There are many different rose classification schemes that are used throughout the world. The most popular of the systems in use has been proposed by The American Rose Society in cooperation with the World Federation of Roses. Although this classification system is not the only one in use, a large majority of internationally established societies have adopted this scheme for classifying roses.
The American Rose Society classifies roses into three main groupings:
1. Species Roses;
2. Old Garden Roses;
3. Modern Roses.
1. Species Roses
Species Roses are commonly referred to as wild roses and existed millions of years before man walked the earth. These wild roses are easy to identify as they normally have five petals, bloom once, and are generally thorny shrubs or climbers. Several popular Species Roses include: Cherokee Roses, Dog Roses, Gallic Roses, French Roses, and Redleaf Roses. Species Roses can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, as they flourish in temperate climates.
2. Old Garden Roses
Old Garden Roses are identified as a major class of roses recognized before 1867.
Most Old Garden Roses bloom once per season, normally at the arrival of summer. Old Garden Roses occur in a variety of shrub and vine sizes. Old Garden Roses are typically white or pastel in colour. These "antique roses" are generally preferred for lawns and home gardening because they are easy to care for. Several groupings of roses are classified as Old Garden Roses including: China, Tea, Moss, Damask, Bourbon, Hybrid Perpetual and Noisette roses.
3. Modern Rose
Any rose which has been identified post 1867 is considered a Modern Rose. This group of roses are very popular. The Modern Rose is the result of cross breeding the hybrid tea with the polyanthus. The colours of a Modern Rose are lovely, rich and vibrant.
Most of the roses found in this class flower repeatedly when cared for properly. The most popular roses found in the class of Modern Roses are the hybrid tea, floribunda, and grandiflora. Although Modern Roses are adored by florists and gardeners, they do not adapt well to colder environments.
After a rose has been classified according to the three main groupings, a rose can then be further classified by colour, scent, growth habit, ancestry, date of introduction, blooming characteristics and size. It is very difficult for horticulturists to classify every rose, especially the hybrid roses which often seem like a grouping of their own.
While there has been much debate on classifying roses, the American Rose Society appears to have the most functional system for these stages of classification. Perhaps this is why the American Rose Society's classification system has been adopted by so many rose lovers the world over.