From the ground up: Find the prefect rose for your yard

A friend recently asked me, “What is the best rose for my yard?” There are several options available for growing healthy roses in Iowa gardens. Rose hardiness is most important, so choose one that is not a grafted rose, but a rose growing on its own roots. These roses include a variety of rose types.

There are several shrub roses to choose from including The Knock Out rose series. These come in red, pink, yellow and double flower varieties. Knock Outs are great because you don’t have to deadhead these, which is known as self-cleaning. If space is a bit limited, other options include the Drift Rose or Carpet Rose. These are both winter hardy and repeat bloomers, but smaller than the Knock Out series. They come in a variety of colors as well. Fellow Linn County Master Gardener Deb Walser also likes the Easy Elegance Shrub rose series. She mentions two varieties in that series Grandmas Blessing with large pink double flowers, and Little Mischief with deep pink and a white eye.

If you’re looking for a climber, choose one root hardy to zone 4. There are several options in the Canadian Explorer Series. Beware, some climbers have lots of thorns. The William Baffin rose is a good choice. I have Henry Kelsey rose in my own garden that has bloomed nicely for years.

If you prefer Hybrid tea, Floribunda or Grandiflora, check with your quality garden centers for varieties grown on their own root stock. Hybrid Tea roses have large flowers on long stems, Floribunda’s have clusters of blooms and Grandifloras have very large blooms on long stems. These varieties require more maintenance than the shrub or climbers because they are more susceptible to winter kill. In the spring (mid-April for our area) you’ll need to prune out the dead wood, which is any wood or canes that is not green and plump with healthy buds. Make slanting cuts at least 1 inch below the dead wood, but about 1/4 inch above healthy outward-facing buds in the same direction as the bud. If you have totally dead canes, remove the whole cane from the plant. If we have a mild winter (unlike this past one) with little winter damage, a common practice is to prune back hybrid teas, floribundas and Grandifloras to about 12 inches off the ground.

Mid-April is a good time to plant or transplant roses, before the plant begins to leaf out. Make sure to mulch roses well and keep new or transplanted roses watered on a regular basis for several weeks.

Iowa State University has a rich history in researching hardiness and disease resistance of roses with a focus on sustainability. Griffith Buck, known for developing more than 90 varieties of winter hardy and disease resistant roses for Iowa, and other early researchers set the stage for current trials called “Earth-Kind” being conducted at Iowa State. For more information visit It’s a good read.

Lisa Slattery is a Linn County Master Gardener.

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