The Knock-Out Roses are blooming again, starting into their second cycle of the summer. While never as showy as the initial blooming, they are still a welcome sight, a bright spot of color among the withered baskets and dried up lawns of early August.
If you want a low maintenance, easy to grow rose then Knock-Out Roses are the rose of choice. I have 24 of these rose bushes and it was one of the best garden investments I’ve ever made.
At $20 per pot for the pink double ones I’ve had ten years of beauty from them.
If you are not familiar with the family of Knock Out Roses they were created by rose breeder Bill Radler in 2000 and were a hit right from the start. Traditionally roses have had the reputation of being finicky plants, hard to establish and prone to disease, requiring lots of tender loving care.
Knock-Outs have become popular because they are basically no-care and disease resistant, but the biggest appeal for me was they are repeat bloomers. After a glorious initial bloom in mid-late June here, they will repeat the blooming cycle every 5-6 weeks. New growth on the bushes is seen as red shoots/leaves. One year when we had a particularly late fall, I had roses up until December – they looked quite strange with a dusting of snow on them.
They are also self-cleaning in the sense that there is no need to dead head them, although you can if you wish. I spray mine with the garden hose on jet when they start to look too shaggy. They are also heat tolerant and do well in most hot sunny locations, requiring 6-8 hours of sun a day. The two I planted on either side of the house do not generally do as well as the others as they do not get enough sun, likewise several at the back which are in the shadow of the house.
Although that is not true this year, as we have had horrible heat close to 100 for days, so the ones in the shade are doing better than the rest. We also had a late cool rainy spring with little sun, so the bushes have failed to achieve their usual height. I should point out that most of these pictures are from previous years, lest anyone think I have created miracles during this weird weather year.
They also don’t need much water, so as they are the perfect plant-them-and-forget-them rose, especially important if you are a lazy gardener like me who hates to drag the hose around.
Pruning and height: I prune mine back to about 12 inches in early spring, although last year I misjudged and pruned in late March then we had two more weeks of wintry cold, so I learned my lesson and waited this year. If no pruning is done, they can reach 3 to 4 feet wide and 3 to 4 feet tall, and some years I have achieved this when we had a milder spring and a good growing season. Although they may be shorter than usual this year due to our poor spring, they still have plenty of buds on them.
Caring and fertilizing: I give them a dose of bone meal in spring and a sprinkle of controlled release fertilizer and that’s it. The website suggests some winter protection in colder climates, but the year I blanketed them with a layer of fallen leaves, was also the year I noticed a lot of blackspot on the stems the following spring. The nursery owner suggested I forego the leaf layer and spray them with horticultural oil to treat/prevent any fungal disease, which I do now every spring. I do mulch them, but other than that they have survived our brutal Canadian winters, although this year I was a bit afraid as the stems were so late greening up and looked so dry and brittle for weeks, but they eventually came along….sigh of relief.
Here’s the company’s website, with a page of FAQ’s – link.
There are ten colors. I have the Double Pink Knock-Outs, as I love bright pink and when I bought the first lot the nursery owner suggested keeping the color the same if I wanted to make a statement. The Double blooms are fuller and put on a nicer show, so I always recommend the doubles. Unfortunately three of the Doubles I bought a few years later came out as singles, despite the silver grower tags on them stating double – liars!
I really wish they had climbers, but they only have shrub roses so far. They do have a tree rose, which stands about 6 feet, but at $90 I found it hard to justify when I have so many others and being a small tree, I wondered how it would over-winter here?
Of course there’s always a gardening mishap or two. One year some unidentifiable slug (I was never able to capture one), started munching on the bushes on the west side of the yard and managed to steadily eat their way along the whole row. I was busy with work and by the time I noticed it was too late – they had decimated six bushes.
Although I tried everything – soap, powder, washing them off with the hose – they continued their stealthy munch munch munch. But the next spring they bounced back, good as new.
Although they are bred to be disease resistant, a few years ago Rose Rosette Disease (also known as Witches Broom), started attacking the Knock Outs in some parts of the United States (see Southern Living article), but it hasn’t affected mine so far. Knock on wood that it never moves this far north, but if does, then it’s game over and they all have to be dug up and discarded. Best to check with your local nursery to see if this virus, spread by mites via wind, is a problem in your area before buying.
While I do have other roses – an ancient climber,
with prolific blooms,
and a ‘John Cabot’ climber, (also very short this year due to the difficult spring), the Knock-Outs remain my favorites.
So if you are looking for an easy care rose which will provide beauty all summer long, these are the roses to pick!
PS. An old oil painting of my mothers.