Due to several unique challenges home gardeners and nursery owners are often baffled when trying to incorporate roses into landscapes. Consequently, they ignore roses altogether or limit themselves to cultivars in the knockout or drift series. While knockout roses and drift roses are commonly planted throughout the lower south, and deservedly so, many other roses that will perform equally well should be considered for inclusion into landscapes and flower gardens.
While there are several rose classes that will perform well throughout the Florida panhandle, the focus here will be on the Tea class. Roses in the Tea class originated in China over 1000 years ago. Many cultivars of ancient origin reached Europe through trade routes with Italy, England, and France. In the 1700s, the art and science of plant breeding was taking Europe by storm, so horticulturists were crossing the repeat-blooming Chinese roses with well-known European and Middle Eastern cultivars such as the Autumn Damask and Tuscany. Throughout the 1800s, many of these European and Chinese hybrid roses were created to grow around the Mediterranean. In the mid-1800s, Tea roses began to be bred with high centered form and long vase life, therefore aristocratic families throughout northern Europe began to grow them in greenhouses for rose exhibitions and competitions.
At the end of the 1700s and throughout the 1800s, a substantial quantity of Tea roses were brought to the southern USA where they were noted to be of easy culture outdoors. Thus, by the mid-1800s, they graced the gardens of both the humble and the aristocratic. These roses became popular foundation landscape plants from zone 7b to 10, all the way to Bermuda, where many “mystery roses” are found growing today.
Although the popularity of the Tea roses were eclipsed in the 1920s by the showier Hybrid Teas, they have regained popularity in mild-climate locales in the USA due to their ease of culture and prolific blooming habits. Most showy Hybrid Tea and Floribunda roses require fungicide sprays to thrive in the humid Florida Panhandle climate, but most of the Tea roses will thrive without the application of fungicide sprays of any kind. When established, most are drought and insect resistant, and flower well into November and December, unless an early hard freeze occurs. One small disadvantage to Tea roses is that they are more cold-tender than other classes of roses. Almost all these roses will survive well in zones 8a-10, with a few of the climbing types only suited for zones 9a and warmer. None of the Tea in the author’s garden were killed by the December hard freeze, and only a few showed damage.
While there are over 100 worthy Tea cultivars to recommend, this article will focus on five Tea roses:
Anna Jung: Bred in 1903 by Nabonnand, Anna Jung is a showy cream and pink tea in the tradition of other large Tea roses Marie van Houtte and Safrano. It makes a six-by-five-foot shrub clothed in large apple-green leaves. Flower color is variable but ranges from cream and light pink to fuchsia in warm weather conditions. The scent is pungent, like freshly dried green tea leaves. This rose is highly vigorous and free flowering and tough, the author’s plant survived being partially uprooted by Hurricane Michael and is thriving again. Anna Jung was lost to commerce for decades in the United States, imported once again from France, where it has been available in the nursery trade continuously since its introduction. It is now sold by a few specialty rose nurseries in the southern USA.
Le Pactole: This Tea rose was bred in 1834 and has been grown in the United States for many years. Some time in the 1930s-1950s it was no longer available commercially and was thought extinct but was found by rose hunters in California and re-introduced to the public in the 1990s. It has light yellow flowers, fading to white, with a lemon-tea scent that floats in the air. This prolifically blooming rose is rather thorny and makes a handsome plant 5 feet tall by 4 feet wide in zone 8a. This rose experiences some dieback under prolonged freezing conditions below 20 degrees F. It recovers well from setbacks and is relatively easy to grow.
Rosette Delizy: In 1922, the Tea roses were on their way out, but Paul Nabonnand had one last trick up his sleeve with the introduction of Rosette Delizy. This rose was meant to make a splash in European greenhouse rose production with its perfectly formed yellow and pink flowers, but it made an unlikely hit in the Gulf South due to its disease resistance and vibrant colors. Although Rosette Delizy struggles with cold hardiness north of USDA zone 8a, it is perfectly suited to the Florida panhandle.
Safrano: Peachy and cream blooms adorn this 4–5-foot plant with an eight-foot-wide, spreading habit. The new growth is deep red, and the foliage is dark green. Safrano can produce the most beautiful flowers in the garden during spring and fall, but summer blooms are small and few-petaled. This rose is ideal for a foundational landscape planting because of its wide stature and nearly evergreen foliage in zone 8b and warmer. Safrano is also one of the oldest available Tea roses, being introduced in 1839.
