English Rose Guide: How to Grow & Care for “David Austen” Roses

Read our guide to English Roses for everything you’ll ever need to know! Tips for planting & caring for "Davis Austen" Roses

Roses are some of the most loved, timeless garden plants. Roses symbolize romance and love, although their meaning can change according to their color, number, or variety. The red rose is the symbol of love in many cultures of the world, while a yellow rose is a symbol of friendship and caring. Whether you want to say “I love you!” or “Congratulations!”, roses are the perfect way to express your feelings.

Part of the Rosa genus, roses are flowering perennial plants that have unique features and characteristics. Some can grow as shrubs, while others are ailing or climbing. Most rose species are native to Asia, although some are native to Europe, Africa, and North America. English Roses are some of the most fragrant flowers, so they are becoming increasingly popular with gardeners from all over the world. Considered the perfect rose, the English Rose is the creation of David Austin, a famous rose breeder.

David Austin spent 60 years developing an enormous collection of modern roses that still preserve the exuberant smell and wide color range of old European varieties. Moreover, he added the perk of repeated flowering. David Austin Roses are renowned for their reliability, vigor, and amazing health. Due to their shrubby nature, these graceful roses are ideal for a mixed border, as they combine well with other plants. You can also use them to create a beautiful rose garden, or plant a few in containers. Some varieties can be trained as climbers or as hedges.

Keep on reading to find out how to grow and care for English Roses, the most rewarding roses to have in your garden.

About English Roses

  • There are three main varieties of roses: Modern Roses, Wild Roses, and Old Garden Roses. Most of the roses you see today in gardens belong to the category Modern Roses. Unlike Old Garden Roses, these have been bred to bloom continuously throughout the season. David Austin Roses are the perfect blend between old and modern roses.
  • The English Rose collection is so large that it has been separated into subgroups: English Musk Hybrids, Old Rose Hybrids, English Alba Hybrids, and Leander.
  • David Austin is a fan of British literature, so some English Roses are named after Shakespearean characters, while others honor royalty, castles, or family members, such as the Olivia Rose Austin variety.
  • Since 1961, more than 200 English Roses have been released, many of them winning national and international awards. A number of them are recipients of the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) for outstanding quality. This award is designed to help other gardeners make informed choices about plants.
  • It takes 10 years to create a new English Rose, from pollination to sale. According to David Austin, the process is “a mixture of science, skill, and luck.” The key to success is selecting the two parents and understanding how they might work together.

English Roses Features: An Overview

  • English Roses come in a variety of colors, from whites and pale pinks to vibrant reds, yellows, corals, and oranges. They have soft, cupped blooms with plenty of petals and an intoxicating smell that spreads throughout the garden. Their flowers have some of the highest petal counts of all roses.
  • David Austin Roses are normally hardy to USDA zones 4-5 and above, depending on the variety. Some, such as Gertrude Jekyll can do great in hot and dry areas 10-11.
  • English Roses have shrubby growth and their height can vary from being quite short to very tall, depending on the variety. As shrubs, they look best when planted in groups of three or more.
  • David Austin Roses are valuable in the garden, as they attract bees and other beneficial insects that will help other plants reproduce. Bees are particularly attracted to the single or semi-double flowers which allow them easy access.
  • Some David Austin varieties such as Mortimer Sackler, Litchfield Angel, and The Shepherdess have fewer thorns, making them ideal for areas you frequently walk past or where children and pets play.
English Roses
English Roses

Growing English Roses

David Austin Roses fit in among any other perennials, although they do tend to steal the show and become the star of the garden. Moreover, if deadheaded, after each flush of flowers, they bloom all season. Growing English Roses is easy and rewarding, even for beginner gardeners. Although they tolerate different environments and are more resistant to diseases than other roses, they do have some care requirements.

While they appreciate mild climates and cooler summers, some varieties of English Roses can grow in hot areas. Because their vibrant blooms will fade in direct sun conditions, a little afternoon shade is appreciated. Planting them on the east side of your house can provide these plants with plenty of morning sun.

