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How Do I Choose the Best Fragrant Roses?

Britt Archer
Britt Archer

A gardener who wants to grow fragrant roses has many types of roses to choose from and many different variations on the traditional rose scent as well. Choosing the best fragrant roses involves first determining which type of rose will do best in your particular geographic location, how much room you have to devote to the roses in your garden and also which rose fragrance you wish to incorporate in your garden.

There are more than 24 different and distinct scents produced by roses, including the traditional and deeply fragrant sweet scent of old roses, which is typically what people associate with the flowers. Most roses in the hybrid tea category give off one of a handful of scents that include old rose, clover and apple. Other rose scents include honey, pepper, lily of the valley and moss. Other fragrant roses give off scents that are a mixture of these aromas.

A red rose.
A red rose.

Agriculturists and rose breeders have discovered that the scent of many fragrant roses is dependent on the weather or even the time of day, with some emitting their scent in the early daylight hours and none at all later in the day. Cooler days may stifle the scent of other roses. If consistency is important to you, there are varieties, such as Chrysler Imperial, that you can choose from that will provide outstanding fragrance no matter what the weather is.

A yellow rose.
A yellow rose.

Another method that will help you to choose fragrant varieties of roses is to correlate the fragrance with the color of the petals, although this method is not foolproof. In general, roses whose color falls within shades of pink and red smell more like a traditional rose scent. Yellow and paler roses more often give off a different fragrance, such as violet or orris.

A bouquet of roses.
A bouquet of roses.

Not all roses are fragrant, but there are many different varieties that are, and often their names will give a clue, such as Fragrant Cloud and Perfume Delight. Gardeners who are looking for highly fragrant roses are not limited to hybrid teas, but may extend their search to include fragrant climbing roses such as America, a white variety, and floribundas, such as Apricot Nectar. Among hybrid teas, Mr. Lincoln is considered an attractive and fragrant variety. Roses that have won awards for their outstanding fragrance can be found by consulting the American Rose Society.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - Actually, roses can smell fairly distinctive. I always enjoy the scents whenever I go walking in a rose garden.

In fact I think that's probably the best way for someone who isn't that familiar with roses to get a good idea of which ones are worth planting in their own garden.

Often botanic gardens will have roses and they usually pick hardy types that aren't going to need a huge amount of care, so they will be fairly easy for beginners to grow. You can get a good look and smell of them to see which kind appeals to you.

If I was going to suggest anything, it would probably be Double Delight, which is a very pretty rose and smells lovely. My grandfather used to grow them and I've always had a soft spot for that variety.


@pastanaga - There are a lot of rose collections with hundreds of different specimens for the public to view, so it might be that someone has managed to collect all the different scents without specifically meaning to do that.

I doubt the scents are all that distinctive though. They are probably fairly similar and when one is described as "pepper" I doubt it would actually smell like pepper smells, but rather would just have a little tang of that scent mixed in with the classic rose smell.


I didn't realize there was a finite number of different kinds of scents for roses. I wonder if anyone has ever tried to collect every type of scent in a single garden for people to try. I'd be interested to see what the more unusual ones smell like.

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