Marianne Ophardt

Garden Tips: Easy-care roses popular for busy people

Easy-care roses are accessible to busy gardeners who don’t have the time to take care of traditional rose shrubs.
Easy-care roses are accessible to busy gardeners who don’t have the time to take care of traditional rose shrubs. Associated Press

Let’s face it, our lives are busy. While gardeners may not mind spending time in gardens, only the most devoted rose lovers enjoy the time and work it takes to care for traditional rose shrubs. Plant breeders, working to meet the needs of today’s gardeners, have developed easy-care roses that make this beloved bloom more accessible.

Recently, I mentioned that I was a fan of Oso Happy Smoothie. It is a rose with single pink flowers and a mounded habit, growing about 3 feet tall and wide. It has no thorns, is winter hardy and only needs a bit of shaping in the spring. It is resistant to powdery mildew and black spot diseases. It is a continuous bloomer, flowering in early, mid and late summer, and provides an abundance of raspberry pink blooms all summer long.

Oso Happy Smoothie is just one of the easy-care roses promoted by Proven Winners. This year, they introduced Oso Easy Lemon Zest, the newest member of the Oso Easy series. It grows about 2.5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, producing lemony yellow flowers that don’t fade to white once open. Like the other members of the series, Lemon Zest requires little pruning, is disease resistant, blooms continuously and is self-cleaning. Self-cleaning means that their faded flowers do not require the deadheading to encourage re-bloom that is needed with traditional rose shrubs.

Easy-care roses are not new to the garden scene. The Tesselaar company has been touting their Flower Carpet rose series since introducing Flower Carpet Pink 20 years ago, calling it the first eco-rose. Pink Splash with bicolor hot pink and pale pink flowers is one of their newer introductions.

Tesselaar says that roses of their series are low-growing and compact, disease resistant and require little pruning. They are also continuous blooming and self-cleaning. Depending on the cultivar, they grow about 2.5 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Once established, they are hardy to Zone 5 and tolerant to low water and drought conditions. Their Next Generation Flower Carpet cultivars — Amber, Pink Supreme and Scarlet — are more heat tolerant than the older cultivars. They recommend pruning these roses back to one third their size in early spring.

The Knock Out series of roses, introduced in 2000, also has become popular. Like other easy-care roses, they are winter hardy, continuous blooming, self-cleaning and disease resistant. They grow about 4 feet tall and wide, and sometimes larger. There are seven members of the Knock Out series. I am partial to the Double Pink Knock Out for its pretty pink double flowers.

Knock Out roses work well in mixed shrub-flower borders or as a hedge. Pruning is simple. Most years, all that is needed is a little pruning in the spring to shape the plant and remove any dead, damaged or diseased canes. Every several years they need more severe pruning to remove one-third of the oldest canes. To maintain them as a hedge, use hedgers to cut them back in the spring to 2 feet below the desired size.

Some rose experts disdain easy-care roses for lacking the fragrance and beauty of traditional rose shrubs. William Radler, the developer of Knock Out roses, admits that these are not exhibition roses, but are intended for today’s busy gardener who wants low-maintenance roses that require less pruning and chemicals. However, Radler hopes to develop low-maintenance hybrid teas, floribundas and other traditional rose shrubs. If he does, that should make all gardeners who love roses happy.

Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.