In the Garden: The Modern Rose: Should You Plant It?

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The Modern Rose: 

Should You Plant It?

For hundreds of years, roses have been the standard by which all other flowers are measured, both in beauty and fragrance. Thanks to new, relatively carefree cultivars, you can add these garden classics to your landscaping with little effort.

These are not your grandmother’s roses! Growers have developed very hardy shrub roses that do not require the constant attention that old fashioned roses require. These varieties, bred for the modern landscape, add beauty and color that lasts all summer long. In Nashville, landscape-style roses begin blooming in April/May and continue to re-bloom until October or later depending on frost. They provide a continuation of color during that mid-summer lag time, when early-summer perennials decline, and the later-summer perennial flowers and crape myrtles have not yet begun to bloom.

Care: Best planted in a sunny location in the spring, the modern rose varieties do not have to be “deadheaded“ (trimming off the old blooms to make new blooms develop). Just watch them bloom and grow! They will benefit from a little rose fertilizer in April, July, and Sept 1st, but it is not necessary under normal soil conditions. Each spring, use your electric hedge trimmers and cut them back to about 18 inches, trimming out any dead wood or sickly looking weak canes. These roses are not fussy and will grow fresh new canes and flowers each season. These varieties are disease-resistant, so fungicides are rarely needed. 

Some modern varieties to consider: Besides the very popular Knockout Rose series, take a look at the Drift Rose series, Oso Easy Rose series, and the Carpet Rose series—all are offered in many colors. Begin shopping for these at your local nursery in March and April to get fresh healthy plants. My personal favorites are the Pink Knockout rose (not the double), Amber Carpet rose, Coral Drift rose, Peach Drift rose, and Home Run (a red rose).

One major downfall: Sadly, a deadly rose disease that was previously only found up north and out west has found its way to Middle Tennessee. “Rose Rosette” is caused by a tiny insect (mite) that travels from plant to plant. This mite is so small, that it blows around in the wind, infecting roses in our area.

The most notable symptom is disfigured and red new growth. Unfortunately there is no cure or clear prevention for this disease. According to the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, infected plants should be dug up, bagged, and disposed of to prevent spreading. Once a location is infected, you cannot put in new replacement roses, for they will become infected too. When purchasing new roses, check them for signs of this disease. Rose Rosette does not infect other plants.

Roses are still worth it! Despite this awful development, roses are still worth planting. No other flowering shrub puts on the summer-long show that landscaping roses do. When you plant a rose bush, it may not be forever, but it will be worth it while it lasts.

—By Ann Jackson

Source:  Windham,  M.,   Windham, A.,   Hale,  F.,  Observations of rose rosette disease.  University of Tennessee.

Editor’s Note: Ann Jackson is director of sales, marketing, and creative interpretation for Turf Managers, LLC. in Nashville. An avid gardener, Ann is also a certified lawn and horticultural professional through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and provides design services for commercial and residential landscapes and flower beds. E-mail your questions to her at

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