How to Grow and Care for Hybrid Tea Roses

Broadway Hybrid Rose
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Hybrid tea roses, a cross between hybrid perpetual roses and old-fashioned tea roses, are rose royalty. They are the most popular rose in the world and perhaps the most popular flower. Hybrid teas have all the virtues you look for in a flower: beauty, fragrance and easy care.

What Makes Hybrid Tea Roses Different From Other Roses?

Hybrid teas generally produce only one blossom at the end of each stem, rather than clusters of flowers and they have an open rather than bushy habit. Virtually all hybrid tea roses are repeat bloomers throughout the growing season and offer some degree of fragrance.

The flowers on hybrid tea roses may have over 60 petals and be as large as 5 inches across. A signature of hybrid teas is the long, pointed buds that open by slowly unfurling. Plants will grow anywhere from 3 - 6 feet tall, depending on the variety and the growing conditions.

Besides their near perfect flowers, it is the long, strong stems that make them great cut flowers. Hybrid teas have been cultivated in almost every color except blue, with many extraordinary bi-colors to chose from.

Orange hybrid tea roses
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Choosing the Right Hybrid Tea for You

As with any other type of plant, not all hybrid teas are created equal. However, the idea that hybrid teas are fussier than other rose types is unwarranted. The key, as always, is to choose a variety suited to your climate and zone.

  • If your summers are humid, look for mildew resistance.
  • Where summers are dry, look for heat tolerance and vigorous root systems.
  • Be extra certain of hardiness zone ratings if you live where winters are harsh and provide extra winter protection. Roses with thick petals are hardier in variable weather and last longer as cut flowers.

Planting Hybrid Tea Roses

If your rose plants come bare root, remove the packing around the roots and soak them in a bucket of water for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

  • Be sure the soil in the planting area is loose and rich in organic matter.
  • Dig a planting hole to the appropriate depth. As with many cultivated flowers, hybrid teas are bud grafted onto hardy, disease resistant rootstock. The bud union is the visible knob at the base of the plant. In warm climates, the bud union should be 1 - 2 inches above soil level. In colder climates, bury the bud union 1 - 2 inches below ground level. This union should always be protected in cold winters.
  • Make sure the planting hole large enough to spread out the roots, usually 12 - 18 inches in diameter.
  • Make a cone-shaped mound with soil, in the center of the hole and spread the roots out over the mound.
  • Check the depth of the rose in the hole by placing a shovel handle across the hole.
  • Fill the hole halfway with soil and water well to remove any air pockets.
  • Finish filling with soil and water again.
  • Once the rose is planted you can prune the top growth slightly, to lessen the transplant stress.

Watering Your Roses

As with most garden plants, an inch or two of water, a week is usually sufficient. Of course, this depends on your climate and growing conditions. Hot locations and sandy soil will need more frequent watering than cool, coastal regions. A better gauge for when to water is if the top 3 inches of the soil is dry, it's time to water.

  • Water the soil, not the leaves, to prevent disease.
  • Water deeply to encourage root growth. Strong, deep roots will help your roses survive periods of drought.

Feeding Hybrid Teas

Hybrid tea roses, being repeat bloomers, are heavy feeders and benefit from regular applications of fertilizer.

  • Start in early spring either a month before new growth or when you remove winter protection
  • Continue feeding weekly or every other week, depending on the fertilizer being used.
  • Choose a balanced fertilizer or one labeled for roses.
  • Hybrid tea roses like a slightly acid soil (6.0 - 6,5 pH).
  • Iron is especially important if the soil's pH is too high. If the leaves turn yellow with green veins, use an iron supplement.
  • Magnesium sulfate (Epson salt) is thought to intensify flower color and encourage flowering canes. If your soil is already high in magnesium, adding more won't help. If not, scratch in 1/4 to 1/2 cup per plant once or twice a year and water well.
  • Stop fertilizing about 6 weeks before your first expected frost date. You don't want tender new growth on your plants that will be damaged by a change in weather.

Mulching Rose Bushes

Mulch your hybrid teas, to cool the roots and conserve water.

  • Add a 3 - 4-inch layer of mulch in the spring, when removing winter protection.
  • In warmer climates, mulch when the leaf buds begin to swell.

By choosing the right hybrid tea rose for your growing conditions, starting it off well, and providing what it needs to stay healthy, you should be enjoying your roses for many years.

Using in the Garden

Hybrid tea roses are the plants used in traditional rose gardens. They are often planted in rows, by themselves, because it’s easier to care for them that way. Space them anywhere from 18 - 36 inches apart, depending on the growth habit, and keep weed free.

Hybrid teas are grown for their blossoms, not their landscape appeal. They can work unexpectedly well in a border, especially with a low growing perennial covering their gangly stems. Artemisia, true geraniums, lavender and nepeta works well as partners with hybrid teas.

Pruning hybrid teas is not unlike pruning other rose types. If you are regularly cutting the blossoms, you will actually have less pruning to do. When selecting hybrid teas, keep an eye out for some of the thornless varieties. Most have the word ‘smooth’ somewhere in their name. Thornless takes some of the pain out of pruning.

  • Prune in early spring, before new growth.
  • When cutting roses, be sure to leave a few leaves on the stem.
  • Make cuts about 1/4 inch above an outward facing bud.
  • Make cuts at a 45-degree angle, so that water runs off.
  • First cut out anything dead, diseased or damaged canes.
  • Cut out scrawny, spindly canes of less than ½ inch in diameter.
  • Prune remaining stronger canes by about a third of their length, down to 12-24 inches. Hard pruning like this encourages strong stems and large flowers.
  • Prune to open and shape the plant and allow the plant to put its energy into fewer flowers.

Judging Great Rose Blooms

Even an imperfect rose blossom is a pleasure, but if you get the bug to compete with more than your neighbors, here are the criteria hybrid teas are judged by. Each quality is graded on a specified number of points with the highest combined total of all points being 100.

Most important features:

  • Shape or form
  • Color

Then comes Substance:

  • Freshness and sheen

Other considerations rated:

  • Balance and proportions
  • Size
  • Stems and Foliage