Seven Easy-to-Grow Rose Bushes

You'll Have No Fuss but Plenty of Impact With These Shrubs

Plant names are sometimes confusing (or even downright misleading), but, for the most part, the easy-to-grow rose bushes in this list live up to their promising names. If you are fairly new to gardening and are already growing one of these plants (or something similar), you may wonder what all of the fuss is about. You have enjoyed your own low-maintenance shrub from the Rosa genus, assume that it represents the norm, and wonder what the big deal is.

Paul Zimmerman, in his book, Everyday Roses: How to Grow Knock Out and Other Easy-Care Garden Roses, provides some historical context to explain why easy-to-grow roses are, in fact, a big deal. Zimmerman observes that many of the roses vigorously marketed to the public in the past were hard to grow (page 7). Gardeners stuck with the difficult task of trying to care for these “divas,” as Zimmerman calls them, and they became frustrated. Eventually, word got around: Roses are hard to grow.

But the new generation of rose varieties is standing this stereotype on its head. Developers acknowledged the complaints from the public and set about building a better rose. The result has been the emergence of a number of different types of easy-to-grow roses. The charge has been led by Knock Out, which is now the most popular rose bush brand in North America. 

Most all rose bushes grow best in full sun, in well-drained soil, and when you help out Mother Nature by supplying water during dry periods (but water at ground level so as to avoid getting water on the leaves). All entries on the list are suitable for USDA growing zones 5 to 9 (in the case of Rosa rugosa, 3 to 9).

  • 01 of 07

    It's So Salt-Tolerant That It's Called the "Beach" Rose

    Rosa rugosa blooming with a pink flower.
    David Beaulieu

    Before getting to the new generation of rose bushes, though, a few words are in order regarding an old standby in the toolkit of the landscaper seeking low-maintenance options. Rosa rugosa is a salt-tolerant plant. This rose bush tolerates salt so well, in fact, that is has been dubbed the "beach" rose. This tough plant is not fazed by poor soils, high winds, or drought, either.

    The beach rose bush's tolerance of salt is not limited to sea salt, though: It extends to road salt, as well. This feature, along with the fact that it is a low-maintenance plant, overall, suggests one possible use for the beach rose: as a plant to grow along the side of a street

    Prune these rose bushes to shape them in late winter or early spring if you wish to manage their size. At maturity, they generally stand 4 to 6 feet tall, with a similar spread. For even lower maintenance (if you have the room), treat them as wild shrubs, pruning only to remove dead wood.

  • 02 of 07

    At Last, a Rose That Is Double, Fragrant, and Easy to Grow

    At Last rose blooming with an orange flower.
    David Beaulieu

    Here is another name that was carefully selected to reflect the value that growers find in it: "At Last." And what is it that At Last finally provides that rose growers have been seeking for so long? A combination of three qualities:

    • It is an easy-to-grow rose bush.
    • It bears the classic rose fragrance.
    • Its flower takes on the tea-rose form displayed in such popular roses as Tahitian Sunset, bearing attractive, double blooms.

    But there is more. This plant:

    • Is disease-resistant
    • Blooms all summer
    • Is compact enough to grow well in a container

    Measuring approximately 3 feet x 3 feet at maturity, care for At Last is simple:

    • Pruning information: prune in spring
    • Fertilizer information: fertilize in spring (Miracle Gro for Roses is fine)
  • 03 of 07

    Seeing Red With Candy Oh! Rose Bushes

    Candy Oh! Vivid red rose bush in bloom.
    David Beaulieu

    Candy Oh! Vivid Red may be single-flowered, but these easy-to-grow rose bushes make up for it by producing a multitude of blossoms (eye candy for the landscape, if you will). They are part of the Oso Happy series. The flowers look their best when they first unfurl, because that is when their yellow centers shine brightly. Later, this yellow color subsides. Fortunately, this shrub is such a great flower producer that, as soon as one bloom starts to age, another is opening to take its place. 

