What Shrub Rose is Heat- and Drought-Tolerant and Fragrant?

Rosa californica ‘Plena’

“I’m looking for a low-maintenance shrub rose that produces highly scented flowers that will thrive in Las Vegas, NV.” Question from Katherine of Las Vegas, Nevada

Answer: There are several fragrant shrub roses that can withstand high heat in your dry USDA Hardiness Zone 8-9 location. But, there are no classic, cultivated shrub roses that can withstand extended drought. There are, however, some native shrub roses that may fit the bill. I will give you a selection of heat-tolerant cultivated shrub roses, and a native, all with good fragrance. These roses will require watering in Las Vegas, but they are otherwise carefree. Rose fungal diseases are not problematic in dry climates.

Heat-Tolerant Shrub Roses

A classic floribunda shrub rose with good heat tolerance is ‘Angel Face’. It was bred in 1969, has deep lavender-pink flowers that are fully double, a citrus fragrance, and its leaves are a lustrous green.

‘Graham Thomas’ is another heat-tolerant shrub rose bred in 1983 that has golden blossoms with a strong sweet-tea fragrance. Another similar shrub rose is ‘Molineux’; its yellow, double flowers have a musky tea-rose scent.

The rugosa rose ‘Hansa’ is highly fragrant with an intense clove scent and well-adapted to sharply drained soils and heat. Its double flowers are a pretty purplish red. The white-flowered rugosa rose ‘Alba’ is also very pretty and fragrant. Both of these roses have spectacular, large, edible hips in fall, which are also very pretty. (Click here to read more about Rosa rugosa).

Southwest Native Shrub Rose

The semi-double California wild rose (Rosa californica ‘Plena’) is a spring-blooming shrub rose with pretty pink flowers. It can tolerate dry conditions better, and its flowers are lightly fragrant.

When planting roses in poor, dry soil, I recommend amending it with fertile amendments, such as Black Gold Garden Compost Blend and Peat Moss. Both products are OMRI Listed for organic gardening. Alfalfa meal is a natural fertilizer that also helps roses grow to their fullest.

Happy rose growing!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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