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Dozens of Disease-Resistant Roses

by Nanette Londeree, Marin Rose Society, Master Rosarian

'Gourmet Popcorn'

Want to grow beautiful roses without the challenge of the big three foliar diseases, blackspot, rust, and powdery mildew, that plague so many gardens? Go for disease resistant varieties. Taking care when choosing new additions to your garden can make your rose growing easier and is gentler on the environment. LEFT: 'Belle Story'

What’s disease resistance? Just what the name says – it is a plant's ability to fend off disease. In general, roses identified as disease resistant are hardy varieties that have been bred to resist attacks from disease-causing organisms. While given just the right conditions a disease resistant rose may succumb to infection, but they are much less likely in most situations.

Start by looking for varieties with a proven track record – one’s that reliably get through the season with little to no visible disease. You can be certain that if a rose is still popular after decades in commerce, that it is adaptable to climate and reasonably tolerant to disease. ABOVE: 'La Marne'

Each year the American Rose Society (ARS) publishes the Handbook for Selecting Roses. Rose growers across the country evaluate and report on rose performance; the results are tabulated by the ARS and included in the Handbook. Roses are rated on a scale of 0 to 10; ratings include:

  • 7.8 to 8.2 = A solid to very good rose

  • 8.3 to 8,7 = A very good to excellent rose

  • 8.8 to 9.2 = An outstanding rose

  • 9.3 to 10 = One of the best roses ever

ABOVE: 'Penelope'

More than 3,000 varieties are included in the Handbook making it an invaluable reference for finding great roses. It’s free for ARS members. You can also purchase it here:

The list below includes a couple dozen roses that have very good or better ARS ratings based on the 2021 Handbook. This list was developed, in part, by observing the roses in my northern California garden during the most challenging weather periods – conditions optimal for blackspot and rust or powdery mildew. I don’t use fungicides or insecticides, so if the plant remained healthy with no significant signs of disease, it was eligible to be included in the list. There are many types of roses to choose from – little roses like ‘Gourmet Popcorn’, cloaked in puffy white blooms, to the spectacular ‘Kiftsgate’ that can easily cover a wall or fence in a season or two. ‘Sally Holmes’ can fit into any garden, whether trained as a climber or trimmed as a shrub. ABOVE: 'Kiftsgate'

The next time you shop for some reliable, nearly carefree roses, think about adding some of these winners and see for yourself, the benefits of growing disease resistant varieties.

*ARS Rating = American Rose Society rating from the Handbook for Selecting Roses


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