Spice:Often thought to be one of the original tea roses, ‘Hume’s Blush Tea Scented China’ or the 1830s rose ‘Caroline’, the cultivar we now refer to as “Spice” or “Bermuda Spice” was re-introduced to the horticultural world in the 1970s from the island of Bermuda. Spice thrives in the sub-tropical climate of the Florida panhandle, staying evergreen and producing flowers almost year-round. Blooms are light pink, fragrant, and often borne in clusters. This is one of the most disease-resistant roses of all, rarely showing any incidence of blackspot or powdery mildew. Mature plants are drought and heat tolerant and sit at about 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide.
A few notes about Tea rose culture:
They do not like to be pruned back hard, during the first 5 years of growth, only remove dead or diseased wood. Since they are usually sold own root, they need 3-4 years in the garden to become well established. Lastly, Tea roses do not bloom much during the hottest part of the summer but make up for it during late winter and late fall.
Here is a list of mail-order nurseries in the Southern USA that carry tea roses. This list is not exhaustive and does not contain nurseries on the west coast. If any nurseries were left off this list, it is not the author’s intention. No endorsement is made or implied.
Article written by: Khadejah Scott, Extension Agent, UF/IFAS Extension – Wakulla County
Roses are renowned for their exquisite blossoms throughout the world. They can bloom for at least nine months of the year here in North Florida. Roses can be incorporated into plant beds, shown as a specimen plants, or planted in a separate garden just for them. The famous proverb “Every rose has its thorn” is well-known and frequently used to illustrate an important fact about life – nothing is perfect. Roses can be either low- or high-maintenance. Low-maintenance roses require little care and include the “old garden roses” and shrub roses. Hybrid tea, Grandiflora, floribunda, and polyantha roses (“modern” roses) are considered high maintenance since they require frequent grooming, fertilizing, watering, and spraying. It’s important to choose rose varieties that work well and fit your lifestyle if you want to cultivate roses. Below are some facts about cultivating roses in the landscape.
1. SITE SELECTION
Roses require at least six hours per day of direct sunlight. It is preferable to place plants in open areas where their roots won’t compete with one another for moisture and nutrients. Where shade is unavoidable, pick a spot that receives early sunlight. The optimum soil for growing roses drains properly while holding enough moisture and nutrients. To a depth of 12 inches, thoroughly and evenly mix amendments with 2-4 inches of organic material. These amendments work best when introduced to light, sandy soils, and easily compacted soils.
Roses in containers are generally offered for sale all year round at nearby nurseries. Early spring is the ideal time to plant roses. Create a hole that is at least as deep as the root ball. After removing the root ball from the container, loosen the circling roots by hand. The rose should be planted at the same depth that it was in the container. Each plant should have a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch (compost, wood chips, pine needles, etc.) applied around it. The mulch should be kept about an inch away from the main stem.
For 6 to 8 weeks after planting, water roses frequently to establish. The majority of modern roses require weekly watering and spraying, periodic grooming to remove old blossoms, monthly fertilization (February to November), and early spring pruning and mulching. Most low-maintenance roses are somewhat disease resistant and will survive with few to no sprays. Grooming is required to keep them healthy, attractive, and productive. The type of rose and your preferences will determine how frequently you should groom it. After each bloom cycle, prune away faded flowers, break off suckers that sprout from the rootstock, and remove dead wood and canes that exhibit disease symptoms to properly groom your plants.
Because of their stunning color and potent aroma, roses have long been a favorite plant for landscapes. Your local UF/IFAS Extension Office and local rose society are excellent resources for information on color, variety selection, and other topics.
Oleander caterpillars, which are active on some oleanders during summer, can provide a number of gardening lessons.
Oleander caterpillar moth on lantana flower. Photo credit: James Castner, UF
The adult moth is striking in appearance. The bluish to purplish moth has white dots on its black wings. The moths resemble wasps as they fly in and around oleander shrubs.
It’s the orange caterpillars with black spots and black hairs that cause problems for some gardeners.
Caterpillars are the larval stage of butterflies and moths. In order to enjoy watching butterflies and moths feeding on the nectar of flowers, some of the caterpillars must survive to become adult butterflies and moths. This is lesson number one.
Oleander caterpillars usually only feed on oleander plants. Oleanders are native to areas of Europe and Asia. This is lesson number two.
