Drought Tolerant Rose Types: Are There Rose Plants That Resist Drought

Drought Tolerant Rose Types: Are There Rose Plants That Resist Drought

By: Stan V. Griep, American Rose Society Consulting Master Rosarian, Rocky Mountain District

It is indeed possible to enjoy roses in drought conditions; we just need to look for drought tolerant rose types and plan things out beforehand to get the best performance possible. Keep reading to learn more about the best drought tolerant roses and care in times of limited moisture.

Rose Plants That Resist Drought

Many of us have either had to or are currently dealing with drought conditions in the areas we live. Such conditions make it tough to have a garden due to the lack of an abundance of water to keep our plants and shrubs well hydrated. After all, water is a life giver. Water carries the nutrition to our plants, including our rose bushes.

That being said, there are roses that we can focus on that have been tested in various growing conditions to see how they perform. Just as the “Buck Roses” are known for their cold climate hardiness, there are some heat tolerant roses, like the Earth Kind roses, that will perform well in these tough conditions. In fact, many of the species roses and old garden roses are tolerant of varying climatic conditions.

Some climbing rose bushes that have been found to be heat and drought tolerant include:

  • William Baffin
  • New Dawn
  • Lady Hillingdon

If you live in an area that gets very little to no relief from heat and drought conditions, you certainly can still enjoy roses, the choice should shift to enjoying some of the Earth Kind roses noted above, of which Knockout is one. You can also find more info on Earth Kind roses here. A website I recommend for finding some wonderful species roses can be found at High Country Roses. The folks there are most helpful when it comes to locating the best drought tolerant roses for your growing conditions. Seek out owner Matt Douglas and tell him Stan ‘the Rose Man’ sent you. Be sure to check out some miniature rose bushes too.

Creating More Drought Tolerant Rose Bushes

While no rose bush can live without any water, especially many of our modern roses, there are things we can do to help them be more drought tolerant rose bushes. For instance, mulching roses with a 3- to 4-inch (7.6 to 10 cm.) layer of good shredded hardwood mulch helps hold available moisture in the soil. This mulch is said to create a condition in our gardens similar to that of a forest floor. The need for fertilization can be reduced in some cases and pretty much eliminated in others with this mulching according to some studies.

Many roses can get by on less water once established and perform quite nicely. It is a matter of us thinking and planning out garden areas to help the conditions these plants are subject to be in. Planting roses in good sunny locations is good, but when considering drought tolerance and performance, perhaps trying to select an area that gets less intense sunshine and heat for extended periods may be better. We can create such conditions ourselves by building garden structures that shield out the sun when at its most intense.

In areas subject to drought conditions, it is important to water deeply when feasible to do so. This deep watering, combined with the 3- to 4-inch (7.6 to 10 cm.) mulching, will help many rose bushes continue to perform well. The Floribunda, Hybrid Tea and Grandiflora roses will likely not bloom as often under the stress of drought but can survive with an every other week watering, while still providing some beautiful blooms to enjoy. Many of the miniature rose bushes will do well in such conditions also. I have had some outperform the larger blooming varieties in such conditions to my total delight!

In times of drought, water conservation efforts are high and using the water we have wisely is a top concern. Usually, the communities we live in will impose watering days to help conserve water. I have soil moisture meters that I like to use to see if my roses really need to be watered or if they can go a while yet. I seek out types that have nice long probes on them so that I can probe around the rose bushes in at least three locations, getting down well into the root zones. The three probes gives me a good indication of what the moisture conditions truly are in any given area.

If we are careful as to what soaps or cleansers we use when we shower or bathe, that water (known as graywater) can be collected and used to water our gardens too, thus serving a dual purpose that helps conserve water.

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A Drought-Tolerant Garden

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Moving to an area of the country that receives, on average, around 52 inches of precipitation a year gave me little incentive to think about drought when I began to plant. In fact, just last year the month of May brought severe flooding that damaged much of downtown Nashville. But summer has been a very different story the past few years. Even though the air is usually humid during the months of July, August and September, those months brought many weeks without any measurable rainfall. After surveying the yard and gardens at the end of the growing season, it occurred to me that most things had come through the heat and drought well. That got me to thinking about what had been planted and the great variety of plants that are actually considered to be drought-tolerant.

