Roses are notorious for disease. Mildew, blackspot, rust—what’s the point of growing roses if they look sickly and sad? While few roses are entirely free of problems, there are some that have genetic resistance to disease; consider adding the following picks to your garden. (Transform the ordinary into the extraordinary with Rodale's The Perennial Matchmaker, your foolproof one-plant-at-a-time approach to picking perfect plant partners and growing your most stunning garden ever!)
Most wild species of roses are healthy and resilient plants. Natural selection has worked in favor of disease-resistant genes, as infected plants fail to reproduce well. I especially like Rosa Glauca, with its grayish blue leaves, single pink flowers, and red hips. The pink-flowered Swamp Rose is valuable its healthy growth and its unusual tolerance of damp soils. The Virginia Rose also tends to stay quite healthy and is a good species for drier conditions; its pink flowers are followed by bright red hips and fiery fall colors.
There are also some lovely disease-resistant heirloom roses. The Rugosas are among the healthiest and toughest of all roses, and their rough leaves are rarely infected. I especially like Blanc Double de Coubert with its super-scented, semidouble white flowers, and Fru Dagmar Hastrup, which as single pink flowers. Both have splendid orange-red hips.
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Another group of disease-resistant roses are the hybrid musks. Their scent is superb, and they have an unusually long flowering season. Cornelia in apricot fading to pink, and silvery pink Felicia are the ones to pick.
Then there are modern roses. Breeders once assumed their roses would be sprayed and thus never considered disease resistance. But top German breeder Kordes has not sprayed the seedlings from which it selects new varieties for more than 30 years. In Britain, Harkness Roses have been spray-free since 1998 and in Texas, The Antique Rose Emporium also refuses to spray. In the absence of fungicide sprays, seedlings with genetic resistance to diseases rise to the top of the trials.
Most of the recently introduced Kordes varieties are unusually healthy. I especially like Kosmos with peach-centered white flowers. From Harkness, the English Legend Series is worth looking at. Among American varieties, take a look at the Pioneer Roses from Antique Rose Emporium and, of course, the Knock Out Series and the Oso Easy Series—which are two of the 6 Kinds Of Roses You'll Definitely Want To Grow.