Dozens of Disease-Resistant Roses

Looking to add some new roses to the garden? In addition to their beautiful blossoms, and delectable fragrance, go for disease-resistant varieties.  A careful selection now can make your rose growing easier, and gentler on the environment.

What’s disease resistance? It’s a plants ability to fend off infection. In our climate the diseases of concern are the big three – black spot, rust, and powdery mildew. Hybridizers continuously strive to produce new cultivars that don’t get these diseases, with varying success.  A rose may be marketed as disease-resistant, but there’s no guarantee that a new rose introduction will perform better than one that’s been around for a long time. Choose a rose with a proven track record – a variety that reliably grows through the season with little to no visible disease. You can be certain that if a rose is still popular today, after decades in commerce, that it’s adaptable to local climate conditions and reasonably tolerant to disease.

Each year the American Rose Society (ARS) publishes the Handbook for Selecting Roses. Rose growers across the country evaluate and report on rose performance including disease. The results are tabulated by the ARS and included in the Handbook. Roses are rated on a scale of 0 to 10 and ratings 7.8 and above are described as:

  • 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

More than 3000 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 at the ARS Shop

The list below includes two dozen roses that have an 8.0 or above ARS ratings based on 2021 Handbook. This list was developed, in part, by observing the roses in my garden during the most challenging weather periods – conditions that are conducive to blackspot, rust or powdery mildew. I don’t use fungicides or insecticides, so if the plant remained healthy looking with no significant signs of disease, it was eligible to be included in the list. There are different types to choose from – miniatures 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.  

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.

By Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian

Photo ‘Gourmet Popcorn’

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