First, let me say this is not about cacti and succulents or xeriscaping or rock gardens. Those are all great topics to explore, especially if you live in or near an arid area of the country or in any area where there are restrictions on the use of water. When you say the words drought and tolerant together in the same sentence, people often do think of the plants and topics just mentioned. Although I am very fond of succulents and cacti, many people are not. For some, they bring to mind a hot, barren environment full of thorny things that seldom bloom and that are always situated in a sea of gravel and white rocks. This is definitely not about that.

While not purposely setting out to plant drought-tolerant gardens, it appears that is what has happened. And I am very pleased with the results, especially since the yard now contains lots of bloom color over a long period, lots of lushness, and lots of interesting growth. All this has been achieved by planting things that are termed hardy. Love that word. I now look for anything for sale here that bears it. The USDA plant hardiness zone map and its designation of hardy are used to indicate that a plant is at least root-hardy to a certain temperature and will most likely survive over the winter in a particular location. It seems many of those cold-hardy plants are also heat and drought tolerant as well. Recently, some agencies and organizations have begun to develop plant heat zone maps as well as to provide information about a plant's expected heat and drought tolerance.

Sometimes gardeners, including me, zone-push just for the fun of it. We plant things that are are not categorized as hardy in our zones. With just a little mulching, many things can be grown here that I initially had thought wouldn't make it through the winter. On the other side of the coin, there are also a lot of plants that will provide color and interest over a long growing season which includes high temperatures and drought and still remain looking good while doing so. Pictured below are some of them.

Since I am interested in perennial gardens, most of the plants pictured are perennials a few are annuals from which it is easy to collect seeds for replanting the following year. These have all proven to be no muss, no fuss plants . . . and all are hardy and drought-tolerant here as well as in many other locations around the country. Additionally, the plants shown below are growing where they receive full hot summer sun for 6 or more hours a day. New plants will require more watering the first year until they are well-established. Fortunately, once established, many plants will do just fine without frequent watering. Hover over the pictures for names and additional information.

Planting for dought tolerance and climate change can be challenging but also very important. It's no fun at all to put a lot of time, energy and money into planting things that don't survive. While every yard contains its own micro-climates and no plant is guaranteed to always thrive in any location or zone, it pays to double-check plant hardiness zones or maps before choosing what to plant. To illustrate that point, my current zone changed from zone 6 to zone 7 over a period of 15-20 years. Zones have tended to become warmer and sometimes drier or wetter. Not all hardiness zone maps reflect those changes. It's a good idea to check several different maps or guides before planting. Additional information about climate zone changes can be found here.

Other drought-tolerant perennials include African Daisy, Asclepias tuberosa, Baby's Breath, Baptisia, 'Becky' Shasta Daisy, Black-eyed Susan, Blue Fescue, Broom Sedge, Bronze Fennel, California Poppy (not cold-hardy but a heavy reseeder), Celosia (not cold-hardy but reseeds easily), Coreopsis, Nepeta, Morning Glory, Eryngium, Fountain Grass, Gaura, Golden Aster, some Iris, Hardy Lantana (moderate cold-hardiness), English Lavender, Liatris, Heuchera (sun and shade varieties), Horseradish, Rosemary, the Mints, Penstemon, Santolina, Leonoitis (moderate cold-hardiness), Kniphofia, Ruellia, Oregano, many Salvias, Miscanthus, Armeria, Natives and Wildflowers, Valerian, Vinca, Wild Ageratum, Yarrow. Remember to check cold-hardiness before planting any of these in your zone.

