A great new series of low-growing landscape roses, called Drift roses, has been named a Louisiana Super Plants selection for fall 2013. Fall is a great time to plant roses – they establish very well in the cooler weather and provide outstanding color to the fall garden.
The roses we choose to grow and how we use them in our landscapes has undergone a tremendous change over the past 10 to 15 years. This is summed up most clearly in the new category of roses called the “landscape roses.”
The landscape rose category was created for modern rose varieties that have been bred and selected to be shapely, bushy, repeat-flowering, disease-resistant and relatively low-maintenance. These roses are meant to be planted in our landscapes much like any other landscape shrub, such as Indian hawthorn, azalea or loropetalum.
The popular Knock Out rose and its variations are the best known and widely planted roses in this category. A past Louisiana Super Plants selection from fall 2011, Belinda’s Dream rose was chosen for its rich pink, hybrid tea-like flowers on tough plants. It’s also in the landscape rose category. But most of these great landscape roses are relatively large-growing – easily reaching 5 feet or more tall and wide.
The Drift roses were bred and selected to provide all of the resilience, disease resistance and frequent flowering of larger landscape roses but on much lower-growing bushes. Drift roses fill a special niche in the landscape rose market. They will fit beautifully into smaller landscape spaces, provide the perfect-size shrub for foundation plantings and look great in containers.
These roses are from Conard-Pyle/Star Roses, the same folks that gave us the Knock Out series of low-maintenance landscape roses.
Drift roses are a cross between full-size ground-cover roses and miniature roses. From the ground-cover roses they inherited toughness, disease resistance and a spreading growth habit. From the miniatures they inherited their well-managed size and free-flowering nature. They grow only 2 to 3 feet tall with a generous spread of 4 feet or more. The low, spreading habit, colorful flowers and long blooming season make Drift roses a lower-maintenance alternative to bedding plants in flower beds.
The Drift rose series includes a wide variety of colors, and all have been included in the Louisiana Super Plant selection. They include Drift Pink, Drift Coral, Drift Red, Drift Peach, Drift Apricot, Drift Sweet (pink double blooms) and the new Drift Popcorn (whitish yellow). Some of the Drift roses produce double flowers, and some produce single flowers. All produce flowers in large clusters that can virtually cover the bush when they are in full bloom.
Choose any of these seven varieties, and they will provide outstanding flushes of bloom from spring to early winter.
In LSU AgCenter trials at the Hammond Research Station, Drift roses produce about five flower cycles through the bloom seasons. The spring bloom in April/May and the fall bloom in October/November, as with most other roses, are the peak times for best performance and the highest-quality flowers. The late-spring-to-early-summer second bloom is also impressive.
The cooler weather of fall makes it a joy to get out and plant roses. Be sure to plant Drift roses in a well-prepared landscape bed enriched with generous amounts of organic matter, such as compost. Good drainage produces best results, so avoid low, wet areas or plant in raised beds. Space individual plants a minimum of 3 feet apart. It would be best to plant them 4 to 5 feet apart if you are thinking long term. The soil pH for roses should be slightly acid, between 6.0-6.5.
As with other roses, plant Drift roses in a location receiving full sun. Eight hours of sunlight daily is recommended. These ground-hugging, ever-blooming shrubs are perfect as a border or bedding plant. They make a stunning low hedge or can be used to edge a bed of taller shrubs.
Drift roses should be fertilized each spring with a slow-release or controlled-release fertilizer, which releases nutrients to the plants slowly over time. Be sure to follow label directions. Another fertilizer application in late summer would help plants bloom better into the fall, especially in new landscape beds where nutrients may be lacking. Drift roses really come into their own the second or third year after planting.
Mulch is very important for roses. In addition to looking nice and reducing weed problems, mulching prevents the surface soil from drying out so fast. This helps the roots establish more quickly and more reliably and reduces the amount of watering needed.
Make no mistake, these are not finicky roses. Appealing to today’s busy gardener, these low-maintenance roses are highly disease-resistant. They require no spraying. Blackspot disease has been very minimal on plants grown in Louisiana. Bed preparation, irrigation and proper fertilization management are the keys to success.
Louisiana Super Plants selections are promoted every spring and fall by the LSU AgCenter in cooperation with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. They are exceptional choices for your landscape with proven track records in Louisiana’s unique climate. For more information on Louisiana Super Plants, go online to www.lsuagcenter.com/superplants. Click on “Where to Find Super Plants” to find participating retail nurseries near you.
Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. He can be reached at DGill@agcenter.lsu.edu