Growing Groundcover Roses

These blossoms of the rose kingdom provide broad strokes of color.

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Pale Pink Rose in a Green Garden

The so-called groundcover roses could be considered the hobbits of the genus. Short in stature, spreading in girth, these roses are for the most part robust, hardworking garden plants. Like all roses, they appreciate generous feedings, but in other respects they're undemanding customers. And those of you who have better things to do than lug around a sprayer will find that most of them can do without fungicides.

What constitutes a groundcover rose? Rose experts recognize no official class by that name, but marketers and growers have come to apply the term to any rose that's shorter than average (typically topping out at one to three feet) and wider than tall — particularly when the plant is free-blooming and easy-care. "Groundcover" is more or less code for "compact, fuss-free, and puts on a great show in the landscape, but don't expect huge long-stemmed blossoms."

No rose truly behaves like a groundcover, of course, so it won't choke out weeds or form dense mats as would ivy, vinca or pachysandra. Plant groundcover roses where you want low-growing splashes of color — as with beds of annuals — or a low shrubby border to accent a path, a highlight for the front of a bed, a swath of bloom to cover a gentle slope, or an accent plant to flow from a container.

Here are a few garden-worthy varieties to consider:

Flower Carpet Coral: Sporting a gorgeous new shade in the series that put groundcover roses on the map, Flower Carpet Coral bears single, ruffled, coppery-pink blooms with golden stamens. Introduced in 2002, the plant is said to be as disease-resistant as the original Flower Carpet. Its leaves are glossy and medium-green; blooms are produced in generous clusters that darken to a reddish-coral as they age. Plants grow two to three feet tall and up to four feet wide. Hardy to Zone 5.

'Baby Blanket': This gorgeous little shrub's softly frilled pink blossoms look good enough to eat. But don't let the cutie-pie name fool you — this baby is tough enough to resist both disease and cold. A product of the Kordes nursery in Germany, 'Baby Blanket' has won three gold medals. The foliage is small, shiny and dark green; the bush is shrubby but diminutive, reaching a height of three feet and a width of five feet. It repeats well, producing generous clusters of bloom. Hardy to Zone 4.

'Electric Blanket': Here's another promising Kordes offering. Lush, double, salmon-pink blooms with a light, sweet scent cover this 18-inch-tall floribunda. Plants spread to about two feet, with healthy dark-green foliage. 'Electric Blanket' won honors in Germany's ADR trials, which test roses in a number of microclimates over a three-year-period with no spraying. Survivors are by definition ironclad.

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