Growing roses in Neshoba County can be a challenge. Not only do we provide a hot, humid summer in hard red clay, we leave the yard and gardens to head for the fair in the middle of the summer. Although the garden centers are filling up with rose selections, not all of them are suitable for our neck of the woods. However, selecting the proper type of rose for local conditions can keep your blooms coming nearly year around.

Look for roses that are disease-resistant to blackspot and powdery mildew. These are common diseases that attack plants in our area. Heat- resistant-varieties are needed for western exposure or roses planted near brick that reflects heat. Roses should have sturdy top-growth and strong root systems when planted. It costs less to purchase a rose bush wrapped in a plastic sleeve, but if you cannot see the roots, you do not know what you are buying. Roses are water lovers, and without a strong system of roots, these type bushes seldom survive a late summer or early fall drought.

Hybrid tea roses such as Barbara Bush, Mr. Lincoln, or the McCartney rose require spraying throughout the season to prevent black spot and aphids, yet, they perform with strong stems and large blooms. Shrub roses like the popular Knock-Out variety tend to be more resistant to black spot and insect damage, but the blooms are not fragrant or large like the hybrid tea varieties used for cut roses. Thus, the choice is whether you prefer blooms in the landscape with minimal care, or roses to cut in spring and fall with higher maintenance throughout the summer.

Fortunately, there is no reason why you cannot plant both, or include English roses that combine beauty and hardiness. English roses such as the David Austin varieties were developed with the hardiness of a shrub rose and the affection for a fragrant, continuous bloom. These varieties tend to cost more, but they are vigorous bloomers and less susceptible to disease. Floribunda roses are also popular for their multiple blooms, but the bloom tends to be smaller and less fragrant than the hybrid teas.

Regardless of the type of rose, all roses need sun, preferably morning sun, and organic matter added to the soil. Roses will not tolerate sitting in water, but they do want regular watering at their roots. In fact, it is the splashing of water on the leaves from sprinklers or backsplash from the ground during rain that encourages the growth of blackspot. This disease actually comes from the soil and is spread by ineffective watering practices. Mulching with pine straw or pine bark helps cut down on soil splashing up onto the leaves. Raking or picking up leaves as they drop can help prevent the spread of black spot, too.

 Knock-out or shrub roses do not have to be pruned, but their branches can be cut back. Pruning helps the bush form stronger blooms, but no bush should be pruned more than one-third of its size. Raking away any dropped leaves from last year, and refreshing the soil by adding organic matter encourages strong, healthy growth.

One of the best publications provided by the Extension Service is the Rose publication. It is free of charge and available in the county office. For the cost of a dozen roses, you can buy two bushes and have roses every season. If you have a new rose to plant, come by and get the Rose publication.