Carefree Roses are Low on Maintenance, High on Beauty – by Rebecca Norman

By Guest Contributor

First posted on 07-21-2008

Roses are back, thanks to new carefree varieties released in the last few years, says Dr. Jim Robbins, extension horticulture specialist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

These carefree roses require minimal attention, come in a variety of colors and levels of disease resistance.

“Roses are making a comeback,” Robbins said. “While interest in the beautiful hybrid tea roses may be waning, interest in carefree shrub roses is on the fast track upward.”

Jackson & Perkins, a plant retailer, estimated in 2005, that 20 percent of rose sales were shrub roses. The company predicts the number will be 50 percent by 2013.

Robbins says, “To help wade through these shrub rose choices, several universities are evaluating these popular plants to sort out winners and losers.”

In 2006, a no-spray rose trial was conducted at the West Tennessee Research and Education Center in Jackson, Tenn. Sixty-four rose cultivars were screened for resistance to black spot and Cercospora leaf spot. Out of these 64 rose cultivars, 17 cultivars were found to be resistant or moderately resistant to both diseases. Knockout™ is one such cultivar that has been a favorite of gardeners for years. In 2005, 6.5 million Knockout roses were sold, according to Jackson & Perkins.

Carefree rose cultivars are good choices for residential and commercial gardens because they require little or no pesticide applications.

“University trials are ongoing to evaluate many of these carefree shrub roses to better educate the public,” said Robbins.

“EarthKind roses are unique to Texas A&M University,” Robbins added. Horticulturists at Texas A&M University developed the EarthKind Rose program to determine which rose cultivars exhibited the highest performance under adverse growing conditions with virtually no maintenance. The EarthKind Rose program combines the best of organic and traditional gardening and landscaping principles, seeking to prevent pest problems through selection of resistant cultivars rather than with pesticides.

In a five-year field research study of more than 117 rose varieties, Texas A&M horticulturalists found 11 of the 117 varieties had spectacular performance. These rose cultivars included: Sea Foam, Marie Daly, The Fairy, Caldwell Pink, Knock Out, Perle d’Or’, Belinda’s Dream, Else Poulson, Katy Road Pink, Mutabilis and Climbing Pinkie. For more information on these cultivars and the EarthKind Rose program, visit

Although many varieties of carefree roses are available, Robbins reminds gardeners that not all varieties have equal levels of resistance to diseases such as black spot and Cercospora leaf spot. For more information on resistance levels among carefree rose cultivars, visit .

For more information about carefree roses, please contact your county extension agent or visit The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the U of A Division of Agriculture.