best climate in the U.S. for Roses???

withjoyFebruary 20, 2011

Hi Everyone -

This may sound like a very crazy question, but I am hoping to get as many opinions as possible about the best part of the U.S. to grow roses (and garden in general). I used to live in Northeast Kansas (zone 5) and did quite well there. I had to give up my rose garden when I moved to NYC to work on my PhD. I am starting to think about job possibilities after I finish my degree, and the whole thing seems overwhelming. Since the whole country is a possibility, I thought - why not limit my search to universities and colleges located in areas where roses do really well? Gardening is my stress relief and a huge source of peace. Since I hope that this next move will be my last one, I'd like a place where gardening is somewhat easy. All I know is zone 5, so I'd love to hear about the pro and cons of other locations. :-) It might not work out, but it certainly can't hurt to ask! So, any recommendations?

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The climate requirements of roses vary quite a bit. We can't grow most Tea, noisette, and China roses, as they can't take cold winters. On the other hand, roses that require cold winters to bloom generally don't bloom if planted in warm climates. Another factor is the rain and humidity--most modern roses have issues with blackspot in the Northeast corridor.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 8:34PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

First ask yourself -- when you think of "roses," what picture comes to your mind?

Modern HTs?
Warm Climate roses? (Teas, Chinas, Noisettes?
Or the richly-fragrant old once-bloomers?

The "best" climate for each of these will probably be quite different.
You might rather find the sort of climate you want to go out and garden in -- or bicycle in -- or hike in -- and then find out what sorts of roses love THAT place.

Coastal SoCal, Ventura Co.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 8:38PM
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Thanks for the input. The whole concept of picking an area for my job search is something I don't really want to contemplate. I thought that thinking about gardening might make it easier. I guess I should have been a little more specific about what I hoping to learn.

I really enjoyed gardening in Zone 5 in Kansas, so I'm pretty familiar with that area. I was wondering what you all like about where you live when it comes to roses. What grows well? What do you find challenging? If you want to brag a little about your spot in world, that'd be terrific.

I'd just like to learn a little about different parts of the country from people who actually live and garden there, as opposed to books about different regions.

Thanks for your input!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 8:46PM
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So. CA has nice weather for roses most months but you have to water all the time and so that does get expensive. Also some areas can have air pollution. Clay soil is common. Hopefully, the air quality will improve. I think the water prices are going to get much higher and some cities are talking restrictions.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 9:29PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

I think the Southeast and California are the best climates. In California, you have near perfect conditions, no black spot or Japanese beetles, but you have to water. In the Southeast you usually don't have a water problem, but will have black spot. Both areas don't require winter protection and have long blooming seasons.

It really depends on what you want and are used to.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 9:47PM
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Maryl zone 7a

If living expenses were no object I would think Hawaii would be a nice place to grow roses. So. California is good rose country, but the possible water shortages in the future would give me pause. What about Oregon? Portland is the city of roses after all. If you are seriously contemplating moving somewhere, you might want to take a trial vacation there first to see the lay of the land so to speak.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 11:02PM
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>I am starting to think about job possibilities after I finish my degree, and the whole thing seems overwhelming. Since the whole country is a possibility...

Hi Joy,

You'd think with a PhD you'd have the whole country to choose from, but be careful what you turn down in the beginning, regardless of your steller record at an elite school. No kidding. You might need to make the best of gardening in whatever position you can find. I've been helping someone in a slightly farther along position than your current situation look for a job... and have been amazed at the effects of the economy on university openings, to say nothing of the (lack of) openings going on at what you might think would be the easier private or governmental possibilities. Don't burn any bridges if you can avoid it. (Guess how I know not to turn down job any offers???)

Find the job first. Focus on that, including getting started *early* on that. Make contacts everywhere you can. Job hunting itself is a rather all-consuming task, and nothing you want to try for during the high stress time of finishing up a dissertation/the latest publications/figuring out where to house your stuff when your housing rental runs out before you have the next position, etc. Just because you're aware of past students in your shoes, some of which might not have been as outstanding as you are, having no trouble getting jobs, do not assume that situation will apply to you now in this current economy. It's vastly different; you might be competing with persons who ordinarily would have gotten a job last year or the year before that, but who didn't; the total job pool has multiplied.

