Although Texas has a wide range of soil types and growing conditions, roses grow well across the state from El Paso’s desert climate to the high plains of West Texas. Tyler, located in East Texas, calls itself the Rose Capital of the Nation, celebrating with a rose festival begun in 1933 and attended by thousands each year. Horticulturists from Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Extension Service established the Earth-Kind Roses program in the 1990s—a major innovation in growing rose cultivars that require little care and few natural resources to thrive.
Good bed preparation is essential to getting rose plants off to a good start. Select a site that receives at least eight hours of full sun per day. Clear the rose bed of grass and plants and remove about 4 to 6 inches of soil. Fill the bed with a mixture of equal parts compost, peat moss and dirt. The resulting rose bed should be two to three inches above the surrounding ground, which helps ensure good drainage.
In areas of Central Texas with heavy clay soils, add expanded shale to the other soil components to break up clots that could choke plant’s root systems. Prepare the bed several weeks before planting to allow microorganisms in the soil to develop and free nutrients for the rose bush.
Hundreds of rose cultivars grow successfully in Texas. The Antique Rose Emporium based in Brenham, Texas, offers over 250 varieties. Selecting the right ones for your garden depends on your landscape design and personal preferences. You may choose bush roses that grow anywhere from 3 to 15 feet tall. Alternatively, select climbing roses to cover arbors and trellises with a profusion of blooms. Bloom colors vary from sparkling white to deep red and include yellow, orange and multi-colored choices.
The Earth-Kind Rose program began with 10 years of research in Texas gardens in the 1990s. Initiated by Texas A&M AgriLife horticulturist Steve George, the program’s goal was to select rose cultivars able to survive the challenging weather conditions across the state, while requiring little supplemental water or fertilizer. As of 2010, the EarthKind program had designated 21 varieties as meeting their performance criteria.
Although roses may be planted at any time of the year in Texas, fall or winter work best to allow the plant to establish before summer heat arrives. Cut the canes to about 12-inches and place plant in a hole with a depth equal to the plant’s container. Gently remove soil from around the roots and spread them into the hole. Creating a slight mound in the center of the hole makes spreading the roots easier.
Firm soil around the roots and water the plants thoroughly. Allow 3 feet of space around the rose plant for air circulation to minimize fungal diseases caused by the high humidity in Central and East Texas. Because the sustained heat of Texas’ summers challenge even tough plants, it is important to maintain 3-inchs of mulch around the rose plant at all times. Mulch helps retain moisture and moderate soil temperature.