Lastly, a word about roses since so many people love them and enjoy growing them in their yards and gardens. In most literature about drought-tolerant gardening, there seldom seems to be any mention of drought-tolerant roses. However, a number of roses have their ancestry in dry areas and many of the original garden roses were brought from the Middle East, a notoriously dry region. In my own experience, the 'Knock Out' variety of roses, the rugosas, and Rosa banksiae have flourished with little care and infrequent watering. In fact, it is thought that the largest rose in existence is a white Lady Banks Rose (Rosa banksiae) located in Tombstone, AZ, which receives an average yearly rainfall of just 14 inches. The rose was planted in 1885 and now covers over 8000 sq. ft. with a trunk circumference of over 12 ft. Lady Banks Rose is a thornless climber and is also available in a yellow variety (Rosa banksiae 'Lutea').

Rosa rugosa seems to do fine in poor soils, high heat and drying winds while producing an abundance of spicy-scented flowers followed by bright red hips, attractive to birds, in the Fall. While 'Knock Out' roses are not scented, they are very easy-care roses that provide an abundance of single or double blooms over a long period.

Another non-thirsty rose is 'Iceberg' which can be grown as either a floribunda or a short climber. This somewhat shade-tolerant rose is available in white, pink and burgundy colors and is considered by many to be one of the best floribunda roses of all time. It is mildly fragant and hardy to at least zone 5.


18 Great Roses for Shady Gardens

Catherine Song/The Spruce, 2019

Roses are generally regarded as full-sun plants, and they usually aren't considered for shade gardens. But even if your garden does not quite get the recommended six to eight hours of full sun, you may still be able to grow select varieties. No rose will thrive and bloom without some sun, but there are some roses that will do just fine with a little shade.

According to Steve Hutton, who introduced the Star Rose cultivar:

There can even be some advantages to growing some roses in the shade. Pale petaled beauties that can look washed out in bright sunshine will seem to glow in partial shade.

What's in a Name?

Understanding the official names of roses can be a little confusing, because the main genus (Rosa) is first divided into four subgenera, with the main subgenus (which also happens to be named Rosa) then divided into 11 sections. The full Latin name can be very long and is rarely used when categorizing a rose. Instead, a rose is usually named by the subgenus, followed by the original cultivar name, such as Rosa 'Peace.' But it gets a little confusing if different botanists are breeding the same roses from the same parents at the same time, or if commercial companies develop different trademarked versions of the same cultivar.

You may, therefore, find that the same plant is called by several different names depending on where and when you buy it. Rosa 'Peace', for example, has been known as 'Mme A. Meilland', 'Gioia', or 'Gloria Dei'. As a final complication, the commercial name may also throw in the hybrid class, such as "hybrid tea," "grandiflora" or "floribunda." Therefore, that simple Peace rose could carry a name like "Rosa subgenus Rosa, Hybrid Tea 'Peace'." Not to worry a little careful reading will help you understand what rose you are buying.

Here are 18 roses that tolerate the shade just fine.


Drought-Tolerant Plants That Will Survive a Texas Summer

Texas has a great gardening season when you think about it. While many of us dread the heat, which can creep in as early as April and exit as late as November, your friends with a green thumb rejoice at having a longer gardening season. But if you haven’t already heard (or learned), not just any plant can withstand a Texas summer. Before you run out and start your spring garden, you may want to consider whether or not you have drought-tolerant plants that can survive the hottest months of the year. There’s nothing worse than creating the flowerbed of your dreams, only to walk out a month later to find scorched leaves, wilted stems, and utter sadness across your backyard.

Here are a few drought-tolerant plants to grow in Texas:

Cape Plumbago (or sky flower) – A perennial with sky blue flowers that resemble phlox

  • Flowers in May until frost
  • Attracts butterflies
  • Can be used a groundcover or trailing
  • Best in light, sandy soils with good drainage

Texas Gold Columbine – A Texas native from the Big Bend region it has bright, butter-yellow flowers with large, graceful cups and long, dramatic spurs held by attractive, blue-green leaves

  • Reaches 2 – 3 feet tall
  • Blooms mid-March through early May
  • Attracts hummingbirds and bees
  • Prefers partial shade, moist and well-drained soil

Lord Baltimore Hibiscus – This tropical perennial has enormous 10-foot-wide, bright scarlet flowers.

