There’s no doubt that roses are some of the most beautiful plants to have in your garden, but there is a drawback with growing roses.
They are prone to disease, especially in growing conditions that aren’t quite right, and when it takes hold, it can have a big detrimental effect on your roses.
Here’s what you should know.
Why Shouldn’t You Plant Any Rose And Treat It With A Fungicide?
In the past, fungicides were considered a bit of a cure-all when it came to rose diseases.
These diseases weren’t considered a huge problem, as both gardeners and rose breeders alike would spray the plants at the first sign of disease.
While this does cure roses of most diseases, it causes its own set of concerns.
Fungicides are harmful for the environment, and have been linked to a huge decline in insect numbers, especially our precious bees.
The focus has moved away from buying the best pesticide, to buying the best rose.
New varieties are being bred all the time with a focus on healthy growth and a robust nature, which will make a difference in trying to save the bees and other important insects and animals.
Why Should You Be Picky About Roses?
While you can’t do much about the weather, or alter a lot of the growing conditions within your garden, what you can do is choose the right variety, and this will go a long way to ensure a healthy and happy rose, without having to resort to fungicides.
There are no downsides to picking disease resistant roses, as they look just as beautiful as other types, and still attract beneficial insects.
If you want to grow resistant varieties, then one of the best places to start is looking at the award-winning roses.
These roses are incredible, not only valued for their beauty, but for their robust nature, including their resistance to disease.
There are plenty of different cultivars which are award winners, and they aren’t all standard roses.
You’ll find hybrid tea roses, shrub roses, miniature roses, ground cover roses, grandiflora roses and floribunda roses which have some resilience to disease.
Instead of combing through countless lists of potential roses, this method makes it much easier to narrow down the type you might want.
Pick the right type according to your garden size and growing conditions, and you’ll soon have a list of the roses that would suit your garden the best, all the while having a great resistance to disease.
Disease Resistant Rose Cultivars To Grow
Rosa ‘New Dawn’
One of the first modern climbers which features repeat-flowering roses, ‘New Dawn’ features leaves with a glossy sheen, and reaches about 15 feet high at maturity, if you give it the room to do so.
It was bred by Dreer and introduced to the market in 1930, so it’s a relatively new cultivar, considering.
This rose produces beautiful baby pink flowers, which can grow to about 8cm in diameter. They are sweetly perfumed, too.
These roses can look white in some lights, and in others they turn a deeper pink.
In order to get ‘New Dawn’ to thrive, you’ll need to give it plenty of space, so the plant has enough airflow around it, and train it up a vertical surface like a wall, trellis, or obelisk.
Make sure to give it full sunlight, and well-draining soil.
Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’
A very old rose, ‘Charles de Mills’ was introduced in 1786, by an unknown breeder. As you might be able to guess from the date, this is an old rose, specifically a gallica rose.
Gallica roses are famous for their disease resistance, and the proof is in how long these beautiful plants have been around for.
‘Charles de Mills’ produces huge flowers, up to 5 inches in diameter, in shades of deep pink to red.
The roses are packed full of petals, so much so that it gives the blooms a flat appearance, and it helps that they give off a strong perfume.
This cultivar gets to 5 feet high, spreading to about 4 feet wide. It will do well in either partial or full sunlight, and looks particularly beautiful as a hedge.
Rosa ‘Roseraie de L’Hay’
A rugosa rose, this cultivar was introduced in 1861 by Cochet.
It’s perfect for very large spaces that cry out for dramatic color as well as height, as this rose will reach 7 feet tall, spreading about the same once it matures.
It produces huge blooms in a vivid shade of magenta, and will flower all the way through to fall if the weather allows.
It also helps that ‘Roseraie de L’Hay’ is heavily scented, making it a favorite plant for paths, border edges, and anywhere you might be able to maximize on the scent.
It does well in any position within your garden, as long as you give it some sunlight and well-draining soil.
An English shrub rose, ‘Boscobel’ is sometimes known as ‘Auscousin’, blooming from early summer well into fall if the weather allows.
It produces salmon-pink roses in summer which start off as crimson buds. These pretty blooms have a very signature scent, with notes of myrrh, almond, and elderflower.
The name comes from the forest in Shropshire that King Charles II took refuge in during the Civil War.
It will thrive in partial shade or a sunny position, whatever you have in your garden, and loves well-draining, fertile soil.
