Roses have changed, and it’s about time! Today, there are easy-to-grow types of roses—from David Austin old-fashioned roses to Knock Out landscape roses to Flower Carpet ground cover roses. You can truly plant and almost forget about them! They’re no longer intimidating prima donnas, which makes me very happy.
Gone are the days when endless pruning, spraying, and dusting were required to produce perfect roses. Now all you do is plant, fertilize, and water. Your reward is healthy, beautiful bushes loaded with fragrant blooms for cutting and landscaping all summer long.
Landscape roses such as these Knock Outs make for stunning color all season long with minimal care.
Shrub roses and those grown on their own roots are also the best choices, especially for cold climates. I’ve lost dozens of hybrid teas to -25ºF winters, no matter how much mulch I heaped upon the plants. These same roses also stand up to heat, humidity, and the myriad diseases spawned by hot climates. I know, firsthand, because I’ve lived and grown roses in places from the Gulf Coast to Wisconsin.
Grown on its own roots, the Wedgwood rose can be trained as a climber or left to sprawl as a ground cover. Blooms are heady, with fruity perfume and a touch of cloves. Courtesy David Austin Roses.
Flower Carpet Roses are landscape roses with a unique double root system (they have deep roots as well as soil-surface roots) that makes them able to tolerate weather conditions. ‘Appleblossom’ produces a profusion of pastel pink blooms.
Bare root or container?
Both types of rosebushes are available this time of year. If you live north of a line drawn from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., plant either. If you are south of the line, container roses are the best choice, because your ground and air temperatures are already increasing.
Soak bare root roses in a bucket of warm water overnight. Then dig a hole 18 inches wide and deep. Mix in compost or peat moss if your soil is hard and compacted. In the center of the hole, make a 12-inch-high cone of dirt. Spread rose roots over the cone. Hold rose in place with one hand and fill in the hole with the other. Firm soil and water well.
Plant container roses after the last freeze of the season. Dig a hole the depth of the rose pot and 18 inches wide. Remove the plant from pot, place in center of the hole, spread roots, and fill in with soil. Water well and firm soil with the back of a shovel or your hands to eliminate air pockets. Scatter slow-release fertilizer formulated for roses around plants and scratch in with a cultivator.
Lady Elsie May is a tough shrub rose that has flowered nonstop in my Zone 4b garden for the last 7 years. I don’t even water it! Rainfall seems to be enough. Compost mulch every spring is the only maintenance it requires. Courtesy of Angelica Nurseries.
Five Unusual Rose Tips That Really Work
- Plant lavender at the base of rosebushes if deer are a problem in your area. Deer are attracted by rose scent, and lavender muddies the rose aroma.
- Dump coffee grounds and used tea leaves around bushes. Both acidify the soil slightly, which roses love.
- Bury banana skins or even the entire black, mushy banana at the base of bushes to provide magnesium, an element that the plants crave.
- Scratch 2 tablespoons of Epsom salts into the soil around a rose. The salts make flower colors more intense.
- Use rabbit food for fertilizer. The pet food is composed of alfalfa meal, which supplies a growth stimulant, nitrogen, and trace elements to roses. Scratch in ½ cup of pellets around each rose and water well.
Read more about landscape roses and disease-resistant roses.
See our Rose guide for planting and growing tips.