  • Extended blooming period from July to frost
  • Versatile enough for pots, borders, or gardens
  • Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds
  • Grows to 5 feet tall

Turk’s cap – This plant’s bright-red, pendant, hibiscus-like flowers never fully open their petals form a loose tube resembling a Turkish turban, hence the name.

  • Prefers partial shade and well-drained soil
  • Attracts butterflies, birds, and hummingbirds
  • Grows 2 – 3 feet, sometimes reaching 9 feet
  • Bloom time: May – Nov

Bottlebrush – A shrubby tree, bottlebrushes can grow 10 – 15 feet tall. Because they’re evergreen, they can be used as hedges and borders for privacy.

  • Bees love the fuzzy red flowers of the bottlebrush
  • Drought and cold-tolerant, but some species can be frost sensitive
  • Can grow in containers or stand alone
  • Resists most diseases and pests

Salvias

Salvias have become a staple for gardeners desiring to build long-lasting colorful flowerbeds. They are hot weather plants, and to get the most blooms and growth, they prefer full sun. You can find them in a variety of colors, including purple, red, blue, white, and even yellow.

Indigo Spires – Salvias are known for being drought-tolerant. These perennials grow 3 – 6 feet tall and have flower spikes that are one foot long.

  • Easy to grow
  • Attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees
  • Blooms virtually all year
  • Perfect for water-wise gardeners

Mystic Spires Blue – This perennial is more compact than the Indigo Spires, but with more blooms.

  • Blooms all season long
  • Tolerant of heat and humidity
  • Rarely bothered by pests or disease
  • Must be cut back to about one foot after the first frost

Roses

They get a bad reputation for being finicky and high maintenance, when in actuality there are many varieties that require little effort to keep them happy all year long.

Knockout roses – A great rose for beginners. It has stunning flower power that provides an almost non-stop abundance of cherry red, single blossoms.

  • Little to no maintenance
  • Black spot resistant
  • Full sun is best

Yuccas

There are at least 40 species of yuccas, with around 20 in the U.S. They produce incredible flower spikes and are easily the focus of any garden with the sheer shape of the plants.

Texas Red Yucca – Is one of the best drought tolerant flowering succulents. It has a fountain of dark green long, thin leaves and produces long spikes of pink to red, bell-shaped flowers.

  • Easy to grow and require low maintenance
  • Attract bees and hummingbirds
  • More than 4 weeks of bloom time
  • Grow to 60” tall and 36” wide

A Note About Drought-Tolerant Plants

Always read instructions on labels before planting. Many plants reach their drought-tolerance only after being established. Many plants will need to be watered frequently at first, and then will taper off from a diligent watering schedule. Also, just because they are considered drought-tolerant plants does not make them frost-proof. Even one night of freezing weather in Texas can kill a plant, so be mindful of a plant’s needs during the winter time, that is, if you want to see them return the next year.


Drought tolerant perennials

Drought tolerance of any individual plant can vary from one region to the next so be sure to check your local extension service or local garden centers to see how a specific plant holds up in your region. To be highly drought tolerant a plant needs to be in what it considers to be ideal conditions. If the plant is not well suited to the sun, soil or site, then it may not be as healthy as possible. If the plant is not in good health and growing vigorously, it will not hold up well in dry conditions.

REQUIREMENTS OF A DROUGHT TOLERANT PLANT

Drought tolerant plants are usually quite insistent on well drained soil. Heavy soil that retains water will kill a drought tolerant plant. Loose soil allows the roots to spread and go deep. Some organic matter in the soil helps to retain moisture in loose sandy soils. When establishing a new drought tolerant plant it is very important to water deeply to encourage the roots to go deep to be most effective. Mulch drought tolerant plants with shredded bark to reflect heat and help the soil to retain moisture. And never over fertilize a drought tolerant plant, as a matter of fact most prefer little or no fertilizer at all. Encouraging the plant to develop more blooms and foliage than it is meant to handle on its own will require more water, defeating the whole purpose of planting a drought tolerant perennial.

