Drift roses offer small plants, great blooms

Peach Drift. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

Peach Drift. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

By Dan Gill, LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – Roses are completing their initial spring bloom across Louisiana, and one group of roses is getting a good deal of attention.

Drift series roses were created in response to increased consumer demand for smaller, everblooming plants. These plants fit a special niche in the shrub rose market. While Drift roses are not “everblooming,” they sure do produce an abundance of flowers during their blooming cycles from early April through November. They’re from Conard-Pyle/Star Roses, the same folks that gave us the Knock Out roses.

Drift roses are a cross between full-size ground cover roses and miniatures. From the former they kept toughness, disease resistance and winter hardiness. From the miniatures, they inherited their well-managed size and repeat-blooming nature. The low, spreading habit of Drift roses makes them perfect for small gardens and combination planters.

Varieties of Drift roses include Red Drift, Pink Drift, Sweet Drift (double pink), Apricot Drift, Coral Drift, Peach Drift and Popcorn (whitish yellow). These seven varieties bloom from spring to early frost. Ranging from scarlet red to bright soft peach, they provide a complete range of color solutions for landscape use or in containers.

We find that Drift roses have about five flower cycles yearly. The spring bloom in April and the fall bloom in October, as with most other roses, are the peak times for best performance. The late-spring-to-early-summer second bloom is also impressive.

Plant Drift roses in a well-prepared landscape bed. Fall is a great time to plant. Space individual plants a minimum of 3 feet apart. It would be best to plant them 4-5 feet apart if you’re thinking long term. The soil pH for roses needs to be between 6.0-6.5.

Drift roses need a location that gets full sun – eight hours daily is recommended. These ground-hugging, ever-blooming shrubs are perfect as a border or bedding plant.

Pink Drift. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

Pink Drift. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

Drift roses should be fertilized in spring with a good dose of slow-release or timed fertilizer, which releases nutrients to the plant when it needs it most, and you’re set for the season. Another application in late summer would help plants bloom better into fall, especially in new landscape beds where nutrients may be lacking.

Mulch is important for roses. Mulching helps buffer the cycle from wet to dry, keeps the feeder roots from drying out and helps roots to establish more quickly. And you water less.

Make no mistake, these are not finicky miniature roses. They’re true, low-spreading, dwarf shrub roses that grow only 2-3 feet tall by 2-3 feet wide and are covered with blooms that open to 1 1/2 inches. Drift roses are perfect in small gardens, splashing your landscapes with visual delight.

Appealing to today’s busy gardener, these low-maintenance roses are highly disease-resistant. They require no spraying. Blackspot disease has been very minimal on plants grown in Louisiana. Bed preparation, irrigation and proper fertilizer management are the keys to success.

Try planting some of the Drift series roses in your landscape. They have been named Louisiana Super Plants by the LSU AgCenter. Everyone who has planted them seems to be impressed with their Louisiana landscape performance.

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