5 Replacements for Dying Knock-Out Roses
You can still get great color without the disease.
The widely popular Knock-Out rose proves you can get too much of a good thing. Gardeners across the country love it for its months of steady bloom, disease-free foliage, and compact, mounding shape (at least for a while) that make it suitable for planting near the house. Unfortunately, it faces a fatal disease (as do other roses) called rose rosette. This virus spread by a tiny mite distorts the flowers and causes weird bunches of bright red stems to grow. Eventually, the plant dies. The only thing you can do is dig it up, throw it out with the trash, and replace it with something that isn’t a rose.
Of course, you’ll need a substitute that does a lot of the same things. Below are five easy-to-grow plants that bloom repeatedly, don’t need a lot of care beyond sun and well-drained soil, and won’t swallow your house.
The South reveres hydrangeas for their long-lasting blooms. There are about three billion kinds from which to choose, but to replace what ‘Knock-Out’ does, I’m going to suggest just a few. Begin with the Endless Summer series that produce blue to pink flowers (depending on the soil pH) on both old and new growth. ‘Dear Delores’ does the same. I’m also excited about a new red repeat bloomer called ‘Heart Throb.’ If you prefer a compact white hydrangea that’s tough as nails and blooms for months, go with ‘Little Lime.’ Suited to USDA Zones 5 to 9.
Miss Lemon’ Abelia
Talk about tidy. Talk about long-lasting color. You’re talking about ‘Miss Lemon’ abelia. It bears scads of blush-pink blossoms that attract butterflies from spring to fall, but they aren’t the main show. Small, green leaves edged in yellow and ivory earn that distinction. Deer won’t eat them. ‘Miss Lemon’ grows about 3 to 4 feet tall and wide with little pruning needed. Suited to USDA Zones 6 to 9.
‘Ultra Violet’ Dwarf Butterfly Bush
Most of you are familiar with tall, lanky butterfly bushes whose spikes of fragrant flowers in summer are butterfly favorites. What if you could keep the flowers, but lose the lankiness? You can. ‘Ultra Violet’ dwarf butterfly bush features showy purple flowers on mounding shrubs that grow about three feet tall and wide. This makes them perfect for massing in a border or planting beneath windows. Trim off spent flowers to keep new ones coming. Do any other pruning in winter. Deer don’t like them. Suited to USDA Zones 5 to 9.
Azaleas might seem like a strange suggestion if you didn’t know more about these hybrids. Rather than blooming just in spring, they bloom in spring, off-and-on in summer, and reserve their heaviest bloom for fall. They offer a wide range of colors (this pink one is ‘Autumn Cheer’) and form dense mounds 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. They also take full sun, unlike most azaleas, and light shade as well. Prune, if necessary, after spring bloom. Suited to USDA Zones 6 to 10.
‘Lil Miss Sunshine’ Bluebeard
It’s hard to imagine a gaudier plant than this improved selection of an old-fashioned, deciduous shrub called bluebeard (Caryopteris x clandonensis). Bright golden foliage in spring is joined by deep blue-purple flowers in late summer into fall. Butterflies and hummingbirds like it; deer and rabbits don’t. ‘Lil Miss Sunshine’ bluebeard grows 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Prune in winter. Suited to USDA Zones 5 to 9.