It’s perfect for the middle of a mixed border, providing height and color. This is a much smaller rose than some on this list, reaching about 90cm high when mature.
Rosa ‘Sutter’s Gold’
A hybrid tea rose, Sutter’s Gold features all of the elegance of these modern roses with its repeat-flowering habit, large flowers, and plenty of fragrance.
It grows to about 4 feet tall, producing up to 6 inch blooms in shades of gold and yellow, with more than 30 petals per bloom.
It’s perfect for borders, hedges, and other areas where you want something beautiful and cheerful that won’t take over your garden
You can grow it in almost any type of soil, but it does best in rich, moist loam.
Rosa ‘Malvern Hills’
An English rambling rose, ‘Malvern Hills’ is a repeat flowering variety, meaning that it will produce new blooms throughout the year until the frost hits.
These bright, fragrant flowers come in shades of light yellow, off-white, and bright yellow. These beautiful roses form in clusters, helping to magnify the musky perfume.
When the flowers have faded, this lovely plant will produce rose hips, too.
You will need a good amount of room for ‘Malvern Hills’, as it can reach 15 feet high, so this plant is best for the front of a house, a pergola, a wall that’s easily 10 feet high, or a large archway.
It was introduced in 2000 by the famous breeder David Austin.
Rosa ‘Roald Dahl’
Another rose bred by David Austin, this one was introduced fairly recently in 2016, bred to celebrate the hundred-year anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth.
If you’re familiar with Roald Dahl’s children’s books, you might recognize the peachy hues of this rose, designed to look like the infamous fruit in James And The Giant Peach.
It’s a smaller variety, perfect for compact gardens, containers, or as part of a focal point in a large border, reaching about 3 feet tall when mature.
These lovely apricot roses have a great perfume with a tea-like fragrance.
When this rose was introduced, it was able to raise £100,000 for the author’s charity, Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity.
Rosa ‘The Mayflower’
Named after the pilgrim English ship that left for the New World in 1620, the ‘Mayflower’ is a very disease resistant variety, and was introduced in 2001.
This lovely cultivar is a shrub rose, featuring gorgeous roses that look like heirloom roses (see also Heirloom And Antique Roses), packed full of petals, and featuring a strong, old rose style scent.
It will repeat flower, producing striking pink roses all through summer and into autumn if the weather allows.
The rose itself will reach just under 4 feet tall, spreading to about 3 feet wide once it’s mature.
Its fairly compact height makes it versatile in the garden, where it can be used for shady or sunny sites, as a hedge, a border plant, or in a pot.
Rosa ‘Lady Of Shalott’
A stout shrub rose, ‘Lady Of Shalott’ has a bushy growth habit, filling any bare part of your garden that could do with more life and color.
The roses that form on this shrub are orange, with undertones of red, bringing a delicious wealth of fragrance.
As the stems arch, the plant is also useful as a short climber provided that you tie these stems in carefully to a support.
It will reach just over 3 feet tall, and boasts an excellent resistance to disease.
Rosa ‘Apricot Nectar’
‘Apricot Nectar’ received the AARS award in 1966, the year after it was introduced to the market, which tells you how special this rose is.
It’s a hybrid tea rose, capable of growing as a climber or as a sturdy shrub, and can reach 12 feet high once it has matured.
It features repeat blooms, with the flowers themselves featuring shades of pink, apricot, and salmon, and carries a strong citrus-like perfume.
Rosa ‘Rio Samba’
A hybrid tea rose that’s sure to cheer you up on any day of the week, ‘Rio Samba’ is famous for its very large golden blooms, which are tinged with red on the outermost petals.
As the flowers age, the shades of red spread across the petals, sometimes growing lighter into pink or orange.
The plant itself grows up to 6 feet tall, spreading to about 3 feet wide.
Whilst it is resistant to some diseases, one thing it is vulnerable to is powdery mildew.
To help prevent it, make sure you keep plenty of air circulation around the plant, and water it in the morning to prevent excess moisture from settling on the leaves.
It’s hardy in USDA zones 6 through to 9, and prefers full sunlight and rich, well-draining soil.
Rosa ‘The Lark Ascending’
A beautiful shrub rose, ‘The Lark Ascending’ is named after the song by Ralph Vaughan Williams of the same name
With its bright orange flowers, this rose is ideal for attracting butterflies, bees, and other pollinating insects, making it perfect for gardens and meadows alike.
It’s especially suitable for areas you want to ‘re-wild’ with beneficial, beautiful plants, without creating a ‘weedy’ look, as this is a gorgeous rose.