Oleander caterpillar, Photo credit: Paul Choate, UF
Oleander caterpillars benefit by us planting their food source in Florida.
This relationship between pest and plant is referred to as the key plant, key pest concept. Some other examples include St. Augustinegrass and chinch bugs, gardenias and whiteflies, crape myrtles and crape myrtle aphids, azaleas and azalea caterpillars, camellias and tea scale, roses and black spot, pecans and pecan scab, squash and squash vine borers.
Understanding this concept can be helpful in designing a “low maintenance” landscape.
When you plant roses, you plant everything that goes with roses, including the time and money required to maintain them. This applies to St. Augustinegrass, pecan trees, squash and oleanders. This is lesson number three.
Oleander caterpillars can temporarily damage the appearance of oleanders. But they cause no long-term damage for the plant. This is lesson number four. The damage is aesthetic. Oleander caterpillars can consume great numbers of leaves. However, if the plant is otherwise healthy, new leaves will be produced and the plant will continue to grow. The damage is temporary; there will be no evidence the plant ever had a problem.
To spray or not to spray for oleander caterpillars has to do with a person’s tolerance level.
If you can’t tolerate having oleander caterpillars around and the temporary aesthetic damage they cause, consider the use of Bacillus thuringiensis. It is sold under a number of brand names and many times is referred to as Bt. This bacterium only controls caterpillars so it is friendlier for the beneficial insects. When using any pesticide, always follow the label directions and precautions.
Here are links to UF/IFAS Extension publications with more info.
Phyllocoptes fructiphilus Kefier is a microscopic plant-feeding arachnid belonging to a group of spindle-shaped mites known as Eriophyoid mites. Eriophyoid mites are second only to spider mites in their economic importance and potential for plant damage: some species create galls, others deform plants with their feeding activity, and a few species are capable of spreading viruses. Fortunately, eriophyoid mites very host specific and P. fructiphilus only feeds on plants in the genus Rosa, which includes all of the true roses which we are familiar with.
P. fructiphilus does not cause damage by its feeding alone, but is a pest due to its relationship as the vector of an emaravirus: Rose rosette virus (RRV). RRV infection creates Rose Rosette Disease (RRD), with the following symptoms: witches’ brooms/rosetting, deformed flowers, increased prickle density, elongated shoots, reddened leaves and stems, and increased die-back which ultimately kills the rose host. RRD is the most serious disease of roses, creating millions of dollars of losses for growers. Rose Rosette Disease and the mite have invaded the southeastern United States as the non-native Rosa multiflora (Thunb) has spread invasively towards the eastern coast and by the introduction of infected roses from out of state into Florida.
Figure 2: EDDMapS. 2020. Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System. The University of Georgia – Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. Available online at http://www.eddmaps.org/
RRD was initially detected in Florida in 2014 on 15 plants; however, the plants were destroyed and P. fructiphilus were not detected on the roses after that time.
In early 2019, a survey of predatory mites on roses found eriphyoid mites in samples obtained while surveying roses in Leon County, Florida. The mites were sent to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – Department of Plant Industry (FDACS-DPI) and were all identified as P. fructiphilus by Dr. Sam Bolton. To date, none of these roses have shown signs or symptoms of RDD and none of these plants have tested positive for presence of the virus.
Figure 3: Black dots indicate individual sites which have been surveyed for Phyllocoptes fructiphilus. Orange dots indicate a number of sites with populations of P. fructiphilus detected in Leon county, Florida. No symptoms of Rose Rosette Disease have been seen on these plants to date. Image Credit Austin N. Fife, UF / IFAS
This is the first recorded instance of P. fructiphilus in Florida and is worrisome despite the absence of the virus. Fortunately, RRV is currently not established in Florida. However, the presence of P. fructiphilus, along with past detections of RRV in Florida warrants an increase in monitoring efforts for the mite and virus in Florida.
Figure 4: Typical symptoms of Rose Rosette Disease. Image Credit Austin N. Fife, UF / IFAS
How can I identify roses that have Rose Rosette Disease?