These are the truly drought tolerant perennials, the ones that are going to make it through the heat of summer in places that you cant reach with a hose. Of course you can’t ignore them completely, these aren’t desert plants. In prolonged periods of drought you need to get out there with a watering can. Most drought tolerant plants would like at least a little drink each week. And in the Midwest you also need to remember that planting areas along the street and even driveway may be high in salt and chemicals from snow plows. Be sure to select salt tolerant plants for these areas. But, these are tough and the most drought tolerant you will find. You may also have noticed that these same plants are on just about every list of low maintenance perennials. Drought tolerance and maintenance often go hand in hand.

THE MOST DROUGHT TOLERANT PERENNIALS:

Gaillardia Blanket Flower is a tough prairie plant that blooms all season until frost. The sunny bloom colors are bright reds and yellows. Full Sun, well drained average soil, very drought tolerant and salt tolerant..

Heliopsis helianthoides False Sunflower are naturals for a dry garden. They are native to dry prairie and spread quite readily. Blooms mid summer into fall. Full Sun.

Achillea Yarrow puts up with heat and drought. Flat clusters of colorful blooms spring into summer. Full sun and well drained soil with low fertility. Salt resistant.

Agastache Hyssop is a southwestern native but it will do well in cold climates, especially drier regions up to zone 5. Tall spikes of tiny blue flowers from midsummer til fall, deadhead to encourage more blooming. Full sun.

Sedum Stonecrop has dense succulent foliage with a wide variety of form. Dense flowerheads bloom from midsummer into fall. Very drought tolerant in well drained soil, does not like fertile soil. Full sun, moderately salt tolerant.

Perovskia Russian Sage tolerates heat and drought, and loves poor soil. The shrubby form with silvery blue flower spikes is a staple in roadside gardens. Full sun to light shade.

Lavendula Lavender is native to the mountains of the Mediterranean where it grows in rocky soils. It is very adaptable and very heat and drought tolerant. Full sun, well drained dry soil.

Echinops Globe Thistle is native to the Mediterranean and reseeds readily in ideal conditions. Globe Thistle produces large steel blue globes of blooms with gray green foliage. Full Sun.

Eryngium Sea Holly is also native to the Mediterranean, producing steel blue spiky looking flower heads.. It grows easily in dry sandy soil in full sun and is very tolerant of poor soil. It will become leggy and sprawl in fertile soil or part shade, and does not like to be over watered. This is an ideal plant for low maintenance gardens on a difficult site.

Echinacea purpurea, the original Purple Coneflower species plant, is the hardiest, toughest, most heat and drought tolerant of the Echinacea. Although it will tolerate some clay and low fertility, it does prefer a good organic soil that is well drained.

Coreopsis verticillatea Threadleaf Coreopsis is a Southern native that is very drought tolerant. They bloom like crazy in summer. The prefer average to sandy soil, full sun to very light shade, and little or no fertilizer.

Rudbeckia hirta Black-eyed Susan is actually a biennial or reseeding annual if you prefer. In any case it is a great drought tolerant plant that blooms profusely in late summer.

Sempervivum tectorum Hen & Chicks are succulents that spread to a groundcover with wonderful color and texture. Full sun to light shade in well drained soil.

Phlox subulata Creeping Phlox brightens any garden in late spring with a blanket of solid bright blooms. It prefers a fertile soil, well drained, in full sun.

Gaura is a delicate looking plant with blooms that float above the foliage. They hold up very well in heat, drought and poor soil, but they will bloom better with regular water.

Pulminarius x allwoodii Dianthus Allwood are drought tolerant as well as salt tolerant. Some of them do prefer regular watering but will put up with long dry spells quite well.

Hemerocallis the species daylily is a very tough and drought tolerant perennial. It is somewhat tolerant of poor soil, is moderately salt tolerant and likes full sun to part shade.

Hemerocallis Daylily ‘Stella de Oro’ produces golden lilies in late summer. It is somewhat tolerant of poor soil and is moderately salt tolerant.