You can make do with gardening wherever you can find a job; put first things first.
Take off the table the worries about support cutbacks from different states; that's unfortunately happening all over.

But I hear you saying that's not an answer. Okay, just in case your job hunt goes better than the one I'm familiar with - some specialities are offering decidely more jobs than others - here's my own perspective on gardening locations, especially growing roses.

North Carolina is a good state for roses, especially because you can grow most of the ones I particularly like, the Noisettes, Teas, Chinas, and Tea Noisettes, and at the same time you have a chance with many camellias. The big problem here is drought. That has been a big problem for many, many years, with the sole exception that comes to mind of 2009. South Carolina has been as bad if not even worse. Northern Georgia in the Athens and Atlanta areas have been in bad shape within the last year too. Athens, Georgia is a particularly nice place to live, though, and lots of things do well there. They have a forestry and some other plant departments that have made parts of the UGA campus little fairylands to sit in to admire.

Virginia is almost as good as North Carolina for gardening and large areas of it have had far fewer problems with drought. Danville was in almost as bad a shape as we were last year but as you head farther north, that wasn't so true. Lynchburg, Roanoke, and especially Charlottesville and farther north were decidely better off than we were. Housing in the Charlottesville area and farther north and west in the Shenandoah Valley has been extra expensive because it's such a scenic area that people in the northeast want it for second houses, and that competition for homes drives housing prices up. But with the economy turning down some, some of those places that were so overpriced are slightly better buys now.

If you get a job offer from UVA, well, take it, search over! Then run over to Monticello to see what roses like to grow around there; I think there are lots of them.

The next best place might be Portland, Oregon. I think they've had some drought problems there recently but not so much most years, at least during the winter months when they stock up on water. I think they have closer to silty sandy loam soil there than lots of places, and rhododendrons and azaleas really like it there.

I adored living on the California coast. It's hard to afford to live there, though, so if you get a job offer do check out the housing costs before signing on. But it's as beautiful a spot as exists on earth, in my unbiased opinion, with both ocean and mountains in the same sweep of the eye. We went for seven months without a drop of rain during the annual dry spell one year, and of course we did water. But the population was far smaller then and there were no water restrictions in effect or contemplated. I don't think I'd want to live there if I couldn't water at all.

It ought to matter what kind of topography you like. If you want flat, well, you might be better off in a place I haven't listed. Maybe Eastern Virginia or the area from Chapel Hill to Wilmington/Charleston/Savannah. Or if you like really hot climates, Florida. (But nematodes are a problem there for more crops than just roses.) Arkansas, Northern Mississippi, and Tennessee might work for lots of kinds of roses too. If you're happy with colder zones, then Kentucky is a beautiful state to live in. If you can put up with hurricanes, the gulf coast is a good place for lots of roses (see

One thing I've noticed, at least in myself and in some others too: you tend to get imprinted on the looks of the areas you grew up in as a child and teenager, at least if you're the kind of person who is attuned to the looks of nature. I once knew someone living in what I thought of as the valhalla of coastal California who actually longed for the desert she was used to, and specifically longed for those long vistas of flat heat. This is so different from my own preferences that it was hard to believe, but she really was homesick for the desert.

We are all different, and we might all be influenced a little differently depending on our early experiences. I grew up roaming in hilly deciduous woods with streams and looking at red clay dirt on the roadside cuts, and don't want to be far from a place a fair degree like that. It wouldn't surprise me at all if you wouldn't be happiest with a prairie nearby. Consider going back to somewhere like Kansas/Oklahoma/Nebraska/Iowa/North Texas? One of the prettiest spots for roses is apparently in Idaho! Yes, I've seen someone's rose garden there that's beautiful in a zone 4 or something like that. You can have beautiful roses most anywhere, though you might have to restrict your choices more than you'd like.

