Growing roses the EarthKind way

January 31, 2008

By Mary and Jerome Janak, Victoria County Master Gardeners

Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
How would you like to grow practically carefree roses in your home landscape – roses that require little or no fertilization, less irrigation, and no spraying?

Thanks to the efforts of Texas A&M University horticultural and landscape specialists, notably Dr. Steve George, and the EarthKind Rose Research and Field Trials, rose cultivars have been selected that are tough, dependable, and friendly to the environment. All that’s needed to have easy care roses is to plant EarthKind roses by the EarthKind methods described below.


Composting at planting time and year-round mulching usually provide all the nutrition these roses need, making commercial fertilization, organic or synthetic, unnecessary. Proper bed preparation includes the working of 3 to 6 inches of finished (not half raw), plant-derived compost into sandy or loam soils. Or, in the case of clay soils, working in 3 inches of expanded shale and 3 inches of the finished, plant derived compost.

Working this compost into the soil is only necessary at planting time. From that time on, maintaining a 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch (organic material such as tree limbs that has been run through a chipper) will provide additional nutrients as it breaks down into a natural slow-release fertilizer that improves root growth, increases microbial activity in the soil, reduces certain diseases and even greatly reduces weeds that rob nutrients from the roses. Just remember to “compost once and mulch forever.”


EarthKind roses, once they are established, are extremely drought and heat tolerant, requiring water only when the root ball is dry to a one-inch depth. EarthKind promoters claim that irrigation can be reduced as much as 70 percent with these selected roses when they are properly mulched.  But when you do water, drip irrigation is the preferred method of watering.

This method conserves water, prevents runoff, which could pollute our rivers and streams, and avoids wetting the plant foliage, thus reducing fungal disease problems.
Belinda's Dream
3'-6' x 3'-4'
Caldwell Pink
Lilac Pink
3'-4' x 3'
Climbing Pinkie
Rose Pink
8'-12' x 6'
Else Poulsen
3'-5' x 3'-4'
Ivory White
3'-5' x 3'
Duchess de Brabant
Rose Pink
4'-6' x 4'
Knock Out
Cherry Red
3'-4' x 3'-4'
Georgetown Tea
Dark Salmon Pink
3'-5' x 4'
Carefree Beauty*
4'-5' x 4'-5'
Marie Daley
3'-4' x 3'-4'
4'-10' x 6'
Perle d' Or
3'-6' x 3'
Sea Foam
Creamy White
2'-8' x 4'
The Fairy
Light Pink
2'-4' x 4
Blush Pink
3'-5' x 3'-4'
All roses bloom April - November, except Caldwell Pink blooms May - November. *Also called Katy Road Pink.
Click on each rose to get more information.
It is especially important not to water too often if roses are planted in heavy clay soils since watering more than once a week may reduce the quality of your roses. EarthKind roses that are properly mulched and established in these clay soils only need to be watered every 10 to 14 days even in the middle of our extreme summer heat. Irrigation should be avoided during a wet winter.


EarthKind roses, while not immune to disease problems such as black spot, demonstrate a certain resistance to them. In fact, if you do not mind losing a few leaflets occasionally, they will almost never require the application of fungicides. These select cultivars have been identified because they have certain desired characteristics, which allow them to either resist or tolerate black spot.

An example of this is the resistance provided by the glossy leaves of some of the cultivars, which allow them to repel water and therefore resist black spot. Similarly, some cultivars are old garden roses, which have stood the test of time without spraying because they either genetically possess or have developed better properties of resistance or tolerance to these diseases.

Care taken to select a suitable planting site goes a long way too in disease prevention and rose health.

Keep the mature width of these cultivars in mind when planting to make sure the full-grown plants are not so close that proper air circulation is restricted around them. Roses need to receive eight hours or more of direct sunlight, and they need good air movement, both of which help to reduce the moisture that promotes diseases such as black spot.

Hybrid Teas

While no one would argue that the blooms of modern hybrid tea roses are beautiful, these plants are generally much more labor intensive. Most of them require well-drained acid soils, hard pruning, and excessive use of pesticides.

In humid areas like Victoria they may need from 20 to 25 sprays per year to prevent diseases such as blackspot and/or powdery mildew. They are also often more difficult to grow and short-lived.

Furthermore, most hybrid tea bushes are not especially attractive in the landscape since they are bred more for long-lasting buds and blooms to be used as cut flowers in bouquets. For the dedicated rosarians willing to make the sacrifice in time, labor, and expense, the rewards are great. But for the average gardener looking more for an attractive addition to his or her garden, EarthKind landscape roses offer a new era in beautiful, easy care landscape plants, which also promise beautiful blooms. And EarthKind roses can be thought of as protectors of the environment if the growing methods described above are followed.

EarthKind Cultivars

There are 15 rose cultivars that have been designated EarthKind Roses after being proven tough, dependable, and friendly to the environment with 8 to 10 years of testing in conditions all across Texas. (See chart for information about each.)
Webmaster note: See information below about the 16th rose added in 2008, Mme. Antoine Mari..

At our own Victoria Educational Garden (VEG) there is an official National EarthKind Rose Field Trial garden in support of this program. Visit VEG to see which roses are being tested here and pick up a handout telling how the trials are being conducted. You may be seeing one or more of the next EarthKind roses being tested right here in Victoria.

Visit a local nursery to purchase these roses, making sure you purchase those on their own roots and not grafted, as all EarthKind tested and designated roses are grown on their own roots. If not available, possibly the nursery can order them.

Otherwise visit for nurseries and mail order sources which could supply them.

Additional details and also photos of each rose can be found at

Much more to learn about EarthKind Program.  Visit to find a range of topics regarding other elements of the EarthKind program including publications, streaming videos and podcasts.
2008 EarthKind Rose of the Year

'Mme. Antoine Mari' a pink blend shrub rose that was first introduced to the trade in 1901, was awarded an EarthKind designation this month.  It has also been named 2008 Rose of the Year, according to Dr. Steve George of Dallas, professor and extension landscape specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service--a part of the Texas A&M University System.

"The Victoria Advocate, in conjunction with the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, is the first publication in Texas to announce the 2008 EarthKind Rose of the Year," said Master Gardener Charla Borchers Leon.

This EarthKind Rose designation is only given to those roses, which have earned the honor after undergoing extensive testing over a period of eight to 10 years to determine their performance under adverse conditions.

According to George, 'Mme. Antoine Mari' repeats blooms in the spring, summer, and fall.

It is fragrant, recommended for zones 7 to 9, and boasts attractive maroon leaves on new growth.

Plants should be placed 8 feet apart to accommodate its mature height of 6 feet high by 6 feet wide.
Click to visit their web site for more information.  --
Also credit for '
Ducher' and 'Georgetown Tea' --
All photos courtesy Earth-Kind Roses @ Aggie Horticulture ~
Souvenir de St. Anne's
Reve D'Or
New Dawn
La Marne
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas Cooperative Extension-Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, Texas 77901; or, or comment on this column at