Roses are one of the earliest woody plants available in local stores in the spring as packaged, dormant, bare-root plants. However, these landscape roses are more likely to be available at local full-service nurseries and garden stores as potted, growing plants. Best selection of varieties is found online or via mail order through such companies as Jackson and Perkins, Spring Hill Nurseries and Heirloom Roses. Bare-root roses from these companies could be planted outside as early as January. Unlike traditional roses, the shrub roses are also available as potted flowering plants in mid-summer in full-service nurseries and garden stores.
If you like the idea of disease resistance and low maintenance in other traditional rose groups like hybrid tea, grandiflora and multiflora, you should look for roses developed by a German rose breeder. The Kordes roses have been developed over many years for their outstanding disease resistance. Heirloom Roses lists 70 varieties of the Kordes group.
Roses are heavier feeders than most woody plants. I have found timed-release fertilizers like Osmocote work quite well to give continuous feeding.
In addition to diseases, roses are especially attractive to insects like aphids. I have found that aphids are usually controlled by ladybugs (lady bird beetles) if you give them a few days. Rose fertilizer that contains granular insecticide is also available as a substitute for spraying.
Landscape roses tend to be a little hardier to cold temperatures than traditional varieties. They are seldom damaged by winter cold in our climate.