For warmer zones 9-10, we recommend choosing varieties such as The Lady of the Lake, Port Sunlight, Charles Darwin, Claire Austin, or Benjamin Britten. For colder zones, some good varieties are Olivia Rose Austin, Queen of Sweden, or Winchester Cathedral. If you live in an area with high humidity, choose humidity-resistant varieties such as Gertrude Jekyll, Abraham Darby, and Gentle Hermione, or regularly spray them for fungal disease.

David Austin Roses can benefit from regular pruning in late winter before new growth emerges. By doing this, you ensure that the plants look their best while also encouraging healthy blooms. Prune your roses about one-third of their height to preserve their current shape. Depending on how large you want the shrubs to grow, you can prune more or less. It is best to remove all dead or dying branches to prevent fungal disease and promote air circulation.

Although English Roses are highly resistant plants, they can develop powdery mildew or black spots, in which case you should spray with a fungicide. Try to water early in the day so that the leaves dry out until the sun goes down. Every couple of days, give your roses a direct hit of water to knock off any pests such as aphids. These can be treated with insecticidal soap once established.

Planting English Roses

When planting English Roses, it is important to have well-drained, fertile soil. Potted plants can be planted in spring, but also anytime between spring and fall. In the garden, plant dormant roses in early spring, about 2 feet deep (60 cm). The distance between each plant should be 18 inches (45 cm). Plants of other varieties can be planted about 3 feet away (90 cm).

English Roses Flower Seeds

Keep in mind that bare-root roses must be kept in water for at least 24 hours before planting them. Add some well-rotted manure to the soil and water thoroughly. Next, mound up 6 inches (15 cm) of extra soil, compost, or bark chippings around the base of the plant. This is not necessary for established roses. English Roses require an ample supply of nutrients and can be fed twice per season. We recommend using slow-release granular feeds that are easy to sprinkle on the soil.

You can feed your roses for the first time in late March, just before the leaves completely open. Immediately follow the feeding with mulching. The second feed should take place in early July, after the first bloom. This will encourage the plants to flower again. Once-flowering roses don’t require a second feeding. Remember to always follow the feeding with mulching.

Watering English Roses

To successfully grow David Austin Roses, you must tend to their watering needs. Watering too much or too little can damage the plants, so it is important to water your garden properly. Newly planted roses will need more moisture than established plants, so you might need to water every other day. Throughout the growing season, roses require about an inch (2, 5 cm) of water weekly. It’s often best to water English Roses as the soil line using drip irrigation or soaker hoses, as they can be susceptible to fungal disease. Once established, set a moderate watering schedule that is suitable for your climate.

English Roses
English Roses

Propagating English Roses

Propagating roses from cuttings is the easiest and most popular method. However, this method can fail 10% of the time, as the cuttings lack a root system to take up nutrients. By following a few simple steps you can reproduce your shrubs successfully.

Softwood rose cuttings can be taken from plants in late spring and summer. These root the fastest and easiest. You can also take semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer and early autumn, or hardwood cuttings from mature plants in winter. These are slower and more difficult to root, so we recommend taking softwood cuttings for the best results.

Start by choosing a few stems that have fading flowers and a few leaves attached, and are at least 6 inches (15 cm) long. Use some clean pruning shears and cut at a 45-degree angle below a leaf node. Remove any buds and flowers from the cutting, as well as the lower leaves. It’s best to cut the remaining leaves in half to reduce moisture loss.

Next, dip the bottom of the cutting into rooting powder. Fill a container with a fast-draining growing mix and make a small hole with a pencil. Fit the stem into place and cover it with a plastic bag to create a greenhouse effect. Set it next to a window and keep it warm and moist. In approximately three to four weeks roots will appear. By late fall, young plants should be ready to move to a permanent location in your garden.

In Conclusion

English Roses are one of the most popular garden plants worldwide. These gentle plants carry meaning across different cultures. They can symbolize romance, appreciation, or friendship. English Roses are a hybrid between old roses and modern roses, created by rose breeder David Austin.

They are famous for their beauty, reliability, vigor, and amazing health. These low-maintenance plants can grow in almost any environment, as long as you provide them with well-draining soil, plenty of light, and regular watering. Moreover, David Austin Roses are easy to propagate, so you can fill your garden with these flagrant beauties in no time.

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact

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