Polyantha Roses (Polyanthas) make a great plant to grow for a novice gardener.
Not only do these dwarf roses have a wonderful scent but they also carry pretty double or semi-double flowers, are tough, resistant to diseases, survive poorer soils, and require relatively little maintenance.
Polyantha-Rose "Muttertag" photograph by Patrick Nouhailler.
The name of these hardy roses derives from the terms 'Poly' and 'Anthos'; so quite literally means Many-Flowered. They were first created in France in the early 19th centenary and are derived from a cross between Rosa multiflora and Rosa chinensis.
They are the predecessors of the modern floribundas (which are a cross between Polyantha roses and hybrid teas. Over the years numerous cultivars have been developed, more of which later.
Polyanthas typically bloom from May through to mid-autumn. The flowers are about 2.5 cm (one inch) across and create large sprays. The petals are typically, white, pink, red, peach or cream in colour. Indeed one of the main reasons for the popularity of this plant is that blooms continue. This can help to add a pleasant fragrance and lots of colour to the garden.
These roses are hardy to about -20°C (-4°F). This means that they can happily grow in Northern Europe and do well in the USA Growing zones 5 to 9. They can grow well in containers, and can easily be brought indoors in areas where temperatures are likely to drop below these temperatures.
These dwarf shrubs usually have a compact nature, but some cultivars have a spreading nature.
Although they are tough plants they do still require some maintenance so are not ideal for the more lazy or time limited gardener. Some of the tasks include regular watering and pruning towards the end of winter or early in spring. To prune Polyantha Roses, cut back to about 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 inches). The prune should be made above an outward facing bud. To help keep compact reduce the number of side-shoots to two or three at this stage, and cut back about a third of older mature to the ground.
When grown together these plants can make a great hedging plant, may be planted in mass, and also look good as a container plant.
Bloomfield Abundance photograph by Malcolm Manners.
Grown for its repetitive flowering. Tends to be larger than other cultivars, typically reaching about 1.8 m (6 feet) in height. It carries pink flowers on sprays in summer and autumn - these are small and have a light scent.
Rosa Marjorie Fair photograph by T.Kiya.
Compact nature. Flowers about 4 cm (1.5 inches) in diameter. Purplish red flowers with a white center. Leaves are glossy. Blooms in summer and autumn.
Nearly thornless. Flowers are cream with lemon centres - about 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter. Foliage is glossy and bright green. Compact.
Polyantha 'The Fairy' photograph by F. D. Richards.
Dwarf shrub. Single or double flowers occur in sprays. Flowers are pink and reach about 2.5 cm (1 inch) across. Blooms a little later than other varieties - from late summer through autumn.