It is difficult to identify the symptoms of RRD in the field for a few reasons. Primarily, there are different growth habits for different rose cultivars. What appears to be ‘excessive thorniness’ in one cultivar may be normal for another, and is can be easy to mistake the redness of new flush with symptoms of the RRD. In addition, glyphosate damage from improper use of Roundup or similar products can have a very similar appearance to diseased roses. The best way to verify RRD infection is to use molecular testing for the virus. Identifying the presences of eriophyoid mites is useful for diagnosis, but they are too small to see with pocket loupes and are difficult to find unless there are large numbers of mites. To properly identify an eriophyoid mite as P. fructiphilus requires the use of a compound microscope with a specially prepared microscope slide of the mite, as well as reference materials and a trained individual who knows what characters to look for.
What to do if I suspect that my roses are infected with Rose Rosette Disease?
We recommend reporting suspected cases of RRD to your local extension agency or the Florida Department of Agriculture.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – Division of Plant Industry
1-888-397-1517 Helpline (352) 395-4600 (Helpline Number, Outside of the United States) DPIHelpline@FDACS.gov
The Doyle Conner Building 1911 SW 34th St. Gainesville, FL 32608
Figure 5: Phyllocoptes fructiphilus is a refuge-seeking mite ,which hides under rose sepals, which are covered in tiny glandular plant hairs known as trichomes that protect the mites. Image Credit: Austin N. Fife, UF / IFAS
How Can I Manage Rose Rosette Disease?
Currently, there are no commercially available rose cultivars known to resist Rose Rosette Disease or Phyllocoptes fructiphilus. A major difficulty lies in the cryptic nature of these mites, which hide underneath the rose sepals. It is important to consider this when considering which control methods to use. Methods which require direct contact with the mites to kill them are unlikely to work.
This makes it difficult for chemical applications which require contact with the pest to work.
Keeping that in mind, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of RRD and prevent the spread of the mite:
Eliminate infected wild roses nearby
Heavy pruning followed by horticultural oil spray may reduce populations of the mite, but cannot prevent a viral infection from spreading.
Space plants so their leaves and roots don’t touch
Dispose of diseased roses properly: bag up infected materials and dispose of in areas away from other roses
One of my favorite native plants is winged sumac. I like this plant not only for its ornamental beauty, but also for its fruit that can be dried and used as seasoning and to make tea. So you can understand my concern when one of my prized winged sumac plants had distorted leaves.
Eriophyid mite damage on winged sumac. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County
After doing a little research and speaking with one of our UF/IFAS Specialists, I was able to determine that the leaf distortion was caused by eriophyid mites. Mites are not insects and are more closely related to spiders. They normally have four pairs of legs, however eriophyid mites only have two pairs of legs. They are microscopic, elongate, spindle-shaped, and translucent.
An eriophyid mite. Photo Credit: USDA, Agricultural Research Service.
Eriophyid mites cause galls (sometimes called witch’s broom) on various species of ornamental shrubs. Symptoms include early and late bud distortion, distorted leaves, and possibly plant death. In fact, the species Phyllocoptes fructiphilus is the vector for the viral disease of roses called Rose Rosette Disease. Sometimes the damage can be confused with herbicide damage.
Control options are currently being evaluated for eriophyid mites in the home landscape. Removing distorted plant material and removing it from the site can help prevent the spread of mites. If you suspect eriophyid mites are the cause of your distorted plants then samples should be collected. To collect samples: 1) Prune off symptomatic plant material and immediately place into a vial with rubbing alcohol; 2) label with collection date, plant species, and location; 3) mail to the Landscape Entomology Lab in Gainesville at P.O. Box 110620, Gainesville, FL 32611.
Monsieur Tillier – Tea rose from the late 1800s. A good choice where a large, free-flowering shrub is needed – Image Credit Matthew Orwat
Home Gardeners, when they think of roses, their mind inevitably turns to the ‘Knockout’ rose and its offspring. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with ‘Knockout’ roses, it makes a great ornamental landscape plant, and it’s easy to propagate.
With all the ‘Knockout’ mania, since the early 2000s, many garden roses, that are well adapted to the Northwest Florida climate, have been left out of the home garden to a large degree.
Several roses, which were grown in Florida commonly in the last hundred years, and recommended by former University of Florida president H. H. Hume in his book “Gardening in the Lower South,” are still grown here today. To obtain these roses gardeners must look to small nurseries scattered throughout central Florida and Alabama, or order them from larger nurseries in Texas where the “Texas A&M Earthkind Rose Program” has taken off.
