In my own garden I have found a strong corellation between ARS ratings and garden performance. Join the ARS and use their ratings booklet, Handbook for Selecting Roses, to make choices. It's especially helpful if you are new to roses. You might want to know that, for the most part, roses at this site are rated above average in that handbook. Occasionally, where a rose has some special quality that is hard to find otherwise, or if it has some special historical significance in rose breeding we will list it here even if it does not have a good ARS rating.
Check out specific culivars at HelpMeFind Roses. Look at rose photos and read comments. If rose photos come from places with a similar climate, it's a fair bet the rose will do well in your own. If there are lots of photos from very different climates, but none from your own, it's a bigger risk. Bear in mind, too, that people typically post photos of roses that please them. A rose with no photos is a rose that doesn't please many people. Sometimes that's because it rarely performs well. Sometimes it's for lack of the right kind of marketing muscle.
Breeders Austin, Buck, Brownell, Pemberton, Lambert, Carruth, Radler, Bentall, Svejda, Kordes, and Vibert have managed to produce roses with health characteristics well above average, especially in terms of blackspot. Few of the roses released by these breeders will fail due to disease or lack of vigor. Of course, if you live in a Mediterranean climate zone, you can pretty much try any rose you find for sale and expect it to survive. Breeders Swim, Weeks, Armstrong, McGredy, Boerner, Meilland, and Warriner will offer many of the most impressive choices.
It helps to imagine that roses less than fifty years old are still on probation. Ones that survive past this mark are likely to have some representation in gardens well into the future, if for no other reason than because any rose that makes it this long is a survivor and has qualities that transcend the whims of fashion.
There is a downside to this: some roses that have been very popular for five or eight decades evidently suffer from over-propagation. Old rosarians complain that Peace, Tropicana, Gloire de Dijon, and other old varieties just aren't as vigorous as they used to be. And they search for plants from early propagation cycles that possess the vigor they seek.
Roses that have won the Royal Horticultural Society Award for Garden Merit or RHS AGM have proven garden-worthy. Those living north of the 35th parallel should consider these roses early on. Similarly, roses that have won the German ADR award perform well in that country without the aid of chemical sprays.
If you live in the US and must have hybrid teas, start looking at AARS winners and add highly rated ARS roses. There are some easy-care hybrid teas like Silver Jubilee, Electron, Midas Touch, Marijke Koopman, Gemini, or New Zealand. Success with these may make you willing to exercise more effort in rose care. I know it has done so for me.
If you live east of the Rocky Mountains look at catalogues from rose suppliers not too far away: Pickering, Palatine, Roses Unlimited, Antique Rose Emporium, and Sam Kedem are examples.
It may not seem like it, considering the all we've talked aobut, but a well chosen rose that has been given a solid start in good soil and with lots of sun is likely to be a fairly low-care proposition, and it is likely to give much pleasure through years or across generations.
The most important issue in caring for a rose is choosing one that will thrive where it is to be grown. Factors of temperature, light, humidity, water/rainfall, soil fertility, root competition, shade, and so on need to be considered.
Some cultivars will thrive in almost any environment. Others we describe here with considerable exaggeration as thriving in just three counties in the whole of the United States. Try to know something about the suitability of the rose you plant; it will save you much aggravation later on.
Roses for Marine Climates - i.e. Northern Europe and the US Northwest
Marine climates tend to have coolish summers that are not terribly humid. They have long, gentle spring and fall weather progressions, sometimes with a lot of dampness. And they have cool or cold winters, but not brutally cold winters. The roses that do best in these climates are albas, rugosas, polyanthas, and roses derived from multiflora and wichurana stock.
One needs to be careful when selecting floribundas and hybrid tea roses for this weather area because some will not be happy with cool summers and damp spring/fall weather.
Roses bred by Austin, Kordes, Dickson, Cocker, and McGredy will typically do well in these climates. Often, roses bred for cool continental climates will do well here, too.
Roses for Cool Continental Climates - i.e. Northeast US, Eastern Europe
Cool continental climates resemble marine climates except that summers are hotter and may bring higher humidity. Winters are colder. Sometimes they are much drier, too. Roses that happen to have excellent disease resistance and cold hardiness in marine climates might grow more vigorously here; but roses susceptible to fungal diseases or roses that lack hardiness will do worse.
Roses bred by Buck, Van Fleet, Geschwindt, Svejda, Williams, Radler, and Colicutt tend to work best, although many of the hybrid tea roses bred by the breeders above are excellent choices, too. Most floribundas, especially ones that are not red or yellow will work perfectly well.
Roses for Mediterranean Climates - i.e. Southern France and California
Assuming good, fertile soil and adequate water, virtually every rose in cultivation can be grown in a Mediterranean climate because most of the problems that roses encounter are absent. Tea roses and bourbons got their start here. Most hybrid tea roses and floribundas have been bred in such climates. Fungal disease is rarely so severe a problem here as it is in other places. And hardiness is not a problem.
That said, some David Austin roses perform perversely, growing big and failing to bloom. Some hardy old roses such as gallicas, and most rugosa and wichurana hybrids will do best with some PM shade. Some wichurana hybrids don't grow as vigorously here as they do in marine climates.
Hybrid tea roses were bred for these climates. In the western US, doublecheck that a rose is resistant to powdery mildew and rust, especially if you garden in a coastal region with fog.
Roses for Warm Continental Climates - i.e. Southeast United States
Cold hardiness is not a problem here, but humidity gives rise to blackspot which will quickly defoliate many rose cultivars. A person living in such an area must be very careful to buy and plant disease-resistant cultivars.
Tea roses and noisettes tend to do well in these climates. Some of the old roses: damasks, gallicas, and albas will do well if given PM shade. Roses listed as Earth Kind do well. As a rule, hybrid tea roses do badly here; but there are some that are well suited. Find local rose societies with lists, or buy from suppliers in similar climates.