Easy Roses, Difficult Roses
Start with the Right Plant
How many times have you been seduced by a gorgeous long stemmed rose only to watch it get covered by aphids, then covered with blackspot, then drop its leaves, then die horribly despite all your best efforts?
If the answer is, "Too many times," don't despair. You are not alone, and it is NOT your fault.
Some perennial flowers seem to spread like wildfire no matter what you do, while others are more like extemely high-maintenance girlfriends who demand lots of fine jewelry, champagne, and constant attention and then dump you anyway after the briefest of jittery romances.
The truth about roses is that the cheaper the plant, the less likely it is to live. Every big box store carries long-stemmed 'Tea' varieties as bare root stock in the spring for a couple of dollars (or less as annual season approaches). The pictures on the boxes look awesome, the price is right, you plant them according to directions, and watch them die.
I am going to tell you the secret of growing gorgeous roses with very little effort, roses that will come back bigger and happier year after year.
Beautiful Rugosa Roses
Closest to Wild, Grow Like Wild
Rugosa roses are shrub roses with bumpy leaves covered with tiny 'hairs. The word 'rugose' means bumpy or rough. So even if no one in a given garden center knows what a rugosa rose is or whether they stock any, you can always tell for yourself by looking at the leaves.
Rugosa leaves and rough, all other varieties have glossy leaves.
Rugosa roses are close to wild roses that grow along the Eastern seaboard and put up with sandy soil, salty breezes, cold rain, and cloudy days. They are tough and used to difficult conditions.
Even so, choosing the right place to plant your rose bush is as crucial as choosing the right rose.
Look for a spot with a little shade at the roots and sun at the top. A nearby fence or support also helps, especially if you option for one of the taller rugosa roses like "Hansa", that can grow to over six feet high and eight feet wide.
When placed well, your rugosa rose will grow almost in spite of you, but you will still need to provide water during hot spells and an annual dose of high phosphorus root stimulator. Avoid high nitrogen plant foods, which will pump up the foliage at the expense of blossoms.
Antique Climbing Roses and 'Nearly Wild' Creepers
Hardy Non-Rugosa Roses for Beginners
Climbing roses and shrub roses are, in general, much easier to grow than other long-stemmed varieties. Look for a leaf that is serrated and not glossy but not bumpy like a rugosa.
Check the tag and make sure it is a climber or shrub variety. These roses need direct sun and slightly richer soil than rugosa roses, but most people have good luck with them if they are well-placed.
Climbing and shrub roses marked as 'antique' are hardier than other varietiess. 'Antique' roses are older roses that tend to have a strong scent and all-season bloom, but shorter stems. Flowers can be large like 'cabbage-roses' or tiny.
These are the kind of roses your grandmother and her mother might have grown.
Finally, one variety of low-growing creeping rose called "Nearly Wild" is fairly indestructible and looks especially nice in rock gardens. "Nearly Wild" has single pink petals and a bright yellow center, and blooms right into fall.
Once you have some success with easy to grow roses, you'll find your fear of them disappearing and a new addiction growing fast.
But that's a good thing, right?