Below are a few examples of easy to grow roses, that are just as disease resistant as the ‘Knockout,’ but offer more variety in color and form that home gardeners might enjoy as much as or more than ‘Knockout’. They have been grown successfully throughout southern Texas for over 30 years, and at the Washington County Extension Office for the past seven years without spraying fungicides or insecticides. Several of these cultivars were also involved in a 3-year rose trial at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center, in Quincy.
One caveat I have regarding these roses is that disease resistance is lessened when irrigated with overhead irrigation. Even the most disease resistant roses will develop issues if leaves are constantly left wet.
Belinda’s Dream makes a moderately sized shrub and produces large flowers, especially in the spring and fall. Image Credit – Matthew Orwat
‘Belinda’s Dream‘ was bred by Texas A&M Professor Robert Basye in 1988, as a culmination of years of intense breeding and selection for disease resistant landscape and cut flower roses. It makes a 4-5 foot shrub that grows about 3 feet wide. Apple-green foliage clothe its pleasing shrub form. It’s free flowering but not overly vigorous, so it’s easy to keep in bounds. Disease resistance is high, there’s rarely any blackspot of note, under no-spray conditions, and only slight powdery mildew in a few years when conditions are favorable for fungus development.
In cool spring or fall conditions, the clear pink flowers can top six inches in diameter, and contain over 200 petals, but regular hot conditions during the summer usually reduce flower size to four inches. This rose loves to be part of mass plantings, particularly when planted 3 feet apart in a triangular formation. It has a reputation as being moderately easy to propagate.
Rosette Delizy is very colorful and disease resistant. A great addition where a spot of color is needed – Image Credit Matthew Orwat
‘Rosette Delizy‘ is a French Tea rose that was introduced to the U.S. nursery trade in the mid-1920s. Since it was bred before the days of modern fungicides, it sports excellent resistance to disease. It shows no powdery mildew, and only the occasional leaf with blackspot under no-spray conditions.
This is strictly a rose for the coastal south, since it does not like cold temperatures, and cannot thrive north of zone 7b without protection.
Color is striking, opening yellow with petal edges changing to pink as the flowers age. Cooler weather brings out deeper russet and maroon tones. It has a light “tea” fragrance. This mannerly shrub gets 4-5 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. It requires very light pruning, and can actually be killed from heavy-handed gardeners with shears in hand. Minor flaws noted in this rose are that it is somewhat sparsely foliated, and somewhat difficult to propagate.
Madame Antoine Mari – The perfect buttonhole rose produces flowers with delicate, soft colors perfect for arranging. This rose is a mannerly grower suitable for smaller landscapes. Image Credit Matthew Orwat
‘Madame Antoine Mari’
‘Madame Antione Mari’, a Tea rose, was introduced in 1900 when the buttonhole rose was all the rage. Massive quantities of perfectly formed delicate buds of pink and ivory quickly open into 3 inch flowers that decorate the bush like butterflies fluttering in the wind. Re-bloom is fast. Additional interest in the landscape is created by the deep red color of new foliage.
This makes a mannerly shrub for the small landscape, easily kept at 3-4 feet tall, and 5-6 feet wide by light pruning. Disease resistance is above average in a no-spray garden, with very low blackspot infection rates, and only occasional powdery mildew. This rose has been found to be easily propagated with the author reaching near 100% success rate.
Mrs. B. R. Cant at the Quincy rose trial in 2013.
‘Mrs. B. R. Cant’
No mention of easy to grow roses is complete without the mention of ‘Mrs. B. R. Cant’. In the trials UF/IFAS horticulturists performed at Quincy and Plant City, this variety was rated the best performer. It has been in continuous cultivation since 1901, and is often found at old home sites and gardens in Washington County.
This makes a large garden rose, easily topping 8 feet in height, and just as wide. Deep pink flowers are borne profusely from March to first frost. Disease resistance is outstanding, and it’s easy to propagate. Plants are densely clothed in medium green leaves. This rose is often grown in hedges as a substitute for a fence. One of the best all-around garden roses for the gulf south.
I provide presentations at workshops on these roses multiple times a year, throughout the Florida Panhandle. The recurring question I get is, “Where are these roses available locally?” Hopefully this article will inspire some local gardeners to try these easy to grow roses, and others, since these are just a few of the roses available that do very well in North Florida under no spray conditions. If you are interested in more information, contact, Matthew Orwat at UF/IFAS Extension Washington County.