Roses: It’s a love hate relationship for most of us! Growing roses in the Metroplex, and in many other areas of Texas, can be a frustrating experience. Our heavy clay soil doesn’t drain well during the wet spring weather and then the summer drought comes along. In addition to all the basic horticultural challenges that go along with growing roses, there are also disease problems. One of the big challenges for those who grow roses is the disease “black spot”, a systemic fungal disease that can decimate an entire plant in a matter of weeks. Keeping black spot under control takes a lot of effort and can discourage many gardeners from growing roses at all.
Sure, you can keep black spot at bay if you follow a toxic chemical program that requires you to spray your plants every 7 to 10 days. But how many of us really want to do that? I’m betting none. Not only do we not want to use the toxic chemicals, but we also don’t like the expense that goes along with them. It would be nice to have roses that didn’t require this kind of effort. They do exist, but you’ll find you’ve got to go back in time a bit and select old fashioned varieties as opposed to the modern hybrid tea varieties.
Over the last few years, Texas A&M has been testing numerous roses in order to identify varieties that don’t require all that effort. They are calling these roses “EarthKind” roses and they don’t require the kind of TLC you might be used to giving your rose plants. Now, these are not roses that have been specially bred by Texas A&M, but rather varieties that have been available on the market for quite some time – some since the 1800’s. The goal of the project was to identify great varieties that gardeners already had access to. All plants were tested in the most inhospitable of conditions: No spraying, no pruning, no mulching, no fertilizer, and little to no supplemental water. All of this in heavy clay soil with a pH of 8.0. Can you imagine? Sounds like a rose’s worst nightmare to me! Out of 117 rose varieties, tested both at Texas A&M sites and the Dallas Arboretum, eleven varieties made the cut.
All of the varieties selected are highly tolerant to black spot. That means you don’t have to spray them. We still don’t have a rose that is immune to black spot, but you’ll barely notice the disease on these varieties. You may see a few leaves in the spring that show symptoms, but the black spot won’t defoliate your plant and will eventually go away on its own. Another bonus is that all 11 varieties perform exceptionally well in many soil types and require less pruning, fertilizer, and water than most roses. You do still need to provide your EarthKind roses with some of the basic courtesies of rose-growing; such as decent drainage, 6 hours of direct sun a day, and some good air circulation. These cultural practices will ensure a successful rose growing experience.
Now that you don’t have any more excuses to not grow roses, it’s time to put away the fungicide and get out the shovel! If you’d like to see these roses in action, take a trip over to the Trial Garden at the Dallas Arboretum. All EarthKind rose varieties are commercially available, so ask for them at your favorite nursery. My favorites of the bunch are ‘Knock Out’, ‘Perle d’ Or’, and ‘Mutabilis’. EarthKind Roses by Leslie Finical Halleck
‘Caldwell Pink’ – A compact found rose discovered in Caldwell, Texas. This is an ever-blooming variety with double lilac- pink flowers that form dense clusters. The plants have both attractive flowers and foliage. Ht x Wd: 4 x 4 ft.
‘Katy Road Pink’ – A found rose with pink semi- double fragrant blooms. The flowers are very large and impressive. Ht x Wd: 6 x 5 ft.
‘Belinda’s Dream’ – A compact shrub rose that was introduced in 1992. Produces lots of blooms that look like a classic cut-flower rose with a petal count 100+. Plants are tolerant of powdery mildew with some minor foliage drop in early spring to black spot. Ht. x Wd: 5 x 5 ft.
‘Sea Foam’ – A shrub rose that was introduced in 1964. This rose grows as a trailer or mannerly climber. The double blooms are ivory in color and fragrant. It is a vigorous grower. Ht x Wd: 3 x 6 ft.
‘Knock Out’ – A compact shrub rose with bright cherry red, semi-double blooms. This is a very striking rose in the landscape. Plants bloom continuously from spring until frost. ‘Knock Out’ also has beautiful glossy dark green foliage. Very disease tolerant. Ht x Wd: 4 x 4 ft.
‘Mutabilis’- A large China rose that was introduced prior to 1894. The single open blooms darken with age from yellow to orange, pink and then crimson. The multi-colored effect is beautiful in the landscape. ‘Mutabilis’ has good foliage color and resistance to powdery mildew. Ht x Wd: 6 x 6 ft.
‘Marie Daly’ – A polyantha rose that is a sport of the older variety ‘Marie Pavie’, which was introduced in1888. The small double blooms are produced in clusters and have a sweet scent. Low incidence of powdery mildew and black spot in early spring. Ht x Wd: 3 x 3 ft.
‘Perle D’ Or’ – A compact polyantha rose with peachy pink pompon blooms that are fragrant. The color is unique and plants are ever-blooming. Plants also have attractive glossy foliage. Ht. x Wd.: 4 x 4 ft.
‘The Fairy’ – A polyantha rose that was introduced in 1932. This rose is a good summer bloomer. Plants produce sprays of small, double pink blooms. Flowers tend to be a darker pink in cooler temperatures, and then fade to a pale pink in the heat of the summer. Ht x Wd: 3 x 3 ft.
‘Climbing Pinkie’ – A large, vigorous polyantha rose that was introduced in 1952. A nearly thornless climber that grows with or without support. Plants produce semi-double light-pink flowers with a long blooming period. Ht X Wd: 6-7 ft shrub, 8-12 ft climber.
‘Else Poulson’- A floribunda rose with pink, semi-double blooms. Plants have a low incidence of powdery mildew in early spring. Ht x Wd: 5 x 5 ft.
(Early publicity on the EarthKind roses also listed ‘Livin’ Easy’ and ‘Easy Going’, but these two varieties were subsequently removed from the EarthKind list.)