What Is a Tree Rose? Intro to Rose Standards and Care Tips

Updated June 15, 2022
Beautiful pink rose trees in the garden in summer

If you're looking to add a unique pop of color to your garden, consider adding a few tree roses to your landscape. The first thing you need to know about tree roses is that they aren't actually trees at all. Learn about tree roses and decide if they'd be a great ornamental addition to your garden.

Rose Tree Characteristics

What Is a Tree Rose?

Tree roses are often referred to as rose standards. That is because they represent an example of what is called a standard in the horticulture industry. A standard is created when a plant that is bushy (such as a rose) is grafted or trained to "stand" on top of a stem so that it looks like a small tree with a lollipop shape. The result is a really lovely and interesting plant that looks like a dwarf tree with roses at the top instead of branches.

Grafted Tree Roses

Most tree roses are grafted. Growers create this type of tree rose by grafting a rosebush to a standard stem, which is a specially selected rose cane. Some also have a rootstock graft. Any kind of rose bush can be used to create a tree rose along with a hardy cane that will serve as the trunk.

  • Growers usually use rosa canina (dog roses) or multiflora roses for the stems of tree roses.
  • These varieties are also used as rootstock for tree roses, as are Dr. Huey and various types of wild roses.

"Own Stem" Tree Roses

Some tree roses are not grafted to a trunk, but are rather trained to grow in the shape of a tree on their own stem. The Polar Joy tree rose is an example of a commercially available "own stem" tree rose. This graft-free tree rose was specifically developed using the Polar Joy rosebush that is known for being hardy in extremely cold conditions.

Growing Conditions for Tree Roses

Tree roses can be planted directly in the ground or in pots. They are a popular patio tree option, but they also work well in borders and any other area of the garden. They do best in full sunlight, but the trunk itself should not be exposed to too much direct sunlight. It's ideal to plant them in an area that gets between six and eight hours of sunlight per day and to position them such that there are some understory plants growing around them to help shade the trunk, or the trunk could experience sunscald. Otherwise, follow ordinary procedures for growing roses.

Growing Companions

Tree roses do really well when planted near many flowers and herbs. Tall flowers such as foxgloves, snapdragons, lavender, and Shasta daisies can help provide protection from sunscald. Parsley and plants in the allium family (garlic, onions, and chives) can help deter pests from your tree roses, as can ever-popular marigolds.

Pruning Tree Roses

Over time, tree roses will begin to lose their shape unless they are properly pruned. You'll need to trim the tree on a regular basis and follow general best practices for pruning trees and shrubs. As you prune, keep the desired lollipop shape in mind. Use sharp pruners to remove any dead wood. You should also remove any of the top branches that are keeping the tree rose from growing into the desired rounded shape or that would cause it to grow too tall. Most people like to keep tree roses under five feet tall, but they'll grow much taller if not cut back.

Tree Rose Care in Cold Climates

With the exception of the Polar Joy tree rose (which is hardy in Zones 4, 5, and 6), most tree roses are hardy in USDA Zones 7 and higher. In Zones 6 and lower, winter temperatures pose a significant concern. In these climates, tree roses either need to be treated as annuals, kept in pots so they can be brought indoors, or taken into a greenhouse during the winter. If you are in a cold area and want to try to keep your tree in the ground over winter, you will need to place a thick layer of hay around the base, spray it with horticultural dormant oil after pruning, and cover the top and graft with burlap. Even so, it may not survive.

DIY Tree Roses

If you are a very adventurous gardener, you can make your own tree roses using suckers from wild or purchased rose bushes and applying your grafting skills to encourage buds to grow in just the right places.

Rose Standards Are Anything but Ordinary

Roses are more than gorgeous on their own; they're truly spectacular when presented in tree form. Consider adding one or more of these lovely ornamentals to your landscape. Just be prepared to protect it from harsh conditions and to prune it to keep the unique shape that makes it such an interesting part of your landscape.

What Is a Tree Rose? Intro to Rose Standards and Care Tips