For the most part, we have great weather here on the coast allowing us to grow many plants with ease. Our cool, foggy mornings and warm afternoons, however, do cause some problems growing plants that are already prone to disease. Getting most roses to look good here can be a bit of a challenge. Too keep the black spot, powdery mildew and rust at bay can take repeated sprayings of chemicals I’d rather not use.The key to having roses that we can grow organically is to select the right roses to grow. Yep, it’s the old “Right plant, right place” adage.
Topping our list of roses to grow in California we have the local kid, Rosa californica. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that a native rose is the best adapted for our area. Best grown in full sun it is very disease resistant and will tolerate some drought. In addition to fragrant, pink flowers, it also finishes the season by offering tasty rose hips. Rose hips not only attract birds, but can be used to make a delicious tea or jelly.
Rugosas, or wild roses which come from Asia, are also very disease resistant. They are, however, vigorous growers and do need some space. Some varieties will sucker and spread which can cause problems with crowding out neighboring plants so it’s best to stick with those that are more compact growers. Some to try, Moje Hammarberg with its double pink flowers and strong spicy scent, Frau Dagmar Hartopp with it’s single pink flowers and strong disease resistance.
Groundcover roses are also another way to get some form of rose in your garden. Although I have seen many of the groundcover roses get a bit of powdery mildew, the cases are normally easily corrected with an application of Neem Oil. For other diseases like rust or black spot, I normally only see those when the plants are grown in too much shade. Although some have a mild fragrance, most have none and they aren’t great for cutting. Still, they do offer bold, beautiful color during the warmer months. Just don’t expect all of them to hug the ground. Many so-called carpet roses can grow several feet high in the center and have a tendency to grow on top of each other if planted too close. They can, however, look absolutely stunning cascading over walls and down banks. A few to try are:
These are by far the most disease resistant, problem free roses for our climate and are the best choice for a low-maintenance, organic garden. They all do best when planted in a full sun location and thrive with a good application of mulch and regular fertilizing.