Drought Tolerant Rose Types: Are There Rose Plants That Resist Drought

beautiful rose growing on dry cracked soil
Image by DLeonis

By Stan V. (Stan the Rose Man) Griep
American Rose Society Consulting Master Rosarian – Rocky Mountain District
Denver Rose Society Member

It is indeed possible to enjoy roses in drought conditions; we just need to look for drought tolerant rose types and plan things out beforehand to get the best performance possible. Keep reading to learn more about the best drought tolerant roses and care in times of limited moisture.

Rose Plants That Resist Drought

Many of us have either had to or are currently dealing with drought conditions in the areas we live. Such conditions make it tough to have a garden due to the lack of an abundance of water to keep our plants and shrubs well hydrated. After all, water is a life giver. Water carries the nutrition to our plants, including our rose bushes.

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That being said, there are roses that we can focus on that have been tested in various growing conditions to see how they perform. Just as the “Buck Roses” are known for their cold climate hardiness, there are some heat tolerant roses, like the Earth Kind roses, that will perform well in these tough conditions. In fact, many of the species roses and old garden roses are tolerant of varying climatic conditions.

Some climbing rose bushes that have been found to be heat and drought tolerant include:

  • William Baffin
  • New Dawn
  • Lady Hillingdon

If you live in an area that gets very little to no relief from heat and drought conditions, you certainly can still enjoy roses, the choice should shift to enjoying some of the Earth Kind roses noted above, of which Knockout is one. You can also find more info on Earth Kind roses here. A website I recommend for finding some wonderful species roses can be found at High Country Roses. The folks there are most helpful when it comes to locating the best drought tolerant roses for your growing conditions. Seek out owner Matt Douglas and tell him Stan ‘the Rose Man’ sent you. Be sure to check out some miniature rose bushes too.

Creating More Drought Tolerant Rose Bushes

While no rose bush can live without any water, especially many of our modern roses, there are things we can do to help them be more drought tolerant rose bushes. For instance, mulching roses with a 3- to 4-inch layer of good shredded hardwood mulch helps hold available moisture in the soil. This mulch is said to create a condition in our gardens similar to that of a forest floor. The need for fertilization can be reduced in some cases and pretty much eliminated in others with this mulching according to some studies.

Many roses can get by on less water once established and perform quite nicely. It is a matter of us thinking and planning out garden areas to help the conditions these plants are subject to be in. Planting roses in good sunny locations is good, but when considering drought tolerance and performance, perhaps trying to select an area that gets less intense sunshine and heat for extended periods may be better. We can create such conditions ourselves by building garden structures that shield out the sun when at its most intense.

In areas subject to drought conditions, it is important to water deeply when feasible to do so. This deep watering, combined with the 3- to 4-inch mulching, will help many rose bushes continue to perform well. The Floribunda, Hybrid Tea and Grandiflora roses will likely not bloom as often under the stress of drought but can survive with an every other week watering, while still providing some beautiful blooms to enjoy. Many of the miniature rose bushes will do well in such conditions also. I have had some outperform the larger blooming varieties in such conditions to my total delight!

In times of drought, water conservation efforts are high and using the water we have wisely is a top concern. Usually, the communities we live in will impose watering days to help conserve water. I have soil moisture meters that I like to use to see if my roses really need to be watered or if they can go a while yet. I seek out types that have nice long probes on them so that I can probe around the rose bushes in at least three locations, getting down well into the root zones. The three probes gives me a good indication of what the moisture conditions truly are in any given area.

If we are careful as to what soaps or cleansers we use when we shower or bathe, that water (known as graywater) can be collected and used to water our gardens too, thus serving a dual purpose that helps conserve water.

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