Best of luck on your job search!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 3:38AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I'm in Northern California, in the Bay Area (north bay, not near the coast or in the fog belt) and I think my climate is pretty ideal. Not just for roses but for fruits and veggies as well, I live mere miles from where Luther Burbank lived and worked and he thought this was the best place for gardening in the world. Not only are my roses happy, but my plums and tomatoes as well!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 10:20AM
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I live in garden in No Cal in the Bay Area also, and of course I agree with peachymomo! Seriously, you need to think not just about roses, but about gardening in general. Our growing season is 365 days, every year. That is one of the things I like about it - when I read about everyone staying inside and looking out at the snow and reading garden catalogues, I am thinking about what I will be doing in the garden today! It does rain here for 4-5 months in the winter, and we get way more rain than So Cal. Water is an issue, but we have not had actual water restrictions here where I live in about 18 years.

Water is expensive, however. I have been having fun discovering and planting Mediterranean plants that like out climate and need NO additional water in the summer. Most of them are bulbs - lots & lots of different bulbs like sparaxis, iaxas, etc. They love love our climate because it is the same as where they evolved in South Africa. However, of course they go dormant in the summer.

We have over 100 roses, and do irrigate in the summer, but with a good water saving system you can just give them what they really need, automatically, so it is OK. Jeri is correct, of course - despite what the adds say, different types of roses like different climates. Also, I don't spray, so that lets out most hybrid teas. We have chinas, teas, noisettes, hybrid musks, polyanthas, some of the new healthy ground cover roses, and some warm weather once bloomers like the banksies. They all love it here, and all but the once bloomers bloom 10-11 months of the year.

We cannot grow the old European once bloomers - we do not have enough winter chill. My favorites are the teas and chinas, which love our climate and never seem to stope blooming, and are healthy.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 1:01PM
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Thank you everyone! Mary, thank you for your kind words on the job situation. This economy has been so difficult, hasn't it? I left a wonderful teaching position to accept my fellowship at NYU, and it wasn't an easy decision. I think my question has come up because I am putting my house in Kansas on the market. Because of that, I am losing my 45 rose bushes that I've planted and tended there. It's prompting me to dream about where to put the next garden. :-) Of course, the reality is that I'll need to accept the job that comes, wherever it is. But the dream.... that's another matter altogether! :-) Thanks to everyone who replied! You've given me lots to think about.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 1:25PM
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nanadollZ7 SWIdaho(Zone 7 Boise SW Idaho)

I don't know if our climate here in SW Idaho is the best in the US for roses, but it's certainly a good one. Because this area is semi-arid, we don't have blackspot or significant problems with any fungal or bacterial diseases. I have never sprayed my roses. Japanese beetles aren't around, either. We have little precipitation, but because this area was originally developed for agriculture, there is a wonderful system of dams and reservoirs. We don't have water rationing and water isn't as expensive as in many areas, probably because the population density is low. It can be moderately cold with little snow in winter, but I have never lost a rose to the cold nor had significant cane death from it, and I don't do any winter protection.

So, I agree that parts of California are probably heaven for roses, I think where I live is a pretty good runner up.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 1:54PM
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Diane, it's kinda ironic, I had just been internet searching warmer zones in the USA that are likely ideal for gardening and growing roses ... SW Idaho is what I had put my finger for what I consider several positive climatic conditions. I require my long winter break and would not desire a year round warm climate, a winter getaway would nicely suffice though! I'm located in cold zone 3 ... don't raze me now, lol ... I actually get very good results with many Hybrid Teas and floribundas, though of course these require deep planting, proper positioning and winter protection. No, I'm not bolstering about my crummy cold climate, though it has influenced me to work on breeding my own line of hardy roses, roses that are not only very attractive, though also laugh off whatever my winters dish out.

Terrance ... with zone envy

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 10:18PM
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North Carolina is wonderful in many ways..warm enough for most teas, Chinas and noisettes but gets enough winter chill for the OGR's that need it. It is not an area free from diseases that affect roses, but where I am there is not much mildew and there is no rust. I like the four seasons. East of the mountains we've been having periods of drought which can be stressful for gardeners. West of the mountains there is more rain. If you like hills, there are plenty of them in the western part of the state. We can also grow peonies, some lilacs, and other plants that need winter chill. There are lots of flowering trees..beautiful in spring. I think Tennessee is better for taxes. There are some universities up in the mountains in NC and VA. The mountains are heaven in spring, summer, and fall. I think you can even grow delphiniums up there. We have Japanese beetles but they're not that big a deal to me. Cost of living is less here than some places.
Even in summer it usually cools off enough at night that mornings are pleasant.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 10:28AM
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I don't recommend Wisconsin. Roses are difficult here as the humid summers encourage blackspot and the cold winters take the strength out of a lot of the modern roses.

