Are Roses Considered Annual, Biennial or Perennial Shrubs?

Interested in planting some roses in your garden, but wondering if they’ll come back every year? Roses are a timeless flower, providing beauty, fragrance, and color to gardens from formal to cottage. In this article, we help you understand the difference between annual, biennial, and perennial plants, and how the life cycle of roses will play out in your garden!

roses annual or perennial

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Gardeners have been in love with roses for thousands of years. These beautiful shrubs add gorgeous color, form, and scent wherever they’re planted.  Once established, they are tough and long-blooming. But are roses annuals or perennials?

Perhaps you’re wondering if roses will be just a one season commitment, or if once planted, they’ll grace your garden with blooms for years to come. What about planting roses in containers? Can roses survive harsh winters?

In this article, we’ll look at the life cycle of roses, their growing stages, and what you can expect when adding them to your garden. Let’s dig in!

The Short Answer

Roses are perennials and will come back every year. There are many varieties that will thrive from the cold of zone 2 to the warmth of zone 11. If you live in a climate with extreme seasons and plant a rose that isn’t adapted to your zone, it may die and fail to come back the following year.

The Long Answer

Red flowers with arstut buds behind a blue wooden fence. Roses are large, lush, double, have rounded bright red petals arranged in several layers. The leaves are green, matte, consist of several oval leaflets with serrated edges.
Roses are generally perennials that can survive in most hardiness zones.

Whether or not roses will come back for you every year depends on your hardiness zone. In nearly all zones, roses are perennials and will continue to grow each year. However, in zones with extreme cold or heat (below 2 or above 11) roses might not make it through and will require replacement.

If you’re not sure of your hardiness zone, take a look at the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Roses can generally withstand temperatures from -30℉ to 100℉. If you live in a zone with winter temperatures below -30, make sure to purchase roses grown specifically for cold climates. This will help ensure they’ll come back each year, like the Canadian Explorer series, hardy to zone 2.

Some roses are more adaptable than others to harsh conditions, both hot and cold. Though most roses will survive to 100℉ with adequate water, some delicate varieties will suffer damage.

To ensure you’re purchasing a rose that can handle your conditions, always check the growing zone information on the nursery tag or website description. There are many roses that love the heat and will do well in the hot summers of zones 10-11.

If the wrong rose is planted for your weather, it may die after one season. These roses can be treated like an annual. However, in most gardens, roses will come back faithfully every spring. Let’s take a deeper look at the annual vs. perennial classifications.

Explaining Annual, Biennial, and Perennial

These classifications are familiar to most gardeners. But it’s important to understand what they mean when planning and adding plants in each classification to your garden. The categories can be confusing, especially when many plants are perennial in some hardiness zones, and annual in another!

Heat-loving plants may come back faithfully every year in climates with mild winters. They may also be killed back by freezing temperatures in colder areas.

In the mild winter zone, the plant would be perennial, growing back each spring. In climates with harsh winters, it would be grown as an annual, dying after one season.

Annual

Close-up of blooming white bushes in a sunny garden. The bushes are lush, erect, consist of strong stems covered with sharp thorns and pinnately compound dark green leaves consisting of oval leaflets with serrated edges. The flowers are large, lush, double, with ruffled white petals and yellow centers.
Annuals complete their life cycle within a single growing season, usually requiring replanting each year.

Annuals are plants that live for one year. Their life cycle lasts one growing season, from seed to full grown plant that produces new seeds. Once an annual has produced seed, it has achieved its reproductive goal, and dies. Annual plants generally need to be replanted each year.

Annuals are popular because they bloom for an entire season, providing an abundance of color to the garden. They also can be changed yearly, as many gardeners prefer to switch up their garden designs for new looks and color palettes.

Some annuals reseed readily, making people think they are perennials. In actuality, their parent plant dropped seeds and died, which then germinated into new plants!

Gardeners who love their annual color but don’t want to replant each year should check out annuals that reseed, like cosmos, bachelor’s buttons, and calendula.

Biennial

Close-up of blooming pink bushes in a sunny garden. The bush is large, lush, has beautiful clusters of double pink flowers with wavy petals along the edges. The leaves are oval, matte green with serrated edges.
Biennial plants complete their life cycle over two years.

Plants that are considered biennial have a 2-year life cycle. In their first year, the seed grows roots, stems, and leaves. In the 2nd year, the plant produces flowers and seeds.

Once the biennial plant produces new seeds, it dies. Hollyhocks and foxglove are two popular biennial garden plants that develop lush green growth in their first year, with flowers the next.

If your biennials are well-established, they may seem like reseeding annuals or perennials, as the cycle of each individual plant can alternate from those around it, with some flowers produced each season.

Perennial

Close-up of blooming bushes in a sunny garden. The bush has erect green stems with small sharp spikes and pinnately compound dark green leaves. The buds are large, double, peony-shaped, apricot color.
Perennial plants can live for three years or more, with some blooming briefly in spring.

A perennial plant is technically any plant that lives for 3 or more years. However, there is a huge range within this group, with some plants lasting 3 years, and others living into the hundreds!

Some perennials are ephemerals, blooming for a short period each spring before dying back to the ground, as if they were never there. Others bloom repeatedly throughout the summer, then leave an interesting structure with berries or color to enjoy all winter.

Some perennials experience a bit of die-back in winter frost, but will grow back healthy and larger every spring. Regardless of type, it’s always a good idea to make perennials the foundation of your garden. This way, you won’t have to start from scratch every year.

Another perk of perennials is that many of them are easy to propagate, giving you new plants for free to expand your garden or share with friends.

Depending on the plant, you can grow new perennials from cuttings, layering, or dividing. Popular perennials that are particularly easy to propagate are sedum, lavender, and hardy geraniums.

