Springtime is a great time to plant roses!
Star Roses and Plants, the growers who produced the amazing and wonderful Knockout Rose family, have my undying gratitude. (I am in no way affiliated with their company, I just love their plants!) I have four of the Red Double Knockouts in my front flower bed and they look fabulous. They have cherry red blooms that look like a classic rose. My sweet husband bought them for me as an anniversary present years ago.
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They are super easy to maintain and are prolific repeat bloomers from early May til frost. They are hardy in zones 5 to 11. They need full sun and adequate drainage. Maintenance consists of pruning down to around 12 to 18 inches tall in February or early March (ideally before they leaf out but that’s always hard to pin down here in Oklahoma) and maybe some rose fertilizer occasionally. Pruning large canes is much easier if you have something like these Fiskars loppers:
Bypass pruners are also very useful, these from Fiskars are great:
Thorn-proof gloves are really nice to have, these are on my wish list:
Regular deep watering keeps these roses blooming like crazy. The tradeoff for all those blooms is the lack of fragrance. They have survived my preferred gardening method, “Benign Neglect”, for seven years. These roses are “self-cleaning”–which means you don’t have to deadhead to get more blooms, but it won’t hurt and might help reduce the incidence of Rose Rosette virus (more on that below)…
If you put them out in the landscape, pruning is optional but they will get pretty big, like four feet tall by four feet wide, and I don’t think they look as nice as with that yearly pruning. Of course they are roses, and these babies have some seriously wicked thorns, so don’t plant them where thorns will be a problem–and consider how big they could get before you place them near a pathway or under a window. You can give them a trim any time of the year except in the late fall because it could encourage tender new growth that could be killed by frost (you’re probably going to prune that away come spring, but it might harm the overall health of your plant.)
The only potential downside to these awesome roses is Rose Rosette disease, also known as Witches’ Broom, which is a nasty virus carried by microscopic mites. Here’s a link to an informational PDF from Oklahoma State University. There is no treatment or cure, and infected plants start getting uglier and uglier until they finally die. If your rose gets this, the recommended action is the immediate removal of the entire bush, roots included. It should be burned or bagged and discarded. Do not compost these bushes! Roses in proximity may or may not get infected; direct contact seems to be the easiest way for it to spread but I think it’s windborne to some extent considering the way it has spread around here. Since nearly every landscaper in Oklahoma has planted some of these roses, the disease has made its way all over the state. Luckily mine are okay so far but I keep a close eye on them. If they ever get the disease my backup landscaping plan (after the wailing and gnashing of teeth) involves dwarf Crepe Myrtles. Once they are established, they are almost bulletproof.
There are ten colors of Knockout Rose available now (wow!). I just spent some time on the Star website and now I am seriously trying to figure out where I can put more roses. One of each, please? You can find Knockout Roses at most garden retailers in the US and Canada. Look for the lime green pot and enjoy your roses!