You should plant some roses

Published on June 13, 2014

There is a rumour circulating that rose bush purchases are on the decline. My retail sources have been whispering for several years now that rose bush sales are not what they used to be.

A Rose Is Not Just A Rose.

There are roses and then there are roses. For some reason we group all members of the Rosa family together without distinguishing the vast differences in their flowering, disease resistance, fragrance and overall performance. Fact is there are a few roses that I have planted and regret doing so. There are many more that I have grown in my garden with delightful results. 

There are almost 50,000 rose varieties registered worldwide and several dozen sub categories or species into which each variety falls. It gets complicated.

What to Avoid.

I speculate that some roses are falling out of favour due to their reputation for black spot, powdery mildew and poor summer flowering performance. My advice is to avoid these varieties. You can do this by taking the time to read the label on the rose bush at the time of purchase. Fact is, labels have come a long way in the last few years. Follow these rules for purchasing roses:

- If it does not say it, it ain’t so. If the label does not refer to a rose variety as being fragrant, disease resistant or ‘ever blooming’ (code for ‘colour throughout the summer’) then it is not any of these things.

- Grown in Canada. Believe it or not, there are roses that are strip mined in Texas and California and shipped up here, usually in cardboard boxes or plastic bags. By this time in June you might just as well forget about these as they cooked in their container a while ago and are dead or near dead. Look instead for roses grown in containers, using a rich loam and labeled ‘Grown in Ontario.’ You will know that they survived a winter or two in our climate and that they are generally suited to growing in your garden.

- AARS – this stands for ‘All America Rose Selection’ and it is a standard bearer of great garden performance. Some of my favourite roses are AARS winners but that is not to say that all AARS are winners in our Canadian gardens.

- Plant deeply. A Canadian rose label will tell you to bury the ‘bud union’ (the knuckle where the main plant meets the root). American labels will often tell you plant with the bud union exposed. Our winters demand that we get that knuckle under some sandy loam.

With several weeks of great rose blooming still ahead of us now is a great time to plant container grown roses. When you shop for rose bushes this time of year you can often see the actual rose in bloom. There is no question about its’ colour or fragrance. Note that hot, dry weather in summer generally causes roses to take a rest from their intense late spring flowering period but there is a second wind of flowering that occurs in September through to the hard frost of November. 

If winterizing your roses is not on your gardening agenda then I would suggest that you check out the Canadian bred Explorer series of roses. None of these need to be heaped up with soil come late autumn. I like David Thompson best and have a hedge of them in full bloom right now. 

Keep in mind that all roses require at least six hours of sun per day and they enjoy a rich but well drained soil. I add about 1/3 sharp sand to my planting mix.

And this weekend is the perfect time to purchase and plant Canadian grown, containerized roses.


Mark Cullen appears on Canada AM every Wednesday morning at 8:40.  He is spokesperson for Home Hardware Lawn and Garden.  Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at