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Roses are a knockout in gardeners' eyes

By Jim Crawford
University of Georgia

It's every homeowner's dream: the beauty and color of landscape flowering plants without a lot of maintenance to keep them healthy and vigorous.

Thanks to Canadian rose breeder William Radler, we can now plant Knock Out roses. They're exceptionally hardy and maintenance-free.

Before Radler's creation, most of the roses we had were bred in California, where the humidity and warm temperatures created roses that weren't as tolerant of harsher environments.

The Knock Out roses I've planted didn't even lose their blooms when transplanted, which usually happens with other plants due to the shock of being moved from the container to the ground.

They're fast-growing plants that will fill in nicely as a background for shorter, colorful annuals. You see them popping up more and more in the landscape as people become acquainted with their looks and the ease of their establishment and care.

Intentionally exposing plants to diseases

During the breeding process, at one time Radler had more than 600 rose seedlings in his basement. He purposely inoculated these plants with black spot pathogens and used overhead sprinkling to induce disease. He did this to see which plants didn't become infected.

He settled on a cross between "Carefree Beauty" and "Razzle Dazzle," a floribunda rose. When this patented rose was released by Conard-Pyle and Star Roses, it sold 250,000 plants the first year.

It was recognized as an All-American Rose Selection and received the Texas Superstar Award and Arkansas Select Award.

Knock Out roses are a knockout

Radler's new plant, the Knock Out rose, ranges from 3 to 5 feet tall and equally wide. It produces multiple clusters of terminal blooms, each 3 to 3.5 inches across. These very light, fragrant flowers come in red, pink and blushing pink and will bloom from spring until frost.

Humidity doesn't seem to bother the Knock Out rose, and it's drought- and cold-tolerant. It's somewhat shade-tolerant but does need about six hours of full sun per day.

True to its low maintenance reputation, the Knock Out rose doesn't require deadheading and is resistant to aphids, powdery mildew and black spot, the scourge of rose enthusiasts.

Plant Knock Outs during their dormant season between November and April. (They are so tough, you could probably plant them anytime of year.) Choose a well-drained sites with good air movement.

It's perfect for grouped planting or even hedges. The foliage turns from a lustrous green to burgundy in the fall, and the new growth is slightly burgundy, too.

Lightly fertilize, prune slightly

These roses require a light fertilization every four to six weeks with a 12-6-6 or 10-20-10 fertilizer. Prune any canes growing straight up by simply cutting them in half. Pay close attention to the bud orientation, so they'll grow to fill in the gaps in the canopy and establish the desired shape.

Knock Out roses are practically foolproof. The only things I've seen that may cause problems are improper soil pH and not enough sunlight. To test your soil's pH, bring a soil sample and $8 to your local UGA Cooperative Extension office. To find your local office, call 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

We planted two this spring at the Cooperative Extension office in Louisville, and they've already grown to 3 feet by 3 feet with constant blooms. If you aren't an experienced rose grower, I think you'll be thrilled with these roses. If you're already a rose gardener, you'll love not having to spray for diseases and insects.

(Jim Crawford is the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension coordinator in Jefferson County.)

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