Growing Roses: A Challenge in Louisiana

Linda Benedict, Broyles, C. Allen, Owings, Allen D.

Allen D. Owings and C. Allen Broyles

Growing roses in Louisiana is a challenge for industry professionals and home gardeners. A major problem in production and the landscape enjoyment of roses is disease pressure (primarily blackspot and powdery mildew) brought on by environmental conditions of the region. Heat and humidity have an adverse effect on many of the rose varieties we grow in Louisiana.

Landscape shrub roses have become more popular in the past few years. These roses have established market dominance and are surpassing hybrid tea, floribunda and graniflora varieties in sales. The landscape shrub roses with the largest percentage of the market are the Knock Out varieties.

A major rose evaluation project under way at the LSU AgCenter is evaluating EarthKind and other roses. This project was initiated about 10 years ago by Texas A&M University. One of the initial goals was to locate the best "yellow rose of Texas," but now it includes testing and recommending roses for low-maintenance landscapes. This includes evaluating numerous rose varieties, particularly in the shrub category. Characteristics being considered in these evaluations are low irrigation inputs, minimum pruning requirements, desirable flowering characteristics, minimum insect susceptibility and resistance or low susceptibility to blackspot and other devastating rose diseases.

In the initial evaluation process conducted in Texas, 11 original EarthKind rose varieties – Belinda’s Dream, Caldwell Pink, Carefree Beauty (Katy Road Pink), Climbing Pinkie, Else Poulsen, Knock Out, Marie Daly, Mutabilis, Perle d’Or, Sea Foam and The Fairy – were the best performing. In 2006, Spice and Duchesse de Brabant were added, and in 2007, Ducher and Georgetown Tea joined the list.

An additional 20 rose varieties are being studied for possible recommendation for the southern United States, while 31 additional varieties are being evaluated for possible recommendation on a national level. One site for the national EarthKind rose evaluation is Burden Center, an LSU AgCenter research station in Baton Rouge.

Current EarthKind roses include:

Dwarf Shrubs
  • Marie Daly is a rose with semi-double, pink, fragrant flowers. Bloom occurs April through November, and plants generally reach 3-4 feet with an equal spread.
  • The Fairy is a popular rose in Louisiana. It has a double form and light pink flowers with a blooming period from spring through fall. It reaches 3-4 feet with a spread of about 4 feet. Cercospora leaf spot is a disease of this rose in south Louisiana.
Small Shrubs
  • Caldwell Pink has a double-form flower with lilac pink petals. It reaches 4 feet with a 3-foot spread.
  • Perle d’Or is a rose with fragrant, peach-colored flowers. It reaches 5-6 feet with a spread of 3-4 feet. It was named Earth Kind Rose of the Year for 2007.

Medium Shrubs

  • Belinda’s Dream is a pink rose with double flowers. This variety was named a Texas Superstar plant in 2002 and is popular among Louisiana rose enthusiasts. It is a shrub rose and reaches 5-6 feet in the landscape.
  • Else Poulson has semi-double flowers with pink petals. It is a floribunda rose and has a mature height of 5 feet with a spread of 4 feet. It does not perform quite as well as other Earth Kind roses in Louisiana. 
  • Katy Road Pink is also sold in the nursery trade as Carefree Beauty. It has semi-double, pink flowers. Katy Road Pink reaches 5-6 feet and is a shrub rose.
  • Duchesse de Brabant produces full pink flowers. It is a tea rose and reaches 6 feet with a spread of 4-5 feet.
  •  Spice has double flowers with blushy pink petals. It is a China rose with a height of 5 feet and a spread of 4 feet. Georgetown Tea was found in Georgetown, Texas. It has dark salmon-pink flowers that fade to lilac-pink. It is a tea rose and reaches 5-6 feet with a spread of 4 feet.
  • Ducher has pure ivory-white flowers. It is a China rose but smaller-growing than other China roses. Heights of 4-5 feet can be expected with a spread of 3-4 feet.
  • Knock Out is an All-America Rose Selection winner from 2000. It usually is categorized as a small shrub rose with an advertised height of 4 feet. In Louisiana, this variety can easily reach 6-8 feet, if left unpruned. You can maintain Knock Out roses at 4-5 feet with regular pruning. Knock Out has cherry-red, single to semi-double flowers.

Large Shrubs

  • Mutabilis is also called the butterfly rose. Single flowers are yellow-red-orange. It is a China rose and reaches10 feet with a spread of 6-8 feet.


  • Climbing Pinkie produces semi-double, fragrant flowers with rose-pink petals. It climbs and reaches 12 feet with a 6-foot spread.
  • Sea Foam has creamy white, double, fragrant flowers. It has a ground cover, rambling-type growth habit or can be trained to climb on a trellis.

 EarthKind Roses for 2008 and 2009

EarthKind rose varieties have recently been named for 2008 (Madame Antoine Mari and New Dawn) and 2009 (La Marne and Souvenir de St. Anne’s). This brings the total number of Texas’ EarthKind roses to 19.

The roses are listed below with the following information: year of introduction, rose classification, mature height and width (approximate), blossom color, blossom type, frequency of blooming, fragrance and other characteristics. All can be grown in Louisiana.

  • Madame Antoine Mari – 1901, tea, 6-foot-by-6-foot, pink blend, double, repeat blooming, fragrant, new growth is an attractive maroon color. Earth Kind Rose of the Year for 2008.
  •  New Dawn – 1930, large-flowered climber, 15-20-foot-by-10-foot, blush pink, double, blooms primarily in the spring, fragrant, tolerates some light dappled shade. 
  • La Marne – 1915, 5-foot-by-4-foot, pink and white blend, single, repeat blooming, not fragrant, few thorns, petal edges are ruffled, not recommended for areas with highly saline irrigation water.
  • Souvenir de St. Anne’s – 1950, 3-foot-by- 3-foot, light pink, semi-double, repeat blooming, outstanding fragrance, not recommended for areas with highly saline irrigation water. EarthKind Rose of the Year for 2009.

Griffith Buck roses are new to most horticulturists in the South. Buck conducted rose breeding at Iowa State University from 1952-1985. His roses were bred for cold hardiness and other factors. Many of these roses are able to bloom in partial shade and shady conditions. He named approximately 90 varieties. The most famous Griffith Buck rose is Carefree Beauty. Introduced in 1977, this rose is also sold under the name Katy Road Pink. April Moon, above, is a Griffith Buck rose.

Horticulture professor Steve George at Texas A&M University-Dallas and Mark Chamblee of Chamblee’s Nursery in Tyler, Texas, have located the vast majority of the Griffith Buck rose varieties. The LSU AgCenter is evaluating Griffith Buck rose varieties separate from the EarthKind rose project.

Allen D. Owings, Professor, Hammond Research Station, Hammond, La., and C. Allen Broyles, Research Associate, Burden Center, Baton Rouge, La.

(This article was published in the winter 2009 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

3/12/2009 11:09:54 PM
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