Tea Roses: How to Grow and Care for Hybrid Tea Roses and Old-Fashioned Tea Roses

Hybrid and old-fashioned tea roses are perennial gardener favorites. Find out how to take care of these enduring, classic flowers.

August 12, 2020

What Are Tea Roses?

Hybrid Tea Rose 'Adolf  Horstmann'

Hybrid Tea Rose 'Adolf Horstmann'

Fragrant 'Adolf Horstmann' is a gorgeous yellow-gold hybrid tea. It's highly resistant to blackspot and powdery mildew, two common rose diseases.

Photo by: Edmunds' Roses

Edmunds' Roses

Fragrant 'Adolf Horstmann' is a gorgeous yellow-gold hybrid tea. It's highly resistant to blackspot and powdery mildew, two common rose diseases.


Hybrid tea roses and their relatives, old-fashioned tea roses, are beloved for their beauty and fragrance. Many hybrid teas bloom repeatedly from spring into fall, with pointed buds that open into flowers held on long, straight stems. They’re available in almost every color, and they’re ideal for beds, containers and cutting gardens.

Classic teas, sometimes called old-fashioned tea roses, are old garden varieties that usually bloom once a year. Like hybrids, they’re deciduous shrubs. Both types are generally hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

Veterans Honor Hybrid Tea Rose

Veterans Honor Hybrid Tea Rose

The bright red blooms of this hybrid tea rose, 'Veterans Honor,' smell like raspberries and last up to two weeks in vases.

Photo by: Edmunds' Roses

Edmunds' Roses

The bright red blooms of this hybrid tea rose, 'Veterans Honor,' smell like raspberries and last up to two weeks in vases.

Hybrid teas are a cross between classic teas and hybrid perpetual roses. Old-fashioned tea roses are still around, but their popularity has faded since hybrids — featuring brighter colors and stronger, grafted rootstocks — arrived on the scene. Still, they’re a pleasure to grow. They need little spraying or pruning and often have strong perfumes. The stems that hold their blooms in shades of pale orange, yellow, pink and other colors may be weak — but that gives them a charming, nodding habit.

Where to Plant Hybrid Tea Roses and Old-Fashioned Tea Roses


Roses love sunshine, so give them a spot with at least four to six hours of full sun every day. Try to avoid afternoon sun, which can scorch them. Both kinds of roses need a site with good air circulation that is protected from strong winds. They prefer loamy, well-draining soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

How to Plant Tea Roses

'Clouds of Glory' hybrid tea rose

'Clouds of Glory' hybrid tea rose

'Clouds of Glory' matures at about four feet high and wide, so this hybrid tea fits nicely into mixed borders, beds and containers. It's hardy in USDA Zones five to ten.

Photo by: Jackson & Perkins

Jackson & Perkins

'Clouds of Glory' matures at about four feet high and wide, so this hybrid tea fits nicely into mixed borders, beds and containers. It's hardy in USDA Zones five to ten.

Old-fashioned and hybrid tea roses are sold as bare-root plants while they’re dormant in late winter to very early spring. Tea roses in containers are sold when the plants are actively growing, from spring into summer. You can plant potted roses anytime, but for best results, plant before the temperatures soar and dry weather arrives.

To plant bare-root roses, remove any packing materials and soak the roots in a bucket of water for eight to 12 hours. If you have to hold them before planting, such as when the ground is frozen or soggy, “heel” them in. Heeling in means digging a trench in your garden, burying the roots in the trench and covering them with soil. Plant as soon as you can.

If you can’t plant potted roses right away, keep the soil slightly moist and put them in a cool spot. Plant as soon as possible.

To grow hybrid tea roses in your garden, dig a hole wide enough to spread out the roots. Remove any rocks, sticks, grass and weeds.

Hybrid Tea Rose 'Tinke'

Hybrid Tea Rose 'Tinke'

Dark green foliage surrounds the white blooms of 'Tineke,' a hybrid tea rose recommended for USDA Zones 7 and above.

Photo by: Edmunds' Roses

Edmunds' Roses

Dark green foliage surrounds the white blooms of 'Tineke,' a hybrid tea rose recommended for USDA Zones 7 and above.

Make a cone-shaped mound in the hole and put the rose on top of it, draping the roots over the mound. If you live in a warm climate, keep the bud union at soil level. The bud union is the knob on the main stem from which new canes will emerge. If you're in a cold climate, keep the bud union an inch or two below ground level.

Backfill the hole halfway, adding some of the dug soil along with plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Water to eliminate air pockets and add the rest of the soil. Water again.

If you’re planting a rose in a container, choose a large, freeze-resistant container for a cold climate. Move the container into place before you plant, or it will be too heavy later.

