing ground cover roses. Last year, I was sent nine ‘Flower Carpet’ roses to try out, and they all did beautifully. In fact, they are still blooming this January, making this a class of roses that I am excited to use more.

While you can find numerous varieties of hybrid tea roses at your local nursery or big box store – shrub and groundcover roses are best found online from a rose grower. I buy mine from David Austin Roses and Heirloom Roses, both of which have a large variety available.

Whichever type of rose you choose, there is one that is just right for your garden! What types of roses do well in your Southwest garden?


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  • Kathleen Carlson

    Thanks for all this wonderful info! Are there any shrub roses you would recommend for planting in open shade on the north side of my house? I’m in the low desert in the Phoenix Valley. I love the ‘Olivia Rose’ above but not sure if it would be okay with no direct sunlight.

    • Noelle Johnson

      Hi Kathleen,

      All of these roses can be grown in pots, but it’s important to use large pots that are at least 2 1/2 feet wide. The hot air temperatures of the low desert literally cooks the roots of plants in summer and so putting a rose in a larger pot, provides some insulation from the hot temps and holds onto more water.

      I hope this helps!

      • Virginia Allison

        Noelle, rose growers and fanciers may be interested in obtaining the rose rating guide from the American Rose Society for $10 plus shipping. The handy “2018 American Rose Society Handbook for SELECTING ROSES” is available on the American Rose Society website.
        I have given these Handbooks as gifts to rose growing friends and they were delighted to receive them. As I shop for new roses this time of year, I keep this rating guide handy in my car to help me evaluate which rose bushes to buy. It indicates a performance rating, the type of rose, the color, the petal count and the date introduced. It does not indicate if the rose is fragrant.
        If the label on the rose does not indicate fragrance, then most likely, it is not.
        Recently I saw a bargain on roses and referred to my handbook to discover that the discounted Olympiad has a very high rating of 8.5. The label does not mention fragrance so I know that it is not, but the label did say “Brilliant clear crimson flowers are long lasting and ideal for cut flowers.” So, between the label and the Handbook, I learn more about the rose bush I am considering.

  • Edith Isidoro-Mills

    You left out mini roses. I live in Nevada and I’ve had much better luck with mini roses than the larger roses. I first fell in love with mini roses when I was working on my Master’s degree in horticulture at New Mexico State University. One of my classmates was an older woman who was doing her Master’s on native roses. She was a former president of the Heritage Rose Society and was collecting species roses from all over the United States. She had minis, heritage roses, and any type of rose you can imagine in her yard. I fell in love with the minis. Most of my minis have come from Heritage Roses. They seem to do better in the extremely dry and 100-degree heat I have in northern Nevada. We receive almost no precipitation in the summer (considerably less than New Mexico; I know because I grew up in New Mexico). The larger roses just stop flowering in my extreme heat or their big blooms if they do bloom just dehydrate and shatter after a day. The minis will flower for me all summer and their blooms do dry up and fall apart after a day. They actually last a week or more. I think the smaller leaves and smaller blooms may reduce the water loss from the plant. Certainly the native vegetation in my region tends to have extremely small leaves and even goes dormant in the middle of the summer.

    • Noelle Johnson

      Hi Edith,

      It’s nice to hear from you. Thank you so much for mentioning mini-roses and their unique suitability for Southwestern climates.


  • Jean

    I just discovered your blog, and am looking forward to exploring it! I have had great success with a Pope John Paul ll Rose tree grown in a container. The fragrance is intoxicating. Would love to add more roses to my Phoenix yard. What do you think of the white ice roses I see a lot of in the valley?

    • Noelle Johnson

      Hello Jean,

      White Iceberg roses do very well in our area. They are low-maintenance, and are often used a low-growing hedge. If you can grow roses in a container, you can grow Iceberg roses.

      January and February are the best time to add new roses in our area, so it’s a great time to go out and get some new ones.


    • Noelle Johnson

      Hi Melissa,

      January and February are the best time to plant roses in the Phoenix area. As to where to find them, not all nurseries carry them and it may be hard to locate specialty roses. If you can’t find them at your local nursery, I would purchase them from an online nursery such as Heirloom Roses – heirloomroses.com where they will ship them to you.

      I hope this helps!

  • Virginia Allison

    I have several colored violet Intrigues that do very well and have a nice fragrance. That is the first one that comes to mind, after Mr. Lincoln. Secret does very well in my partially shaded garden area. Three Queen Elizabeths produce great roses for bouquets year after year and like Mr. Lincoln, the bushes like to be left to grow fairly tall.
    My peachy rose Medallion bush has produced many beautiful roses, A rose knowledgeable friend guessed my picture of the rose was a Marilyn Monroe recently. I am a little higher than the valley at 1085 foot altitude here in the Rio Verde Foothills. I really enjoy the fragrances of the roses by my bed. And I enjoy photographing them.
    I have all more than 200 pruned for winter now and they are leafing out. Time to spray to prevent powdery mildew and thrips!!!

    • Noelle Johnson

      Hi Virginia,

      I love the area you live in! I work up there quite often and always enjoy the beauty of the mountains. Great rose suggestions – I’ve grown Medallion with great results. With over 200 rose bushes, you are certainly an expert!

      • Virginia Allison

        Noel, when I returned to Arizona in 2001 I had been living in a high altitude in Idaho where I could not grow roses for many years so I had no experience with anything but wild roses. I had a learning curve ahead of me, so for the next several years I attended the Scottsdale Rose Society meetings, learning about how to prune and care for roses. This time of year I really miss Bakers Nursery where I often bought potted new roses. Now my best option is bare root roses at Berridges. If not willing to make the trip down there I fall back on packaged roses at Home Depot or Lowes, if I get there when they have just come in and are fresh, but disappointed if the canes have been waxed. When the packaged roses have sat in the stores for weeks and weeks they are unlikely to do very well. Yes, Noelle, from here we view Four Peaks and this time of year after a cold night I often glance at them to see if they received any snow.

        • Noelle Johnson

          Hi Virginia,

          It is so sad to see the closing of so many independent nurseries in the area. I find my best roses come from mail order sources. I am currently waiting for three to arrive from the folks at David Austin Roses.

  • Sarah

    I live in Zone 5 Colorado right now. We are relocating to NM in the Spring or Summer.

    I’ve had great luck with Canadian roses (Morden’s Sunrise), Old roses (Apothecary Rose), and rugosas (Rosa Rugosa Rubra, Hansa and Moje Hammarberg. Also love Rose de Rescht, which is super productive, fragrant, ever blooming here in Zone 5. And rambling rose Darlow’s Enigma is one of my favorites. I’m sure all of these would be happy to grow in NM.

    Looking forward to gardening in a warmer zone.