Cerastium tomentosum Snow in Summer is an excellent ground cover perennial for dry sandy soil in full sun. Quite tolerant of poor and even rocky soil. In late spring the gray green foliage is covered with clusters of white blooms. This is a rather short lived perennial but perpetuates by self seeding and spreading runner plants.

Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary is an annual herb, unless you live in zone 7 or warmer. Rosemary likes full sun and dry conditions and never likes wet soil. The spikey leaves are such a delicious and fragrant herb I have always harvested before it can flower. In mid Atlantic regions or the south the growing season is long enough to see it flower if not consistently harvested.

Thyme should not be limited to the herb garden, it is a lovely drought tolerant ground cover that also blooms. Or for a groundcover, Thymus praecos is also very drought tolerant and blooms like a carpet in spring.

Salvia officinalis Sage is a garden herb that loves sandy soil and average to dry conditions in full sun. Even if you don’t grow sage to use as an herb, there are some very showy cultivars that can add foliage interest to a drought tolerant garden.

Spring blooming bulbs of course are drought tolerant because they go dormant for summer and will start the blooming off in your gardens with a stunning display. And of course there are annuals that are drought tolerant. A few annuals in your garden will ensure blooms from spring to fall. Try zinnia, verbena, annual coreopsis, marigold and cosmos.


Training your roses to be more drought tolerant

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Having trouble with your roses? Wish they were fuller? Well here are some pruning tips to get the best out of your roses. Maria Cortes/El Paso Times

Roses bloom in Mimi Hoffman's front yard. Her gardens were on a Valley Oak Garden Club tour. (Photo: Teresa Douglass)

Many factors, including the variety, can influence the capacity of a rose to be drought tolerant.

Some roses are more drought tolerant than others by nature, but many roses can be trained to endure some drought.

Cultural techniques to improve drought tolerance involve soil management, mulching, and pruning, as well as the variety of rose and the time of year it is planted.

Environmental factors include the depth and structure of the top soil, depth to the water table, mychorrhizal populations, and organic matter (mulch, compost).

Create deep root systems with deep, infrequent watering to a depth of 12 to 18 inches below the soil surface.

This will enhance drought resistance and allow the plant to access more soil minerals. It will help prevent root rot from damaging plants and provides the plant access to a reservoir of water between irrigations. Deep root systems will help the rose to survive both droughts and winter freezes.

Use a drip system rather than a lawn sprinkler. Drippers put the water where it is needed--at the roots.

Drip system emitters are designed to deliver varying amounts of water. Choose emitters that drip between 1 and 4 gallons per hour, depending on your soil type and the size of the plant.

A 3-gallon drip emitter will emit 3 gallons of water per hour and will add 4.5 inches of water to the area.( 3gallons x 1.56 inches = 4.5 gallons of water applied.)

One gallon emitters add 1.56 inches of water over a square foot of dry ground and wet an area to a depth of about 1.5 inches, depending on the soil texture (clay, sand or loam) and how wet or dry the soil is when you apply the water.

To compliment these summer happy perennial bloomer keep shrubs, such as roses, happy throughout the warm months for a show of flowers all season long. It is a simple task with the big reward that takes a mild effort every couple of months. (Photo: Submitted)

Water to just beyond the width and depth of the roots system and allow the soil to partially dry between irrigations. Check with a moisture meter to determine the depth of soil moisture. You also can check the moisture by carefully digging down near the roots (be careful!) with a trowel or a long probe.

Look for a difference in soil color. Wet soil is usually darker than dry soil this can help you determine how deep the water is penetrating. Plants growing in sandy soil need to be watered more often for shorter periods of time than those growing in heavy clay soil. Plants growing in clay soil need to be watered less often, at slower rates because the water penetrates the soil more slowly.

Roses need at least 1" of water per week, and up to 2" during hot weather. You can estimate how many gallons or inches of water it takes to wet your roses to the depth of the root system. Use 1 gallon per hour (gph) drippers to apply 1-2 gallons of water for smaller plants like miniature roses.