Tea Rose 'Moonlight Romantica'

Tea Rose 'Moonlight Romantica'

Buttery-yellow 'Moonlight Romantica' has lush, double blooms reminiscent of an old-fashioned tea rose.

Photo by: Matthias Meilland/Star Roses & Plants

Matthias Meilland/Star Roses & Plants

Buttery-yellow 'Moonlight Romantica' has lush, double blooms reminiscent of an old-fashioned tea rose.

Remove the rose from its nursery pot and gently loosen the roots. Fill the new container with some good potting soil and place the root ball in it. Adjust the level as needed to keep the bud union even with the soil if you live in a warm climate. Keep the bud union one or two inches below the soil if you’re in a cold climate. Gently firm down the soil and water.

Mulch with 2 to 4 inches of wood chips, leaves, bark or pine straw. Give your plants an inch of water a week if rain is scarce. Water at the base to avoid splashing the leaves and spreading disease.

How to Fertilize Old-Fashioned and Hybrid Tea Roses

Roses are heavy feeders, so feed them with a balanced fertilizer or a fertilizer formulated for roses. Start in early spring and feed as recommended on the product label. Stop feeding six weeks before the first expected frost in your area.

How to Prune Tea Roses


Wear gloves and eye protection to guard against thorns. In early March, or just as your hybrid tea roses break dormancy, remove any crossed, dead, diseased or damaged stems and any stems thinner than a pencil. Make 45-degree angle cuts about 1/4-inch above outward-facing buds. Aim to create an open vase shape to let in more light and air. Cut any remaining stems back hard, to 4 to 6 inches long. Rake up and discard any debris around the roses.

Prune Roses Hard in Late Winter

Prune Roses Hard in Late Winter

Pruning can be as simple as deadheading, or it can be much more aggressive. Wait until late winter or very early spring to prune hard.

Photo by: Photo by Mark Wolfe

Photo by Mark Wolfe

Pruning can be as simple as deadheading, or it can be much more aggressive. Wait until late winter or very early spring to prune hard.

Old-fashioned tea roses can be pruned just once a year unless they’ve outgrown their space. If they bloom once a year, prune after they flower in spring. If your classic rose is a repeat bloomer, prune while it’s dormant.

How to Handle Pests on Old-Fashioned and Hybrid Teas

Clean leaf litter and other debris from around your roses so pests and diseases won’t have a place to live or overwinter. Replace old mulch as needed. You may want to apply a dormant spray in the fall to kill any fungi.

Japanese Beetles In Sudsy Water

Japanese Beetles In Sudsy Water

A squirt or two of dishwashing soap and water in a cup is an effective trap for Japanese beetles.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

A squirt or two of dishwashing soap and water in a cup is an effective trap for Japanese beetles.

Japanese beets, thrips, spider mites and aphids can attack roses. When pests appear, first try knocking them off your plants with a strong spray of water from the hose. This is more environmentally friendly than using powders or sprays that can kill harmless or beneficial insects as well as unwanted ones.

If the pests return, wear gloves and try picking off large bugs like Japanese beetles. If the infestation is severe, look for an insecticidal soap or a chemical insecticide made especially for your problem. Read and follow all product directions carefully.

How to Handle Diseases on Old-Fashioned and Hybrid Teas

Black spot, rust, powdery mildew and botrytis blight can attack roses, especially in warm, humid weather. Grow resistant varieties, if possible.

  • Black spot shows up as spots on rose leaves that turn yellow and then black, causing the leaves to drop.
  • Powdery mildew looks like a fine, white powder on your leaves. It stunts foliage and disfigures buds.
  • Botrytis blight is a fuzzy, gray fungus that makes buds drop or turn brown and shrivel up.

If symptoms appear, treat for the disease as soon as possible. Some sprays contain both fungicides and insecticides, so you can treat for certain pests at the same time. Remove infected canes, but don’t compost them, since pests and diseases can spread.

Black Spot Disease on Roses

Black Spot Disease on Roses

Black spot is a fungal disease that can defoliate and kill roses.

Photo by: Lynn Coulter

Lynn Coulter

Black spot is a fungal disease that can defoliate and kill roses.

Winter Protection for Tea Roses in Cold Climates

After the first frost, but before the ground freezes, remove and discard any dead rose canes. Cut remaining canes to about 36 inches. Mulch your roses after the first few frosts, but again, before the ground freezes, and remove mulch in the spring.

If you live where the temperatures stay below freezing all winter, make a cylinder around your rose bushes from strong mesh wire and stuff it with protective materials like compost, pine needles or chopped leaves.

Where to Buy Tea Roses

In general, companies take orders for hybrid tea roses starting in October. Shipping begins in February or at the appropriate time for planting in your area. You may also find tea roses sold at your local garden center. For best results, choose varieties recommended for your region.

The following companies sell old-fashioned tea roses. Check each website for shipping dates.

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