Sub-Zero Rose Information – Learn About Roses For Cold Climates

Pink Sub-Zero Roses
sub zero rose
(Image credit: SBSArtDept)

If you’ve never heard of them before, you might wonder, “What are sub-zero roses?” These are specifically bred roses for cold climates. Read on to learn more about sub-zero roses and which types work well in a cold climate rose bed.

Sub-Zero Rose Information

When I first heard the term “Sub-Zero” roses, it brought to mind those developed by Dr. Griffith Buck. His roses grow in many rose beds today and very hardy choices for cold climates. One of Dr. Buck’s main goals was to breed roses that could survive harsh cold winter climates, which he achieved. Some of his more popular Buck roses are:

  • Distant Drums
  • Lobelle
  • Prairie Princess
  • Pearlie Mae
  • Applejack
  • Quietness
  • Summer Honey

Another name that comes to mind when such roses are mentioned is that of Walter Brownell. He was born in 1873 and eventually became a lawyer. Luckily for rose gardeners, he married a young lady named Josephine Darling, who loved roses too. Unfortunately, they lived in a cold region where roses were annuals-- dying each winter and replanted each spring. Their interest in breeding roses came from a need for winter hardy bushes. Additionally, they sought to hybridize roses that were disease resistant (especially black spot), repeat bloomers (pillar rose), large flowering and yellow in color (pillar roses/climbing roses). In those days, most climbing roses were found with red, pink, or white blooms.

There were frustrating failures before success was finally accomplished, resulting in some of the Brownell family roses that are still available today, including:

  • Nearly Wild
  • Break O’ Day
  • Lafter
  • Shades of Autumn
  • Charlotte Brownell
  • Brownell Yellow Rambler
  • Dr. Brownell
  • Pillar/climbing roses Rhode Island Red, White Cap, Golden Arctic, and Scarlet Sensation

Sub-Zero Rose Care in Winter

Many of those selling the Brownell sub-zero roses for cold climates claim that they are hardy to zone 3, but they still require good winter protection. Sub-zero roses are typically hardy from -15 to -20 degrees F. (-26 to -29 C.) without protection and -25 to -30 degrees F. (-32 to -1 C.) with minimal to moderate protection. Thus, in zones 5 and below, these rose bushes will need winter protection.

These are indeed very hardy roses, as I have grown Nearly Wild and can attest to the hardiness. A cold climate rose bed, or any rose bed for that matter, with Brownell roses or some of the Buck roses mentioned earlier would not only be hardy, disease resistant, and eye-catching roses, but offer historical significance as well.

Stan V. Griep

Stan V. Griep contributed to Gardening Know How for many years. An American Rose Society Consulting Master Rosarian in the Rocky Mountain District, he served as Gardening Know How's in-house expert on all things roses.