Place two 1-gph emitters 12 inches from the base of a shrub rose that is 1 to 5 feet tall. Add a third 1-gph emitter to a rose growing over 5 feet, and replace the 1-gph emitters with 2-gph emitters if needed.

Because of summer watering restrictions, most gardens can only be watered 2-3 times a week in the summer, so all the required water for the week should be divided among those irrigations. Newly planted roses may need more water, so watch for wilt and other signs of drought stress.

To compliment these summer happy perennial bloomer keep shrubs, such as roses, happy throughout the warm months for a show of flowers all season long. It is a simple task with the big reward that takes a mild effort every couple of months. (Photo: Submitted)

When you water, be sure to wet the whole area of the root ball and then let it nearly dry out before the next watering. Plants cannot move water from one side to the other. If you water only one side, there will be growth on only one side. Watch for wilting, and water if needed.

Reduce irrigation frequency, not amount of water applied as the bushes grow. Well-established plants need less water than newly planted ones.

After the first year, when the plants are established, they will be more adept at seeking water from a wider area of soil. Move the emitters farther away from the trunk of the plant and add more if needed for good coverage.

Larger rose bushes will have roots spread over a wider area of soil than smaller ones. This means as your plants grow, larger bushes will require more water to ensure the water reaches all of their roots.

If you have a problem with salt build up, you may need to apply a little extra water occasionally to leach salts below the root zones.

Use mulch to reduce the frequency of watering. A 3-4" mulch layer of shredded hardwood mulch holds moisture in the soil. Mulch insulates the soil and keeps it from drying out as quickly as it would under normal conditions, reducing the frequency of watering as well as the need for fertilization

Keep weeds under control. Don't waste your valuable water on growing a crop of weeds that will compete with your roses for water.

Reduce feeding and fertilizing. The goal is to keep the shrubs alive and healthy. That may mean forsaking some blooms, but your plant will stay alive to bloom another day.

Roses bloom beside a Koi pond at Mimi Hoffman's Tulare home. Her gardens will be part of the Valley Oak Garden Club Garden Tour April 26. (Photo: Teresa Douglass)

Provide some relief from the sun by creating some shade during the hottest times of the day. This will reduce water loss in your plants and increase the efficient use of water. A friend of mine created an "umbrella garden" when one of her large, shady oak trees fell, taking with it the shade.

They liked the effect so well, they left them in place and never replaced the tree. Use umbrellas made from a light-colored fabric white or reflective silver is the best. Between the shade of the umbrella and the reflection of the light colored shade, the heat buildup will be reduced, providing much relief.

In the end, roses are pretty forgiving plants. I am sure we are all guilty of coddling them more than they really need.

Floribundas, hybrid teas and grandifloras will likely not bloom as often under drought, but they can survive with limited watering while still providing beautiful blooms. Miniature roses also do well in these kinds of situations and can out-bloom some of the other types of roses.

For more information and tips on how to keep plants alive under drought or water restrictions, please follow this link: http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8553.pdf

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Gardening: Roses are drought-tolerant plants

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Darcey Bussell (Photo courtesy David Austin Roses)

Molineux (Photo courtesy David Austin Roses)

Lady Emma Hamilton (Photo courtesy David Austin Roses)

Lilian Austin (Photo courtesy David Austin Roses)

As Valentine’s Day approaches, roses should definitely be on the mind of you and me. Or maybe not.

Roses are not what they used to be. In 1990, there were 50 million field-grown roses in the United States and today that number has declined to less than 20 million.

Many reasons have been given for this decline. It is said that people just don’t have time to care for roses, especially hybrid teas, the ones traditionally grown for their flower size, color and fragrance. Hybrid teas also have a reputation for being highly susceptible to disease and there is an increased wariness regarding plants that require pesticides to perform as advertised.

Here’s an interesting historical note: Through the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, black spot, the major fungus disease of roses, was not a problem in urban areas because of air pollution. Polluted air was rich in sulfur, and sulfur depresses black spot. As urban air became more sanitized and less sulfurized, black spot proliferated.