    Standing 3 to 4 feet tall at maturity, with a similar spread, there is no pressing need to prune Candy Oh! (other than to remove dead branches). Some cutting back is commonly recommended to give the plants the form that you desire for them. Such pruning is best done in late winter or early spring. But it is really up to you as to whether or not you prune with any great precision, and​ if you do choose to do so, exactly when you prune.

  • 04 of 07

    For Those Who Prefer Pink, There's Oso Happy Smoothie

    Oso Happy Smoothie rose bush with a pink flower.
    David Beaulieu

    Smoothie and Candy Oh! both belong to the Oso Happy series. Indeed, they are very similar rose bushes (having the same size, disease-resistance, minimal care requirements, etc.), except for flower color (neither offers a particularly nice fragrance). If you like pink, you will want to grow Smoothie.

    Smoothie is an exception on this list in terms of whether or not it is aptly named: It is not. The name is based on the marketing assertion that it is thornless (as in having smooth canes). Sadly, this claim has proven to be false.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Knock Out, Round 1: "Rainbow"

    Rainbow Knock Out rose with a bicolored flower.
    David Beaulieu

    Rainbow Knock Out is another rose bush with single flowers. Another knock on the flower is its lack of fragrance. But this repeat bloomer makes up for it by exhibiting a knockout color combination of coral with a yellow center that earns it that "Rainbow" name.

    Rainbow Knock Out measures about 3 to 4 feet tall when mature, with a similar width. It can get bigger than that in some regions and/or under the right growing conditions, however. To manage its size, prune it in spring and/or in early summer. Where should you make your pruning cut? Make it down to a leaf or to a bud that is pointing away from the center of the plant, to keep the shrub's branching pattern airy, rather than having too much going on in the middle. For the same reason, prune off branches that are rubbing against each other during your spring or early-summer pruning. Feel free to prune off dead branches at any time.

    It is easy to grow this rose bush partly because it is so disease-resistant, being successful in warding off:

    • Powdery mildew
    • Black spot
    • Rust
  • 06 of 07

    Knock Out, Round 2: "Blushing"

    Blushing Knock Out roses in bloom.
    T.Kiya/Flickr/CC By-SA 2.0

    If Rainbow doesn't excite you, try another bush in this series of repeat bloomers: the Blushing Knock Out rose. This kind bears fragrant, semi-double, pink flowers. It becomes 3 to 4 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. As with Rainbow, no deadheading is required.

    In addition to basic spring pruning done every year to maintain size, you should perform a rejuvenation pruning on Knock Out roses every other year in late winter. All you need to do is prune out a third of the oldest branches. Doing so will channel energy into creating healthy new branches. As blooming pauses on a Knock Out rose bush during the course of the growing season, feed with a balanced rose fertilizer.

  • 07 of 07

    How Low Can You Go, Pink Supreme?

    Pink Supreme carpet rose in bloom.
    David Beaulieu

    Pink Supreme Flower Carpet is part of the carpet rose series put out by Tesselaar. The name, "carpet rose," is in keeping with the marketing characterization of these plants as ground cover roses, but they are not ground covers that you can walk on. Rather, the idea is to call attention to the fact that these plants grow low to the ground relative to their width. Their average mature height is less than 30 inches, while their spread is 40 inches.

    Pink Supreme makes this list for a different type of "low": low-maintenance. Plant several of these easy-to-grow roses on a patch of land where you do not intend to be walking but where you would like to have color throughout the summer. Pruning is as easy as shearing off the top two-thirds of the plants in late winter or early spring.

Basic Tips for Growing Rose Bushes

Choosing any of these easy-to-grow rose bushes allows you to enjoy the beauty of roses without having to give up your weekends to care for them. Zimmerman observes that such plants “are nothing more than flowering shrubs” (as opposed to some special, pampered class separate from all other plants) and assures us that they require no more attention than any other flowering shrub (page 7).

If you are already stuck growing a variety of rose bush that is less easy to grow, all is not lost. Learning a few basic tips for growing rose bushes will help you tame the more finicky members of this much admired genus of plants.