Favorite Flora: Fuss-free Roses

By Michael Leach

Roses are back! No way, you might say. But it’s true.

Many newer roses are distinctly low-care, high-performance plants that are erasing the dreadful popular image of chemically dependent divas. Little wonder that Knock Out roses are some of the best-selling shrubs in America.knockoutroses

Given the challenges of Midwestern growing conditions it shouldn’t be surprising that developers of two lines of these super tough roses come from our part of the world.

Griffith Buck taught at Iowa State University and developed more than 85 roses, while he was there. His plants are noted for their free-flowering habit, disease resistance and sub-zero winter hardiness, according to Iowa State University Extension.

William Radler, breeder of the Knock Out rose family, started growing roses at the age of 9. At 17 he became a charter member of Milwaukee’s North Shore Rose Society and won lots of blue ribbons from the 200 roses he grew.

His breeding efforts were inspired by the amount of work it took. He used 18 different sprays to prevent disease and pests.  “I wanted to breed the maintenance out of roses so I wouldn’t have to cut back as the years passed,” he says in an article at the Conard-Pyle website.

Now some of their plants are being evaluated in Columbus for inclusion as Earth-Kind roses, plants that need virtually no care once established. For more, please read Michael’s article in Columbus Monthly.


Earth-Kind roses are going global. To see the extent of Earth-Kind trial gardens, please visit  http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkindroses/field-trials/trial-gardens/.

Only Minnesota and Wisconsin are Heartland states without an Earth-Kind garden, according to the map at the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension site.

Texas is where the testing program started, but the idea is too big even for the enormous Lone Star State. Now Bermuda, Canada, India and New Zealand have test gardens.

Who says roses have to be pampered?

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