Yard work is out

Some people have said that lack of interest in roses, which do require an investment of time, parallels lack of interest in yard work generally. The physical outlet of working in the garden now finds its expression working out on exercise machines. And then there are those digital devices that also hog our leisure time.

Vegetables are in

In line with pesticide concerns, gardeners have opted for replacing their rose gardens with vegetable beds. Relieved of the burden of spraying their roses, they can now focus on growing pesticide-free veggies instead.

Less space

In addition, there is not as much yard space as there used to be since new housing developments squeeze homes together as close as possible on relatively small plots of land. The matchbox yards that remain are frequently consumed with the addition of a deck and a pergola, or a pool, making rose growing impossible.

The phenomenon of condominiums, in turn, restricts the growing grounds of their residents to a small patio or balcony, where roses may not feel at home. As if lack of time and space for growing roses were not enough of a blow to the domestic rose market, it happens that cut roses are increasingly imported from South American countries, especially Colombia and Ecuador.

Bad water wrap

On top of all these reasons for a decline in rose enthusiasm among producers and hobbyists, there is a widespread rumor about roses being exceedingly thirsty plants, even if this is simply not true.

I was recently in communication with Michael Marriott, technical director and senior rosarian of David Austin Roses. David Austin or English roses combine classic forms and fragrances of old garden roses with the vivid colors and repeat blooming properties of contemporary rose varieties.

According to Marriott, at least where irrigation of David Austin roses is concerned, “two good soakings a week should be perfectly adequate and I’m sure they’ll survive without much problem on less. Roses, once established, are great survivors so they might sulk a bit with minimal water but will soon revive once plentiful water returns.

“To ensure that water goes down deeply and does not run everywhere,” Marriott continued, “create a depression around each rose bush roughly the same diameter as the rose so that the water is concentrated in the soil where the majority of the roots are found.”

“New plants,” Marriott counseled, “will need a bit more care and attention to get them established. It is important to get this right to make sure the roots go down deeply so fewer good soakings as opposed to lots of little ones is the order of the day. I always think it will be better to plant David Austins as bare-root roses although many gardeners have great success in planting containerised roses even during the heat of the summer.”

As for established roses, Marriott writes of “somebody who grows roses very well in Arizona who applies about six gallons of water a week (per rose bush) during the summer,” and that, based on testimonials from California and Australia, David Austins “do well in a drought and better than hybrid teas.”

Best drought-resistant roses

Some of the more water-thrifty David Austins recommended by Marriott include the newly introduced ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ and ‘The Poet’s Wife,’ as well as ‘Boscobel, ‘Darcey Bussell,’ ‘Gentle Hermione,’ ‘Harlow Carr’ and ‘Lichfield Angel,’ ‘Jubilee Celebration,’ ‘Lady of Shalott,’ ‘Munstead Wood’ and ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent.’

Since this is rose planting season, I am extending an invitation here to send along your experiences growing roses, David Austins or otherwise. Which are your favorite varieties? What are your strategies for conserving water and for controlling pests (especially fungi) in the rose garden?

As for the performance of David Austin roses in Southern California, I consulted with Tom Carruth, rosarian at the Huntington Gardens in San Marino. Carruth is a renowned hybridizer of roses, earning nine All-America rose selections during one 10-year span. Those selections included such floribunda favorites as ‘Scentimental,’ ‘Betty Boop’ and ‘Hot Cocoa,’ as well as ‘Fourth of July,’ a climber.

As far as David Austins are concerned, Carruth says that many varieties, such as the generally acclaimed ‘Graham Thomas,’ grow explosively, up to 18 feet tall, but do not bloom nearly as much as they do in colder climates. On the other hand, certain David Austins do perform admirably in our area, including ‘Molineux,’ ‘Ambridge Rose,’ ‘Darcey Bussell, ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’ and ‘Lillian Austin.’

For more information about area plants and gardens, go to Joshua Siskin’s website at www.thesmartergardener.com. Send questions and photos to [email protected]


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