Top 5 - Canadian Shrub Roses

Top 5 Hardy Canadian Shrub Roses (Zone 3-10)

If you have never grown a shrub rose or two, this is the year! Canadian shrub roses are easy to grow, extremely winter hardy, and once established, do not need winter protection! Most are highly resistant to black spot, a breeze to prune, and bloom from late May right up until the end of October. Some are even fragrant! What more can you ask for!

Canadian shrub roses are divided into four collections or series. All were developed in Canada beginning in the 1920’s, and continue on today. The first Agriculture Canada research stations were located in Morden Manitoba, L’Assomption, Quebec and Ottawa, Ontario.

These research stations were closed in 2008 but not before many new cultivars of Canadian winter hardy roses were introduced onto the garden centre market. After they were closed, rose breeding material was passed on to the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, in the Niagra region of Ontario. The Canadian Nursery and Landscape Association has partnered with the Vineland station to continue this rose breeding work. They have owned the rights to Agriculture/Agri-food Canada hardy rose breeding program for more than 10 years. Royalties from the sale of these roses are split between the research centre and the CNLA. It takes many years of research, testing and evaluation to choose possible candidates that are sent to commercial growers across Canada who evaluate their winter hardiness and disease resistance. A very lucky few, 1-3 yearly are released for retail sale in garden centres.

The four series/collections began with the Parkland Series. They are not quite as hardy as the Explorer series but are grown on their own roots. The Parkland series encompasses a wide range of colors, and many are resistant to black spot and powdery mildew. Missing in this series are climbers and blooms with fragrance. Some Parkland cultivars are Winnipeg Parks, Morden Sunrise (2000), Morden Ruby, Morden Centennial (1990), Hope for Humanity, Morden Amorette, Morden Snow Beauty, Morden Cardinette and Adelaide Hoodless.

My first pick for Top 5 shrub roses is Rosa ‘Morden Fireglow’ (1989) - Zone 2a!


Morden Fireglow is aptly named. It is an extremely winter hardy shrub rose with orange scarlet blooms that show up like blazing firelight from a campfire. Planted in odd numbers in the landscape, they are truly breathtaking.

Height: 1 m. Spread: 80 cm. Full Sun

Flowers appear in clusters and and make beautiful cut flowers. The foliage is dark green. Fall leaf color is yellow and it is very disease resistant.




My second pick is a Parkland Rose as well. Rosa ‘Morden Blush’ - Zone 2a!

Height: 1m. Spread: 1m Full Sun

The blooms of Morden Blush resemble tea roses, beginning with clusters of pink buds and transition into soft pink and ivory double flowers. Bloom time is from late spring to late summer; often late into fall. Morden Blush makes a beautiful cut flower and reminds you of roses in a Victorian cottage scene. The foliage is glossy green, turning yellow in fall. Orangey - red hips form from mid to late fall.

The second series of hardy shrub roses is the Explorer Series, each one named for a Canadian Explorer. Most Explorer roses have semi-double blooms and are usually in shades of pink or red. A few are fragrant. Like the Parkland Series, most are repeat bloomers and are disease resistant. The first rose in this series, Martin Frobisher, was introduced in 1968. Two climbing shrub roses are in this series: John Cabot and John Davis.

My third Top 5 choice is from the Explorer Series - Rosa ‘Lambert Closse’ (1995) Zone 2a

Height: 1-1.2 m. Spread: 1-1.2 m. Full Sun Mildly fragrant

This is a stunning shrub rose with double pink blooms that resemble hybrid tea rose flowers. The blooms are borne in clusters of three with the inner petals being deep pink; the outer a lighter shade of pink. Bloom time is from June into September. The foliage is a glossy dark green and resistant to black spot, mildew and rust.

The Canadian Artist Series is fairly recent and each rose is named for a Canadian Artist. They are the result of the hard work of independent Canadian rose breeders. The latest introduction from this series is Rosa ‘Oscar Peterson” which is a semi-double white bloom. Also part of this series is Tom Thompson (aka Campfire), Felix LeClerc, Bill Reid and my fourth Top 5 pick - Rosa ‘Emily Carr’.

Zone 3 Height: 1 m. Spread: 1.2 m. Full Sun

Emily Carr stands out in the landscape as her flowers are semi-double and deep red. They are borne in clusters and stand out against the disease resistant dark green glossy foliage. Bloom time is from late spring to late summer; and often into late fall. This rose blooms in flushes throughout the growing season. The foliage color in fall is yellow.


