Suggested Varieties and Description of Hardy Explorer Roses

I’ve been growing Explorer roses for many years now and I can say that they are exceptionally good plants.

This is particularly true if you’re looking for a climbing rose that is hardy.

Most of these hardy Canadian roses are shrub types with a different parentage that gives them different flower shapes and growth habits. We can use them in our gardens, even warmer gardens, because of their disease resistance and exuberant growth.

Explorer Roses Are Hardy

Note that all of these Explorer roses are disease resistant to powdery mildew and blackspot. They have different levels of resistance (not uniformly resistant) to the diseases.

Explorer roses are typically hardy roses, bred in Canada for Canadian rose growing winters and conditions. These are not your basic tender rose.


Alexander MacKenzie has a shrub growth habit but the deep red blooms resemble grandiflora or hybrid tea blooms. It will survive zone 3b winter without protection.

Captain Samuel Holland is a trailing climber with a pillar rose habit. Each stalk will easily hit 5 to 6 feet and these Explorer roses can be pruned into excellent climbing roses. The flowers are medium red and semi-double. This plant is quite tough, disease resistant and hardy in zone 3.

Champlain is a short shrub reaching 3 feet tall but it blooms freely for most of the summer. The blooms are dark red and semi-double. The plant itself is disease resistant and hardy into zone 3.

Charles Albanel is a low growing shrub that only reaches 2 feet tall but it grows outward to three feet wide. Use it as a hardy ground cover rose. Blooms are described as medium red and semi-double. This is a tough rose rated as hardy well into zone 3 and likely zone 2.

David Thompson is a medium height shrub reaching 5 feet tall and wide. The flowers are medium red, slightly fragrant and heavily semi-double. Hardy into zone 2.

De Montarville is a three foot tall shrub with extremely disease resistant leaves. The buds are dark red but the flower opens to medium pink semi-double and blooms most of the summer. Hardy to zone 3.

Frontenac is an upright three foot tall Explorer rose shrub. It is disease resistant and the deep pink blooms cover the plant totally in its first flush of blooms and then lightly thereafter for the rest of the summer. The blooms are semi-double but the plant is bone hardy to zone 3.

George Vancouver is a three foot tall, upright shrub. The flowers are deep red bud with a medium red semi-double bloom fading to pink tones. You’ll get several flushes of blooms with this plant throughout the summer and it is hardy to zone 3.

Henry Hudson is a semi-dwarf shrub growing two to three feet tall. The white blossoms have a pink tinge and there are several flushes of bloom through the summer. Disease resistant it is hardy into zone 2 and as Explorer roses go, it is a very tough plant.

Henry Kelsey is used as a climber because of its six to eight foot tall arching canes. The flowers are semi-double and medium red with a single flush of blooms. The fragrance is slightly spicy. Disease resistant. This plant is hardy to zone 3.

Jens Munk is a five to six foot tall shrub with heavy thorns. The blooms are medium pink and fragrant. Large flush of semi-double blooms early in summer but sporadic flowers thereafter. Tough shrub roses into zone 2.

John Cabot is used as a climber with its seven to eight foot tall upright canes. Medium red, semi-double blooms with a slight fragrance produce a very heavy flush in June and sporadic blossoms afterwards. Hardy in zone 3. One of the better known of the Explorer roses.

John Davis is a trailing shrub that some folks use as a climber with its six foot long canes. Flowers are medium pink and double with a light spice fragrance. slight, spicy fragrance. Good disease resistance and hardy to zone 3.

John Franklin is a five foot tall shrub. The flowers are medium red with a very slight fragrance and fringed so they look like doubles. Hardy into zone 3 and disease resistant

J.P. Connell is three foot tall shrub type rose. It is a fully hardy yellow rose that initially opens with a high center to resemble a hybrid tea but then opens fully to expose the stamens and be a semi-double. Note that the frustrating point about this rose is that it won’t really start blooming heavily until year 3 or 4 if even if you grow it in full sun with good feeding. It’s a slow starter. The only yellow in the Explorer roses series.

Lambert Closse is a three foot tall shrub. The buds resemble hybrid teas and the flowers open fully into doubles. The color is deep pink fading to pale pink when fully opened and it flowers almost all summer. Hardy into zone 3.

Louis Jolliet is used as a climber with its arching canes reaching 6 feet tall. The blooms are medium pink and semi to full double. Blooms most of the summer with a spicy fragrance. Hardy into zone 3.

Marie-Victorin is a five foot tall shrub and equally wide. The single to semi-double deep peach blooms fade to pink when fully opened. Hardy to zone 3.

Martin Frobisher is a five to six foot tall shrub. The soft pink double blooms are fragrant and bloom most of the summer. Hardy into zone 2.

Nicolas is a two to three foot tall shrub. Flowers are medium red and semi-double and the shrub is covered in them for a single flush. Hardy in zone 3.

Quadra is used as a climber with its 6 foot tall canes. The blooms are dark red fading to light red and are doubles. Hardy in zone 3

Royal Edward is as close to being a hardy semi-miniature spreading rose (1.5 feet tall and wide) as you’re going to see in the Explorer roses line. Deep pink blooms fading to pale pink, with repeat blooms all summer. Hardy in zone 3.

Simon Fraser is a two foot tall shrub. The medium pink blooms are produced in clusters with the first blossoms being single and the second set being semi-double. Blooms all summer and is hardy to zone 3.

William Baffin is used as a climber with its 8 foot tall canes. The blooms are medium red and slightly fragrant. Blossoms are single to semi-double. Rock hard to zone 2.

William Booth is a trailing shrub reaching three feet tall and five feet wide. The deep red buds change to light red when fully opened and blooms all summer with single blossoms. Hardy to zone 3.

In short, Explorer roses are hardy and disease resistant.

Explorer roses are bred for Canadian winters where they stand unprotected with minor damage.

Explorer roses can be used in almost all rose growing conditions (from miniature to climber) if you pick the correct variety for your needs.

What's not to like about Explorer Roses? :-)

explorer rose john cabot
'John Cabot'

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