Hardiness Zones

Close-up of blooming colorful blooming bushes in a sunny garden. The bushes consist of erect stems covered with complex pinnate leaves consisting of many oval green leaves with serrated edges. The flowers are large, double, consist of many layers of rounded petals. The flowers are peach, rich purple and pale pink.
A plant’s hardiness indicates its ability to survive in specific climates.

A plant’s hardiness describes its ability to survive in the growing conditions of a specific climate. The zones are determined by the lowest winter temperatures, indicating whether or not a plant can make it through your climate’s coldest months.

Roses are hardy to a wide variety of zones, meaning most can withstand cold winters and continue to grow.

The majority of roses will thrive in zones 5-8. Gardeners in these zones have the luxury of selecting from a huge variety, knowing that they will come back every year with good care.

However, gardeners in zones 2-4 and 9-11 still have lots of rose options that will perform beautifully in their climates. They just need to be more careful about selecting roses that are well-adapted to their zone. Some roses even prefer more extreme cold or heat. 

If you have fallen in love with a rose that is not hardy to your zone, you’ll want to give it lots of winter protection to give it the best chance of making it through the cold.

Roses: Annuals or Perennials?

Close-up of a beautiful blooming rose bush outdoors. The bush is young, has erect stems of purple-green color, covered with pinnately compound leaves consisting of oval matte green leaflets with serrated edges. The flowers are small, classic rose-shape, consisting of rich orange-scarlet petals.
Roses are perennials with varying lifespans, ranging from 10 years for hybrid teas to over 50 years.

All roses are perennials. It takes more than 2 years to complete their life cycle. In fact, the average lifespan of hybrid teas is around 10 years, while native and climbing roses can live for 50 years or more!

In fact, the longest living rose today is the famed Rose of Hildesheim, in Germany. This dog rose is thought to have been planted in the year 815 and is still growing strong!

Roses are woody perennials, meaning their structure of stems and leaves doesn’t die back to the ground, and instead gets bigger each year.

While some rose canes can be damaged by frost, in general, your rose shrub will remain through the winter and sprout new green growth each spring. Some other common woody perennials are hydrangeas and fruit trees.

Dormancy

Flowerbed with rose bushes in early spring. Rose bushes with bare branches after winter with roots protected by a layer of sawdust mulch.
Roses go dormant in winter to store energy for the next bloom cycle in spring, even in warmer zones.

Roses enter a period of dormancy each winter. During this time, they drop their leaves and begin a rest period that allows them to store energy for their next bloom cycle in spring. Dormant roses can appear dead, but they are just sleeping until temperatures warm up!

Even in very warm zones, roses like a minimum dormant period of 4-6 weeks. Gardeners in zones 9-11 won’t experience the cold temperatures that trigger dormancy and will need to force their roses to go dormant. This is optional, but is believed to result in longer-lasting, better-performing varieties.

To force dormancy, gardeners should stop fertilizing, pruning, and deadheading, and reduce water. If blooms are left on the rosebush, it will develop hips, signaling that it’s time to rest and build up nutrients for regrowth and abundant blooms.

Overwintering

Close-up of a rose bush covered with white burlap to protect against winter frosts, in an autumn garden. On the green grass lies a lot of orange leaves from the trees.
To protect roses from cold temperatures, use rose collars or burlap bags along with a heavy layer of mulch.

If you’ve planted roses that are hardy in your growing zone, you don’t need to do anything special to get them through the winter. However, what if you experience an usually cold spell? What if you planted a rose that you just couldn’t resist, even though it doesn’t thrive in your zone?

In these situations, you’ll want to provide some extra winter protection. Consider using rose collars or burlap bags along with a heavy layer of mulch to shelter them from cold temperatures. In windy areas, construct a barrier to protect from damage and broken canes.

If you’d like to grow your roses in containers, choose a variety hardy to 2 zones below yours. Container-grown roses are more susceptible to dying from freeze than those whose roots have the protection of the ground.

 Fortunately, sensitive container roses can also be moved to an unheated garage or shed to get them through the winter. They still need a cold period to experience dormancy. Don’t keep them too warm by bringing them inside your home.

Treating Roses as Annuals

Close-up of beautifully blooming Chinese roses in a sunny garden. Roses have large double flowers with outward-curving petals in shades of peach, orange and pink. The leaves are dark green, glossy, pinnately compound, consisting of oval leaflets with serrated edges.
Choosing unsuitable varieties can force gardeners into treating roses as annuals.

Some gardeners inadvertently treat roses as annuals, by choosing varieties that aren’t adapted well for their climate or failing to provide adequate sunshine and water. A rose that struggles through extreme conditions or experiences too much drought and shade may not come back in spring.

Some roses commonly treated like annuals are miniature roses, often given as gifts. This is a shame, as miniature roses are quite hardy. They will do wonderfully planted in the ground for years to come with basic care.

If you live below zone 2 or above zone 11, you may find that roses just can’t handle the harsh cold of your winters or the extreme summer heat.

In these cases, you will have to treat your roses as annuals. Or, you can provide them with special protection any time temperatures are too extreme. Similar to tender houseplants, your roses can still thrive for years with careful care and moving them to shelter as needed.

Final Thoughts

Roses are long-lived, tough perennials in most climates. They can grow to form a stunning hedge or climbing centerpiece, providing a memorable focal point for your garden. Use roses as the backbone of your beds and surround them with beautiful herbaceous perennials or colorful annuals.

This way, you know your garden’s structure will be beautiful, and you can play with color and new designs in your companion plants. Many roses are an investment, so choose those hardy to your gardening zone for the best chance of long-life and success!

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