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Northeast Gardening: Roses are Easier to Grow Than You Think

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Roses are a favorite plant in many Northeast gardens. See why they’re so easy and satisfying to grow.

groundcover roses by retaining wall
red roses with chair in background

By Luke Miller

Okay, let’s get one thing straight: Roses aren’t fickle. Well, at least some of them aren’t.

No doubt if you’re of a certain age you remember Grandma’s prize roses—the ones that had to be sprayed every couple of weeks to ward off black spot disease or powdery mildew. Beautiful blooms, all right. But often accompanied by sparse (or downright ugly) foliage.

Well, today’s roses aren’t nearly so demanding. I found this shrub rose growing in Brooklyn last June. The ground had been saturated with ocean water from Superstorm Sandy. Most of the surrounding plants were dead, yet the shrub rose was unscathed.

red roses with yellow sundrops and blue larkspur

Many of today’s superior varieties are shrub roses, including the popular Knock Out. Like the Brooklyn survivor above, they’re hardy as all get-out. And they seldom, if ever, need spraying. Better yet they bloom for extended periods. This Knock Out, shown blooming with late-spring companions larkspur and sundrops, will outlast the asters and mums in fall.

red roses and white daisies

Groundcover roses have the same rugged personality as shrub roses—but in shorter, more spreading forms. These Home Run groundcover roses take absolutely no care. Just like Knock Out they peak in late spring but push out blooms all season long. And I’ve never sprayed them.

multicolored zinnias

One thing I would recommend is pairing roses with companion plants. The relaxed habit of shrub and groundcover roses makes them an easy fit visually. And companions are especially helpful for those roses that peak in spring, take the summer off, then regain their glory in autumn.

Note how these Tropicana roses pair with zinnias and sedum. The zinnias carry the show in summer.

multicolored zinnias and bright-pink sedum

As the zinnias start to fade, the sedum comes on strong.

orange roses and dusty pink sedum

As the rose makes a return engagement in fall, zinnias have been replaced by a potted black-eyed Susan vine that is easily sheltered if frost is expected. Meanwhile sedum and fountain grass complete the pretty picture.