It reaches between 5 feet tall, and spreads to about 5 feet wide when fully grown.
It’s hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8, and enjoys full sunlight or partial sunlight. It’s not fussy about the soil type, as long as it drains well.
It will produce rose hips after it has finished flowering, so make sure you leave some of the spent flower heads on the plant to develop, providing food for the birds.
Rosa ‘Mortimer Sackler’
‘Mortimer Sackler’ is a tall shrub rose, and despite its size, it has tiny foliage, and nearly thornless stems.
It’s also suitable for pots, making it a great choice for those who like their roses on the larger side, but maybe don’t have room for bigger varieties that need more space for their roots.
You can grow it as a climber if you wish, but don’t expect it to get tall as a climbing rose.
This cultivar produces baby pink flowers on very dark stems, and you can see a flash of yellow in the middle of the stamens.
These flowers are also lightly perfumed, similar to that of an heirloom rose.
‘Mortimer Sackler’ can reach 3.6 meters high, and looks best at the back of a border if you’d like it in a mixed planting scheme.
It will tolerate most soil types, as long as the soil is able to drain well.
The rose got its name by Mrs Sackler, who won the decision to name the rose in an auction, and named it after her husband. If that isn’t the perfect gesture of affection, I don’t know what is.
How To Minimize The Risk Of Disease On Roses
While picking a disease resistant rose makes all the difference to keep your roses healthier, it doesn’t mean they are completely immune to disease, or they can’t suffer from other problems.
The good news is that there are things that you can do which will go a long way in keeping your roses (as well as the other plants in your garden) healthy and happy for years to come.
Give Your Roses Plenty Of Room
When you’re choosing the perfect spot for your rose in the ground, consider the size it will hopefully reach, and try to aim for that amount of space, giving it plenty of room and airflow around the plant.
Try not to think of it in terms of “This is the size of the rose right now, so this is how much room it needs,” as it will outgrow a small space within a few years.
That’s not to say that you should plant a very small rose in a very large pot and leave it, as this will probably end badly.
Maintain a good amount of air circulation around your rose by pruning crossing branches. You can also trim back neighboring plants where you need to, making sure that all of the plants have enough space.
The reason why you should look at the space around your other plants, not just your roses, is because some fungal infections such as powdery mildew spread from plant to plant, regardless of the species.
The more plants that have enough room, the healthier your whole garden will be.
Water Your Roses At The Base
This is another simple trick that can be applied to the rest of the plants in your garden, too.
Most fungal problems in plants are caused by too much moisture, and if you only water your plants from above, prepare to see plenty of powdery gunk covering the leaves of your roses and other plants.
Watering your roses at the base significantly reduces the risk of powdery mildew and other diseases taking hold of the leaves, and it additionally helps the blooms last longer, as rain can shorten the lifespan of the flowers.
Always Remove Infected Plant Matter When You See It
Some gardens are just damper, more humid, and colder than others. Even if you have the ideal conditions for roses in your garden, there will be an inevitable point in a year when the weather will be awful, and your roses will be attacked by disease.
You may see signs of black spot – which is a great annoyance to many rose gardeners – powdery mildew, rust, or any other infections.
The good news is that they are easy to spot, and the quicker you take off any infected parts of the plant, the faster it will recover, and the disease is less likely to spread.
What you will have to make sure of is that you dispose of any diseased plant waste responsibly.
The best way of doing this is using your secateurs, making sure that no infected plant material hits the ground at the base of your rose.
Either put them in your hand and then transfer them into a bucket, or put down an old sheet beneath the plant if there’s a lot to cut away.
Gather the infected material and put it into your household waste bin, NOT your compost bin, and certainly not a garden waste bin.
Doing either will allow the disease to spread, and this isn’t something you want to do.
Sanitize Your Tools
Another great habit to get into is to make sure your tools are clean after each time you use them.
This is especially important when it comes to taking off damaged plant material with secateurs or loppers. If you were then to cut a different plant straight after, you would spread the infection to that plant, too.
After cutting back an ill or damaged plant, wash your secateurs in hot and soapy water, drying them thoroughly.
There are a huge amount of disease resistant roses to choose from, and there are no downsides to choosing disease resistant varieties, as they are just as beautiful as those which are more vulnerable to disease.
If you follow the care tips above, you will be able to enjoy healthy roses every year, for many years to follow.