Roses in the Carolinas

A rose is the visible result of an infinitude of complicated goings on in the bosom of the earth and in the air above.
Clive Bell, 19th Century Art Critic.

Do not fear the rose. Lynn Cochran, some guy who wrote this post I always find myself surprised when I hear a seasoned gardener say something like, “Oh no! I don’t grow roses. They’re too much trouble!” or meet a beginning gardener who is reluctant to plant a rose or two after hearing a lifetime of popular myths about how troublesome they might be. The haughty advice of some rose aficionados, poor information from sometimes undereducated staff at big box plant retailers and cultivar qualities that are often stretched by rose breeders wanting to sell their newest hybrid for top dollar only compound the conflicts gardeners may feel. 

simple truth is this: roses are neither more difficult nor easier to grow than any other ornamental plant. In fact, roses can be often less challenging and more rewarding than many other garden plants if one gains and puts to use a little practical knowledge. They are generally tough, drought resistant once established and will often live for generations. That is what I hope to do in this introduction to growing roses in the Carolinas- offer some good, basic information on growing roses that beginners and seasoned gardeners alike may appreciate. Did you know? Our U.S. Congress designated the rose as America’s national floral emblem in 1986. Apples, cherries and firethorns are all close botanical cousins of the rose. Roses have been cultivated for more than 2,500 years. The first new class of roses developed in the U.S. was bred in Charleston, SC in the 19th Century. See, you’re already learning and feeling better about growing a rose.

Those of us who live and garden in the Carolinas are quite fortunate. We enjoy a climate well-suited for successful cultivation of vast numbers and varieties of roses. Our friends to the north usually experience cold winter blasts that preclude the success of many roses. Our friends to the west experience longer dry and hot periods, ruling out many roses. Our more tropical neighbors to the south must often fight with insects and diseases that are less common in our region’s climate.

The principles for growing lovely roses that will flourish and reward the gardener for years are the same that apply to any ornamental garden plant. Some varieties will perform well and thrive in our region where others flounder or fail. Let’s start with the 3 basic considerations that any gardener should take into account before running out to buy this season’s expensive new variety.

Lynn Cochran Master Gardener Volunteer and member of American Rose Society.
Forsyth County North Carolina.