The 49th Parallel Collection

The last series of Canadian shrub roses is the most current with Rosa ‘Yukon Sun’ being introduced into the retail market this spring! This collection comes from the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.

Yukon Sun is an extremely hardy, disease resistant shrub rose that withstands winter temperatures of minus 40 C.

This rose is a welcome addition to the shrub rose world as it is golden yellow in color.

Height: 1-1.5 m Spread: 1 m. Full Sun

Resistant to black spot and powdery mildew. It is the first yellow rose in this series.

Check height and spread – some say 1 m x 1 m.

Dark green foliage and continuous bloom.

Other shrub roses in this collection are Canadian Shield (2017), Chinook Sunrise (2019) and Aurora Borealis (2021) with many more cultivars being tested for future releases!

Location and Soil Preparation

May and June are the best months to plant shrub roses. Hot days in July are not recommended as the loss of plant moisture from the leaves and stems will be extremely stressful on the plant. Newly planted shrubs will be busy putting out roots the first two or three weeks so do not expect too much top growth during that period.

Shrub roses love the sun. Six hours or more per day is ideal. Avoid planting near building overhangs, large shrubs and trees.

Amend your soil to a foot in depth with compost, well - rotted manure and shredded coir to aide in providing good drainage for the area. Before planting, soak the root ball in a root booster/water solution or mix Mykes Tree and Shrub Mycorrhizae into the backfill soil. Mykes is a natural product that is made up of living organisms so keep any excess in normal room temps. Do not expose to hot or freezing temperatures. Mykes also has a best before date that is on the side of each container. Do not add any other fertilizer at planting time.


Most shrub roses grown for retail sale are grown in containers; usually the 2 gallon size. They are grown on their own roots unlike hybrid tea roses which are grafted onto a hardier root stock. When grown on their own roots, shrub roses are able to maintain the hardiness they need to get through a Canadian winter. If for some reason the plant dies back to the ground over a winter the root-ball will send up the exact same shrub and flowers the following spring. Water your rose thoroughly in the pot before planting.

Carefully remove the plastic/fibre pot. If you have trouble removing the root-ball from the pot, carefully cut the pot away. The top of the root-ball when planted should be at soil level when backfilled. I recommend backfilling around the root-ball half way up, water with the root-booster/water mix and finish backfilling. Water again with the root-booster mix. Wait a month and then fertilize with a half strength application of water soluble rose fertilizer making sure the soil around the rose is well watered first. Afterwards fertilize once a month from late spring to the end of July. If you choose to use Mykes, save the root booster/water mix to apply in the early spring of the second season after planting.

General Care

Water shrub roses at ground level only. Overhead watering will encourage foliage diseases. In Saskatchewan it is advisable to mulch 5-7 cm. deep around the base of the plant – especially the first two winters. Do not pile the mulch over the central trunk. Mulch will keep moisture in and give the young plant a bit of winter protection. There is no need to cover or wrap the shrub.


Shrub roses grow on new wood every year. Pruning is only required if you would like to shape the shrub in early spring. At this time, you can remove damaged wood and crossed branches. Prune when the leaf buds begin to swell.

Shrub roses produce rose hips (their fruit) which are edible. In fact, they produce the most delicious and abundant hips, full of vitamin C. I recommend waiting for a hard frost first before harvesting the hips as the hip becomes sweeter with freezing. Or pick them when fat and red and throw them in the freezer for 24 hours; defrost, then use them in teas, syrups, vinegars and jellies. You can also dry them for safe storage.

Rose petals are also edible but do not eat bouquet roses or roses that have been raised in a nursery. They may have been sprayed with pesticides.


FYI: As a landscape designer, I highly recommend planting long blooming shrub roses anywhere in a sunny garden but especially as part of a perennial border. Their constant color right up until freeze-up will carry the perennials over as their blooms transition from season to season.

All parts of roses are non-toxic to humans and pets.

Shrub roses make great hedge material! Bonus: Little if any pruning is needed.

The Canadian Rose Society (established in 1913) is a registered non-profit managed by volunteers. Rose education is their number one goal. Of course, they focus on Canadian developed roses. Go to for more information.

***Please note that the shrub roses listed in this blog may or may not be listed in Floral Acre’s inventory.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published