I'm not even going to talk about the politics right now.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 12:27PM
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I would not recommend growing roses in Northeastern Montana (also additional problem that any colleges are over 6 hours away). Too damn cold. However, if you like a challenge, there is always room for another crazy rose gardener...

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 12:50PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

In this economy, I'd worry about the job first. Where ever you end up, there will be wonderful plants to grow--perhaps not roses, but the world of plants is huge and the wonders of them are innumerable. One lifetime is hardly enough to enjoy them.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 3:45PM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

I live in MA and RI, grew up in red clay DC, and yet when I think of an ideal rose-growing area I see California's Bay Area: like Goldilocks' porridge it is not too hot, not too cold. And one can garden year 'round. Just right.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 4:08PM
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alameda/zone 8

I live and garden in east Texas, 2 hours from Tyler which is the rose capitol of Texas. Lots of nurseries, beautiful yards, rolling land. My favorite road trip is to go to Tyler. David Austin's US office is there. Chamblees Roses and lots of other great nurseries. I love the trees in this area. We get just enough winter to be glad it doesnt last long. Not much snow/ice - a little. Spring lasts a long time. Yes, summer is hot, and I have to water. Fall is glorious. The saying in Texas is - if you dont like the weather - wait a day. My northern friends cant abide the heat, but I can get outside and water, esp. in early morning and evenings. You cant do anything in the snow and ice but sit inside. You might pick a few places that sound interesting, research them then go visit. Fun way to see the country!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 8:06PM
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> There are some universities up in the mountains in NC and VA.

Asheville, NC is pretty much heaven on earth in numerous ways; there's good reason so many people with retirement choices for all over the country choose Asheville. The elevation in the city proper is fairly low and it isn't beset with ice, snow, and frigid winds all winter as some of the higher elevations in the NC/VA mountain areas might be - and it's a beautiful small city in a breathtakingly beautiful area.

The one difficulty with Asheville is in finding property that isn't too very steep. With a really steep lot, you'd need to do a good bit of terracing and figure out something creative on getting a driveway close to your doorway so you wouldn't have too much car-slipping down the driveway on those few days when pavements are icy. (Yes, a small amount of slippery iciness in winter happens almost every year in most areas of the state, but the steeper the incline, the more difficult the driving becomes.)

I'm familiar with the public university in Asheville, UNC-Asheville, a small but wonderful school in every way, and the faculty there are extraordinarily happy with their situation. NC is overall a really nice state to live in, besides being good for gardening.

Well, here's wishing you a tough time deciding between multiple competing excellent job offers from a bunch of different very desirable places...


    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 11:10PM
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petaloid(SoCal 10a/24)

It looks to me like the Pacific Northwest has a great climate, judging by the size of their blooms and bushes.
I'm in the coastal Pacific Southwest, and it's nice rose weather here too. We don't need to winter protect.
Not as much trouble with "real" blackspot as in other areas, and I haven't seen rose rosette or Japanese beetles (yet).

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 11:34PM
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harryshoe zone6 eastern Pennsylvania

I think you need a checklist of avoidance:

Japanese Beetles
Black Spot
Temps below 25
Excessive heat
Hard pan clay soil

I've always thought that N California, S Oregon, SW Idaho and NW Nevada were the target area.

Good luck

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 10:00AM
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dimitrig(SoCal z10a/21)

You'd think that Northern California/Oregon/Washington/Vancouver provide the best climate, but in actuality I think Southern California and central California are better. I base this on the number of successful commercial nurseries, botanical gardens, and farms in this region as compared to farther north and the varieties of plants they grow. I visited the rose gardens in Portland and they were very nice but not so good the rest of the year. Right now in Southern California one can find roses in bloom. In fact, I have a Perfect Moment with a bloom on it.

