Roses are an iconic symbol of Valentine’s Day. You can hardly go anywhere this time of year without running into a stand that is selling bouquets of roses, ready-made to brighten someone’s day! Roses are also a classic staple in landscaping, and in the flower garden. Here are some tips on how to grow them in Texas, as well as some of my favorite varieties.
ROSES OF ALL KINDS
Grown in landscapes since the beginning of recorded history, roses come in all shapes, sizes, and flower colors. There are hundreds of categories and varieties of roses including shrub types, climbers, ground covers, and flowers that range from very large to very small; there are even roses with green flowers! It is believed that the Spanish missionaries originally brought roses to the new world, first to Mexico and then spread them north into the United States.
To begin, roses need to be grown in full sun. They like to be in soil that is well-amended with organic matter and has good soil drainage. A raised flower bed with additional compost is a great place for a rose. Starting with healthy soil will prevent you from needing to fertilize much later on.
Newly-planted roses will appreciate being watered about twice a week throughout the first growing season, and a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch helps quite a bit. Mid-February is a great time to plant roses and you should be able to find a good selection at your local nurseries this time of year. It is also the best time to prune most roses. Shrub roses can be pruned way back, leaving nothing but 4 to 6-inch stubs. Pruning back in February helps to clean out any deadwood that may be on your plant and prevents disease. However, take caution: February is not the time to prune climbing roses, such as Seven Sisters or Lady Banks rose, because these only bloom in the spring. If you prune climbers now, you will be cutting off all the blooms for the year! Instead, prune those after they have finished flowering.
Roses sometimes get a bad reputation for being finicky and picky plants, and some of them can be! Hybrid Tea roses and other modern hybrids probably don’t belong in a Texas garden. However, not all roses are created equal. There are several old roses, as well as a few modern introductions, that are some of the best and hardiest perennials that can grow easily in the Lone Star State.
Ideal roses for growing in Texas
There are many varieties that perform well in Texas. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Belinda’s Dream – Bred at Texas A&M University by a math professor, this rose is a true Texan! It is a tough shrub rose that produces large pink, fragrant flowers that keep well when cut. It keeps blooming all season long. It is my personal all-time favorite rose, and was designated as a “Texas Superstar” plant by Texas A&M.
- Sea Foam – A nice climbing rose. It makes double white flowers that repeat spring, summer, and fall. It is a tough plant once established and needs a trellis or support to grow on.
- Cecile Bruner – Another wonderful shrub rose. It has small pink, double-ruffle flowers and a strong fragrance. Each flower is perfectly formed. They bloom in waves, budding off and on all season long. The blooms appear in clusters on the plant. It is also known as the “sweetheart rose”.
- Red Cascade – A true rambling rose. It can grow 6 to 7-feet wide with no particular shape. It makes small, deep red flowers all summer long. This rose looks beautiful in a hanging basket.
- Caldwell Pink – Button-type, small pink flowers bloom on this well-mannered shrub rose. Mature plants can grow roughly 3-foot by 3-foot large and hardly ever stop blooming!
- Drift roses – Good for ground covers. They come in many different flower colors that range from red to peach and bloom best in the spring and fall.
- Mutabilis – Also known as the butterfly rose. This thing is a beast! A Mutabilis rose can get huge – often 8-feet tall, and almost as wide. It can be made into a blooming privacy hedge or can be kept smaller with pruning. I have even seen Mutabilis roses trained into a tree form. The flowers on this one start out yellow, then change to pink, and finally turn crimson! Often, all three colors will appear on the plant at the same time, creating a unique display.
- Knockout Roses – A family of modern roses. They are resistant to almost all rose diseases and don’t require any deadheading to keep in bloom all season long. There are many colors to choose from with different pinks, reds, yellows and whites. My favorite knockout is an open-face white flower called “Whiteout”. All Knockout roses have a nice light fragrance.
The roses listed above are not the finicky types that need to be babied or require any special spraying to stay healthy. They are super-tough, disease-resistant perennials that can be drought-tolerant once they are established. All of them bloom off and on all season long. Removing the old blooms, which is called deadheading, will get the roses to produce more flowers faster. For more about great roses for Texas, visit this website:
Be Aware of Rose Rosette
There is a disease present in Texas called “rose rosette,” which is fatal for roses. It is spread by a tiny bud mite. There is no treatment for this disease yet. Once a rose catches this disease, it is recommended to remove the affected plant immediately. It is a misconception that this problem is new. Rose rosette was discovered in this area in the 1940’s. In recent years, many people thought this problem was specific to Knockout roses, which is also not true, as all roses can catch this disease. Although this problem is bad, it is still not prevalent enough to dissuade anyone from growing roses. Yes, something in your garden might catch it, and you may have to destroy a plant, but chances are your roses never will catch it. If you do have to remove a plant, a new rose could be planted in the very same place seven days later and could go on to thrive. Roses are inspiring workhorse plants in our gardens and should always be included when possible. The threat of this erratic disease should not stop us from finding a home for roses in our gardens.
I hope you enjoyed this information about one of my favorite plants – the venerable rose. Get ready, because spring is coming soon! Happy gardening!
Director of Horticulture at the State Fair of Texas