In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
Some Knockout roses are "blushing" like this one, with single flowers that age from pink to white in a few days.
Roses for All
In every survey, America's favorite flower is the rose. For drama in the garden and vase, flower colors that span the rainbow, and the fragrance of poetry, grow roses. Not every rose will perform its magic where we live, so use this basic primer to get started or add to your collection.
Opt in to Roses
Everywhere you look, there are roses waiting to be planted, and their pictures are truly inspiring. It is important to sort through the information and descriptions to know where they will grow. As the new USDA map reveals, very little of the Southern Coasts region remains in Zone 8. That means looking for roses meant to grow in Zone 8b at least or preferably Zone 9. There are many roses that grow in both Zones 9 and 10; those are the ones for you.
Know Rose Families
The only way to make smart type and variety choices for roses is to know at least some of the players. Hybrid tea roses are most available in the trade, and if you are willing to do the work they can be rewarding, with spectacular blossoms for the vase and flower shows. The deep crimson 'Veteran's Honor' is a good example of a hybrid tea rose that grows well even in southwest Florida, and there are many more. Consult the local rose society in your area for lists of their stars and places to see them in bloom this spring. Many of the Knockout series have taken to our climate quite well. The Floribunda group has bunches of flowers on rose bushes of smaller stature, like 'Playgirl', which is loved for its strong shade of pink and bountiful flowers on a stocky plant.
English roses have garnered lots of attention in recent years for their rounded forms and flowers on large, leafy shrubs. They have some subtle colors, like the apricot shades of 'Abraham Darby' rose, that heighten contrast in a world so often dominated by pink and red. Old Garden Roses are really several different rose species united by a certain maturity but otherwise quite different. China roses (like the butterfly rose and Old Blush) are repeat bloomers, long a favorite of southern gardeners for their tolerance of our conditions. Polyanthas like the Sweetheart Rose, 'Cecile Brunner', and 'The Fairy' are noted for scores of small flowers and leaves on plants best grown as 3-4 foot shrubs, although climbers are available and spectacular. Bourbon roses, like my sentimental favorite 'Clotilde Soupert', have intoxicating fragrances coming from the deep folds of many petals. The flowers are least attractive in summer when heat can ball them up, but even then the smell is grand. The Noisette roses are purely American roses with tall, stiff canes that bloom almost all year. These are best grown behind the neater forms so their gangly canes can stand up tall without looking like gawky teenagers. Some of the Meidilland roses are especially colorful, huge shrubs with flowers that change colors as they age, like Fuchsia Meidilland. It is thorny and aggressive and needs its own spot to shine in the garden.
Start Roses Right
With a few exceptions, roses grow best in full sun with well-drained soil. Many gardeners prepare a raised bed for them, but even 4 inches of an elevated bed in the garden works well so long as the soil drains properly. We like roses that grow on their own roots and roses that are grafted onto other rootstocks chosen for their tolerance for our soils. The former should be planted at the same height or just slightly higher than they were in their containers or rooting beds. The latter will have a knobby point on the main trunk where it has been grafted. Be sure to plant that bud union at least 2 inches above ground. When researching grafted roses, look for the named rootstocks 'fortuneana' and 'Dr. Huey'. Both have been proven in our soils and have plenty of different named roses grafted to them.
Bare root roses are widely available and can be an inexpensive way to get a new rose when suitable varieties can be found. For best success, take all wrapping off immediately and submerge the entire plant in warm water overnight before planting. Once hydrated, plant bare root roses on a mound in the hole that will put its growing point above ground and spread the roots down over the mound for stability. Prune an inch off of the waxed stem tips right away. Water all roses weekly if rainfall is less than an inch for that period, and fertilize after each bloom flush to keep the remontant types blooming for months.
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