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While they may have endured a high-maintenance reputation in the past, roses have been enjoying a renaissance, of sorts. Modern varieties feature attractive qualities for busy, modern gardeners, such as hardiness in cooler climates, drought resistance, self-cleaning (meaning no deadheading required!), and greater disease resistance. Selecting low-maintenance roses for an established or new perennial garden, or even for a hedge, will add vibrant color and interest to the chosen space—without any fuss.
To show you some great examples of and tips for selecting low-maintenance roses, we’ve teamed up with the Knock Out® Family of Roses. These floriferous, easy-care shrub roses come in some pretty stunning hues from white, yellow, and peach, to a spectrum of pink. (I have to give a little shout-out to Rainbow, with its coral-pinkish petals and yellow center.)
What to look for when selecting low-maintenance roses
Keep an eye out for the following traits when selecting roses—or any perennial, for that matter—to add to a low-maintenance garden. Some of the characteristics will be listed on the plant tag, while others may require a little pre-shopping-trip research or a quick search when you’re at the garden center.
Selecting low-maintenance roses for disease resistance
Disease resistance is a major factor when selecting a rose bush to plant because it allows you to garden organically, without needing chemicals to deal with disease. This also saves you from having to spend time trimming out diseased foliage. Part of what made the original Knock Out® Rose so buzzworthy was its resistance to black spot, a common fungal affliction in roses.
Roses that are healthy and disease free have improved pest resistance, too, since they’re healthy and vigorous, and less welcoming to leaf-munching insects.
Choosing low-maintenance roses with hardiness
Green thumbs living in low hardiness zones can get excited about modern rose varieties’ ability to withstand harsh winters. For example, Knock Out® Roses feature varieties that are hardy down to zones 4 and 5 (and up to zone 11). If you live in an especially harsh winter climate, your roses will benefit from a little winter protection. Add about two to three inches of mulch, leaves, and pine or fir boughs around the base of the plant. Be sure to remove any excessive mulch in the spring.
Conversely, these modern rose varieties are heat resistant, too, which leads to the next attribute.
Selecting low-maintenance roses with drought tolerance
With weather patterns being inconsistent from year to year, when choosing both roses and perennials, it’s a good idea to plant drought-resistant varieties that are going to be able to withstand extended periods without rain. Low-maintenance rose varieties are drought tolerant after they’ve become established in the garden. Add a layer of shredded hardwood mulch around your plants (avoid piling it too close to the base of the plant to avoid rot), which will help to keep the soil cooler and retain moisture.
Low-maintenance roses have a long bloom time
Another benefit and bonus of low-maintenance roses, like Knock Out® Roses (which will re-bloom every five to six weeks), is their long bloom time. These rose bushes are not one hit wonders that bloom in June and then call it a season—they will bloom from early spring right until the first frost. This is a great attribute to consider when planting for a long season of interest. And when choosing the color of your roses, also look to see what shade the foliage is! Leaf hues can range from moss green to purplish green to almost black, which is also nice to consider when choosing color for the garden.
Seek out self-cleaning, low-maintenance roses
Of course any perennial will look better if you give it a little refresh, here and there, but these modern, easy-care rose varieties are self-cleaning, meaning once the blooms fade and die, they will naturally fall off the plants. Furthermore, they’ll continue to bloom throughout the season. That means you may just want to collect the spent petals from the base of the plant to keep the garden looking neat. If you do have time to deadhead, it will make the plant look tidier. Simply trim the flower off at its base.
Planting low-maintenance roses
Rose bushes can be planted in the spring or in the fall, and prefer a neutral soil. When planting, make sure the spot you’ve chosen matches the light requirements that you’ll find on the plant tag. Roses need at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day to thrive. Dig your hole twice as wide as the container, and water before planting. When you take the rose out of its plastic pot, loosen the bottom roots a bit with your hands. Place the shrub in the hole so that it is level with the soil. Backfill the hole with the soil you dug out mixed with compost. Water around the base and add a layer of mulch around the plant to keep the weeds down and improve drought tolerance.
Fertilizing low-maintenance roses
Selecting low-maintenance roses doesn’t mean you can neglect your plants completely. Be sure to fertilize after the plant is established and has been through a bloom cycle. Look for a rose-specific fertilizer (or a balanced formula) and follow the label’s instructions for how much to use. Apply the fertilizer to moist soil after that first wave of blooms. Avoid fertilizing later in the summer because this is when your rose bush is starting to prepare itself for dormancy and you don’t want to promote new growth.
Caring for low-maintenance roses
Water your rose bush at the base of the plant, as needed. It will benefit from a deep drink, rather than sporadic sprinkles.
A good pruning, using sharp pruning shears, in the spring after all threat of frost has passed, will stimulate new growth. Cut the plant back to about 12 inches. This maintenance should make your rose grow to about three to four feet tall by the end of the season.
Keep an eye on your rose bush throughout the season so you can address any issues that may arise right away.
Roses had fallen out of favor because of their heavy reliance on chemicals and overall fussiness. William Radler, was at the forefront of low-maintenance rose breeding, when he created the original Knock Out® rose, which was released for the public to enjoy in 2000. These types of roses are now influencing the rose garden collections you’ll find at botanical gardens. My local garden, the Royal Botanical Garden, has ripped out its rose garden to replace the traditional species with modern, low-maintenance varieties, alongside plants from other families, that won’t require chemical intervention. The same type of overhaul was also recently done at the New York Botanical Garden’s Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden after a no-spray policy was instituted.
We love the abundance of blooms and the fact we can add low-maintenance roses to our gardens and let them show off their attributes without having to be a helicopter plant parent.
A big thank you to the Knock Out® Family of Roses for sponsoring this post and inspiring a discussion about the benefits of selecting low-maintenance roses. We’re looking forward to checking out the two newest varieties, the Peachy Knock Out® Rose and the White Knock Out® Rose.
Click here to find a Knock Out® Roses retailer near you.
Have you grown Knock Out® Roses? We’d love to hear about which low-maintenance roses are your favorites.