The only real downsides to gardening here are:

1. You MUST irrigate and it is expensive (and getting worse) to do so.

2. You cannot grow plants that need winter cold (like peonies) or cool year-round temperatures like some conifers. I wish that I could have tulips or crocus naturalize here.

3. There is never a chance to just sit back and take a break. Every weekend I miss in the garden because I go out of town or for whatever reason is just a killer to me. The list of things I need to get done in the yard is long and getting longer. It would be great to have two or three months where nothing needed to be done and I could focus on the interior of the house or something else entirely. I have resisted for a long time, but I think I am close to hiring a landscaper/gardener to do some of the more mundane chores in the yard like pruning and raking.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 7:52PM
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brhgm(z8b LA)

There are roses for almost any climate these days. I can grow Noisettes, Teas, Polyanthas, some Austins, some Hybrid Teas and Florabundas and most modern roses. It is true, Baton Rouge is wetter, more humid and hot nine months out of the year. However, we have really fertile soil, lots of sunshine, no snow, many wonderful nurseries and an active rose society. Plus, it's really cheap to live here. It took many many years of trial and error to find roses that work well here, but I am totally no spray and mostly organic. Good gardening is an obsession.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 9:39AM
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We can grow all the warm weather roses here in Polk County. Contrary to belief, I don't have much problem with blackspot except in the fall when we sometimes have many overcast days in a row.

However, central Florida soil is sand and must be amended heavily to grow anything (the digging is easy, though). Our seasons are reversed. What everyone else plants in spring, we must plant in early fall to winter. However, we can grow any annuals here during this time: larkspur, baby's breath, delphinium, foxgloves, lupines, nasturtium, etc. Many plants, though, that don't bloom until the second year rot in our summers.

Water is becoming a problem here, but isn't bad yet except on the coast and further south. I have an irrigation well, and so far don't have severe restrictions with it.

If I had my druthers, I think I would be in the Florida panhandle, rather that central Florida, but it gets much colder up there.

It is very hot and muggy here in the summer, and with global warming, getting worse every year. Florida gardeners consider our summers like you cold climate gardeners consider your winters--it's a time to stay indoors and look at rose porn. However, we do have the option of getting out early morning and early evening to get a few things done unlike those of you covered in snow.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 8:15PM
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I always thought that coastal Oregon was said to be the most like England and if you wanted to grow Austin roses, that would be a nice place to do so. Also they have lovely delphiniums and other cottage type flowers. If you like to grow fruit, there are good climates nearby for that as well.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 9:35PM
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kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)

My opinion is New Jersey for the best roses. They don't call it the "Garden State" for nothing. I grew up there, and visit often to see relatives. We lived along the coastal area, central Jersey near Sandy Hook. Oh the beautiful gardens! It makes me jealous now that I live in Ohio what gorgeous plants they can grow there well. Roses do great there, and oh the hydrangeas! I only wish mine would do as well. I believe the soil is on the acidic side, because most hydrangeas I see there, are blooming blue, and I know they grow great blueberries there. The soil is rich in nutrients, but also contains I'm sure more sand then I have (near the coast anyways).
New Jersey gets my vote for gardening! That being said, it is quite an expensive state to live in.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 11:05AM
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mark_roeder(4B IA)

Iowa is not the best either. I think we have every rose enemy, blackspot, powdery mildew, RRD, occasional spider mites, Japanese Beetles, crown gall, I am sure others too.

Gardeners seem to admire someone who can grow clean looking roses, because most people can't do it.

So if you are looking for a challenging environment, try Iowa.

My parents are now in Arizona, and in the spring time their roses look great, and are tall with lots of flowers, and no diseases. They have a drip system for watering.

My sister in Colorado Springs probably has an almost ideal environment. It is not humid. The summers are not as warm. They do not have disease issues like we do here. They might have critter issues, esp. deer. But you need to water, and she doesn't, and the roses I have seen there in mid-summer are disease free, and flower free. Regular watering would turn that around.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 6:04PM
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