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Winter Hardy Roses for Montana Rosarians

When talking about winter hardiness in roses or any plant for that matter, one must also consider zones and microclimates.  Although Montana is generally considered to be a Zone 4, according to the U S Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone Map, I believe we live in a Zone 5.  My husband John and I live at the base of the South Hills, where we are somewhat protected from cold winter winds.  The homes on our street are situated in such a way that helps protect our roses from wind as well.  We have virtually no trouble in growing Zone 5 plants.  We are able to grow some Zone 6 plants with protection.  This would be due to a microclimate in our area.  However Rosarians who live up the Rattlesnake Canyon or in the Big Flat area may well be a Zone 4 due to lack of sunlight or little protection from winds.  So when I talk about winter hardy roses for my yard, it may not be true for a rose grower across town.  My best advice would be to try different rose varieties until you find ones that work for you and continue to grow those varieties.

Another thing to consider is the class of a rose.  Some classes are naturally hardier than others.  Most rugosas, miniatures and modern shrubs will flourish in Zone 3 to 5 climates.  Many classes of Old Garden Roses are winter tender such as Noisettes, Portland, and Tea Roses and shouldnt be considered for gardens less than a Zone 6.  What we plant in our garden is often one that tends to be winter hardy in the first place.  We are very diligent about covering the roses that arent naturally hardy, so we lose very few roses each year (usually an average of two to three).  We have approximately 400 roses, so that isnt a bad average.

The following is a list of roses I would recommend without hesitation to any rose grower in western Montana.  It is just a small sampling of the many roses you can grow.  (Some of them do require some protection.)

  • Dublin Bay (large flowered climber) was one of the first climbing roses we planted.  It needs some protection but it has many beautiful medium red blooms.  It looks very nice on a trellis.

  • Marilyn Monroe (hybrid tea) has only been around three years, but we have two of them.  It is an exhibition rose with a very nice apricot color and mild citrus fragrance.

  • Gemini (hybrid tea) is a winner in the garden and on the show table.  It is a pink and white and was an All-American Rose selection winner in 2000.

  • Agnes (hybrid rugosa) is my favorite of all rugosas.  Although it is early and once-blooming, it is worth it to see the bush covered in literally hundreds of gorgeous yellow blooms, but watch her thorns because they bite!  It needs no protection and is easy to grow.

  • Madame Hardy (damask) is a pretty white that will tolerate some shade.  It is, as the name implies, a hardy rose.  It dates back to 1832.

  • Jude the Obscure (David Austin) is a must if you like fragrance.  We have been growing that rose since it was introduced in 1997.  It needs no protection and has a lovely yellow, almost apricot color.  It likes a cooler climate and fades in the heat.

  • Touch of Class (hybrid tea) is one of our favorite roses.  We have three of them in different areas of the garden and all three have survived with some protection.  It is almost always in perfect form and has won its share of awards.  It is a nice orange pink and holds up in a vase well.

  • Iceberg (floribunda) is one of the few whites we dont have to worry about.  We have had to move it a couple of times because it keeps outgrowing the space we allowed for it.  It has been around since 1958 and is still a popular floribunda for landscaping. 

  • Betty Boop (floribunda) is a beautiful red-blend if you like single-petaled roses.  She does need some protection but she has exhibition quality and is attractive in the garden.

  • Double Delight (hybrid tea) has both a delightful color and fragrance.  If it doesnt win a trophy for exhibition, it will win one for fragrance.  It was an All-American Rose Selection winner in 1977, a must for every garden.

Here are some other roses you should be able to grow in Montana with winter protection.


Name Type Color
Elina    ht  yellow blend
Leibezauber   ht  medium red
Marijke Koopman   ht  medium pink
Pristine     ht  white
Moonstone   ht  white
Opening Night  ht deep red
Polarstern ht white
Marmalade Skies f orange blend
Sheilas Perfume  f yellow blend
Lavaglut   f deep red
Our Lady of Guadalupe f pink blend
Sexy Rexy  f medium pink
Crimson Bouquet gr medium red
Earth Song gr deep pink
Fame gr medium red
Octoberfest  gr orange blend
Queen Elizabeth gr medium red
The Fairy pol medium pink


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Updated July 02, 2004
Copyright 2004 ARS Pacific Northwest District