Everybody loves roses, but they can be difficult to grow—but not shrub roses! Shrub roses are bred to be low maintenance, disease resistant, and easier to use. Around 50 to 70 years ago, roses were grown only for the flower, but shrub roses are meant to be integrated into your garden. Plus shrubs come in every size. Check out these easy-to-grow roses and how to care for them.
Smelling the Roses
Aside from their beauty, gardeners love the fragrance of roses. The breathtaking aroma is why roses are often used in perfumes. When other factors come into rose breeding (like disease resistance, hardiness, and ease of planting and growing), sometimes attention to fragrance takes a back seat. Luckily, that's not the case anymore, as intense fragrance is just as important as other characteristics. Easy Elegance 'Yellow Brick' rose has a beautiful classic rose fragrance, while 'Knockout' has a very faint floral smell. Take a sniff at the nursery to see what fragrance combination appeals to you most.
Where to Grow Them
To great your roses off to a great start, plant them in the proper growing conditions. All roses grow best in full sun with moist, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter. Make sure your roses get at least 6 hours of direct sun a day; if they get less light, the plants won't bloom as well and will be more susceptible to attack from pests and diseases. While some roses may tolerate partial shade better than others, no roses like full shade.
Shrub roses are meant to be grown all over the country, especially in places where other rose species may not be very hardy. If you live in a part of the country where it's cold and windy, let the plant go dormant when the ground freezes in the winter.
The Right Way to Plant
Shrub roses come in a few forms. Bare-root roses are available in early spring and are sold as a set of roots packed in peat moss or a similar material that holds moisture well. It's best to purchase bare-root roses when they're dormant or just beginning to grow. There's a long tradition of planting bare-root roses, but they can require a long time to take off. These roses can be mail-ordered easily and inexpensively, so you get more bang for your buck in the garden.
Container-grown roses are typically a little more expensive than bare-root roses, but they are easier to plant. Simply dig a hole about twice as wide (but no deeper) than the rose's pot. Take the rosebush out of the container and loosen the roots. Spread roots out if they're growing in circles around the root ball. Place the roots in the hole and fill with soil, making sure to water well after you plant it.
After planting your roses, water them well, especially if you plant them in the summer when they're most susceptible to drying out. Keep watering for them the first few weeks in your garden. Along with watering, lay a 2- to 3-inch-deep layer of mulch over the soil and around your roses to hold moisture and prevent weed growth. Mulch can also act as a barrier to prevent soilborne diseases from reaching the leaves.
Pruning Your Roses
Pruning and deadheading keeps your rosebushes lush, healthy, and constantly blooming. Most gardeners prune their roses in the early spring, just before or as plants begin to grow. As you prune roses, keep in mind that you want your plants to grow with an open center so air can flow freely through the plant; this will also keep your rose from looking like a crazy mess of branches. As you do this, cut out any dead branches as well as small, weak canes. Some classic roses take a lot of complicated pruning, but shrub roses are meant to be as low maintenance as possible.
Deadheading for Best Blooms
One of the big perks of shrub roses is that they are meant to bloom continuously, keeping in flower all summer long and all the way until frost. They really don't need much deadheading. You typically do heavy pruning early in the season, and deadhead throughout the season. To deadhead your roses, cut off faded blooms—this makes your roses look better, helps prevent disease issues, and encourages more blooms. Cut faded rose flowers back to the nearest leaf.
Most roses aren't super drought tolerant, so give them a steady supply of moisture to keep them healthy and blooming. It's important to water them deeply, as this encourages their roots to extend farther down in the soil where it stays moist longer. Use a soaker hose to water—it'll keep the leaves dry, which helps your roses resist disease.
Fertilizing: A Happy Medium
If your garden is blessed with rich soil or you amend it with compost or other forms of organic matter regularly, you probably won't need to feed your plants. But if you're cursed with poor soil or are growing roses in containers, fertilizing can be helpful. In most cases, all you need is a general-purpose garden fertilizer. Be cautious, because when it comes to fertilizer, you can have too much of a good thing. Overfertilization may cause your roses to produce fewer flowers, suffer root injury, or even kill the plants.
Because roses in containers can't reach farther into the soil to find more nutrients, they depend on you to feed them. One easy solution is to use a slow-release plant food. You need to apply it just once or twice a season and it'll feeds your plants for months.
Winter Care and Protection
If you live in a Northern region, you will probably need to protect your roses during winter. No matter which method you use, be sure to wait until the soil has frozen: You want to keep the plants frozen all winter, not protect them from the cold. Check out some common methods to use:
Cover rose canes with several inches of loose mulch, such as weed-free straw, pine needles, or wood chips.
Protect roses with foam cones. Mound soil over the rose crown, then cover the entire plant with the cone. Cut a few ventilation holes in the cone, and anchor it so it won't blow away during winter windstorms.
If you're growing roses in containers, move them to a more sheltered spot, such as an unheated garage, storage shed, or cool basement over the winter.
Pest and Disease Fixes
Even with good conditions, roses need a little maintenance. Check out these treatments for common diseases:
This disease looks as it sounds—unsightly spots on the foliage. Prevent this disease with a garden fungicide labeled for use on roses during periods of cool, wet weather. Don't plant your roses too closely together, and make sure they're in full sun. Avoid watering with a sprinkler—wet foliage encourages disease.
If you see a gray or white fuzzy-looking film on your rose leaves, it's probably powdery mildew. Prevent it by using a garden fungicide labeled for use on roses during periods of wet or humid weather. Encourage good airflow, and make sure your roses get plenty of sun.
These big bugs can practically eat all the foliage and flowers from a rose plant in just a couple of days. Pick light infestations off by hand and drop the beetles into soapy water. Spray severe infestations with a garden insecticide containing carbaryl, permethrin, or neem.
If you see masses of tiny insects on your roses, it's likely aphids. If infestations are light, spray them off plants with a strong stream of water from a garden hose. For larger infestations, use a garden insecticide containing carbaryl, permethrin, or neem.
Gardening Tip: Select roses suited to your region; they'll be the best at standing up to disease. Also look for varieties labeled as disease resistant—but keep in mind that disease resistant doesn't mean disease-proof.
A Few of Our Favorites
Knock Out Rose
The most famous and one of the best-selling rose varieties is the Knock Out rose. Knock Out roses come in a variety of colors and are known for their long bloom times; they bloom all summer and last until fall. The roses can come in a medium-size shrub and are almost as wide as they are tall, so they look great planted in a big bank along a fence. They also look good sprinkled among other perennials or shrubs.
Drift rose is a newer variety of shrub rose. This rose type grows tiny flowers. Drift roses are also good as a groundcover rose because they are thick and wide, so they can cover a good amount of space. These roses are also great incorporated into a flowerbed of herbs, annuals, and perennials.
Easy Elegance Series
Easy Elegance roses are known for not only their fragrance, but also their easy-care qualities. These roses are bred to be disease resistant and able to stand up to weather extremes. A sunny spot in the garden and minimal care is all that these plants need to look their best.