It seems that over the years roses have received a bad rap. They are one of the most desired of garden flowers but the hectic schedule of today’s gardeners often prevent roses from receiving the care they need. Thus, the Earth-Kind Rose Program, began in Texas, has been very successful in identifying and promoting low-care roses.
The rose’s reputation includes being hard to grow, needing to be sprayed every few days and being picky about their soil conditions. In some respects this reputation stems from man’s desire to create the perfect bloom, sacrificing the plant’s genetic propensity for fragrance, disease and insect resistance in favor of bigger blooms, bolder colors and longer stems.
If you’re like me, you water your roses when the plant wilts, apply chemical treatments once the bush has no leaves, do little or no amending of the soil and become frustrated when the roses do not meet your expectations. This high-maintenance approach to gardening is what drives many people to grow something else.
Roses which have received the coveted Earth-Kind designation have been subjected to rigorous, scientifically sound, statistically significant research meticulously performed by Texas A&M University. Earth-Kind Roses have been proven to give consistently high performance irrespective of diverse geographic regions and soil conditions they are grown in.
A five-year research study included 468 bushes and was designed to identify the most beautiful care-free roses ever developed for Southern gardens. Of this 468, 11 showed spectacular performance despite very adverse growing conditions and an almost complete lack of maintenance. Roses included in the study were grown in highly alkaline clay soil that contained no improved soil and no soil amendments. The roses were never fertilized or sprayed with fungicides or insecticides. The roses received no supplemental watering after the first year. The roses were never pruned other than to remove dead wood. In order to receive Earth-Kind designation, the cultivars were required to produce spectacular blooms and exhibit outstanding disease and insect tolerance/resistance.
At the conclusion of the 5-year study, Texas A&M had identified 11 cultivars which not only survived but also produced outstanding results in southern gardens. Those 11 cultivars are:
- Sea Foam – creamy white shrub rose sporting double blooms throughout the growing season with a cascading growth habit.
- Marie Daly – pink polyantha dwarf shrubby rose with semi-double fragrant blooms on an almost thornless bush. This variety is perfect for containers.
- The Fairy – light pink polyantha dwarf shrubby rose that has double blooms thoughout the growing season. Best used in containers, as a mass planting or as a low border.
- Caldwell Pink – lilac pink carnation-style found rose that grows as a small shrub. Truly loves the heat and usually starts blooming once temperatures reach 80 degrees.
- Knock Out – cherry red semi-double rose that blooms thoughout the growing season. Named Rose of the Year in 2004.
- Perle d’Or – peach polyantha rose that blooms with fragrant pompom blooms throughout the growing season. Thrives on adversity.
- Belinda’s Dream – medium—sized shrub rose. First to receive the Earth-Kind designation. Fragrant pink blooms which resemble hybrid teas with a petal count of 114 and foliage that is a striking blue green color.
- Else Poulson – pink floribunda rose that blooms with semi-double flowers throughout the growing season. Best suited for use in background plantings.
- Carefree Beauty – Griffith Buck rose producing fragrant pink double blooms throughout the growing season.
- Mutabilis – also known as the “Butterfly Rose.” This China rose has double blooms which change color during the life cycle from yellow to pink to crimson.
- Climbing Pinkie – This pink semi-double polyantha rose has very fragrant blooms and depending on the climate zone will perform as a repeat bloomer or a once bloomer.
All of these roses should be planted in a location that has good air circulation and receives a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight. Beds should be topped with 2 to 4 inches of hardwood mulch to insulate root zone and retard moisture loss. Supplemental watering via drip irrigation throughout the first year is recommended. Never water roses at night.
For more information about care of these roses or to find a list of retail nurseries, contact the extension office at (940) 538-5042 or visit the Earth-Kind Roses website at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkind/roses/.