Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Roses

Growing Roses the Natural Way

by Mark Whitelaw

Pink-flowered 'Dainty Bess' is a classic and deeply scented hybrid tea.

After more than 30 years, I figured there wasn't much more for me to learn about growing roses. I pruned once a year, fertilized once a month, watered once a week, and dead-headed flowers once in a while. But most of the time I spent in my rose garden, I was spraying to control insects and diseases.

About 10 years ago, I began to question all my pesticide spraying. Was it for beautiful blooms? Perfect foliage? And what were the health consequences? Was there an easier, less toxic way to control pests and diseases in the rose garden?

While all this research is ongoing, I can share with you what I've learned.

Most Disease-Prone Roses

The most common diseases here in north-central Texas are black spot and powdery mildew. Typically, roses with yellow flowers or yellow-flowered ancestors are the most disease-prone. Among the antique roses, Bourbons, Kordes, and Hybrid Perpetuals are the most prone to black spot.

Most Insect-Prone Roses

Aphids, thrips, June (or May) beetles, cucumber beetles, and spider mites are the most common insect and mite pests in my garden. This differs somewhat from troublesome pests in other regions. (See below for a more complete listing of rose pests and their controls.) Again, some generalizations: Light-colored roses -- whites, yellows, and pinks, both moderns and antiques -- are the most susceptible. As a rule, the modern classes, with their high, pointed centers and tight bloom structures, are generally infested sooner and are more difficult to cure.

Least Trouble-Prone Roses

I like to grow many kinds of roses including some of the more pest-prone kinds. But there are many roses, modern and antique, that are rarely bothered by rose pests of any kind. Seek out these kinds of roses if you want roses but don't want to do any spraying or fussing. Some of the most trouble-free include 'Bonica' (pink), 'Carefree Delight' (pink); 'Carefree Wonder' (pink), 'Cecile Brunner' (pink), 'Livin' Easy' (orange blend); 'Martha Gonzales' (red), 'Old Blush' (pink), and 'Vanity' (pink).

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