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Floriferous Floribunda Roses
by Linda Kimmel - posted 05/11/18

‘Lady of the Dawn’ tends to have arching canes and can reach 5 feet tall if unchecked. Some preventive spraying is required, as it will develop black spot in humid weather. Hardy to USDA Zone 6b. Although, I see ‘Lady of the Dawn’ in many outdoor gardens looking marvelous, for me, it was more vigorous in a pot that I overwintered in a cold frame. • ‘Kimberlina’ is a blooming machine of shell pink flowers, backdropped with glossy dark green foliage. • ‘Ketchup and Mustard’ flashes an unusual color combination of deep velvety red on one side with a yellow reverse.
 

Floribunda roses are the result of crossing hybrid tea and polyantha roses. Some believe that nurseryman Peter Lambert, from Trier, Germany, first experimented with crossing hybrid tea roses with polyantha roses as early as 1903. But the first successful cross of this combination that was marketed to the public was made by Dines Poulsen, a Danish hybridizer, who studied and worked several years with Lambert. Poulsen dubbed this new variety of rose a “hybrid polyantha” or “Poulsen roses.” Poulsen’s goals were to create roses that would survive harsh winters, have good disease resistance, and would display the form, beauty and color range of the hybrid tea class along with the repeat bloom profusion of the polyantha roses.

Around 1940, these floriferous varieties became recognized as an official class, categorized “floribunda.” Eugene Boerner, chief hybridizer of Jackson and Perkins, ushered in the floribunda craze in the United States, hybridizing more than 60 floribunda roses during his career, with 14 winning the All-American Rose Selection award.
 

‘Iceberg’ parades a flurry of clean white blooms. It is disease resistant, can reach 3 to 5 feet tall, and will complement any garden design.


The Floribunda’s Personality
Floribunda rose blooms may appear in clusters or as individual flowers. The varieties that bloom in clusters offer a bouquet atop every stem. Individual flowers can be small (2 inches) to large (5 inches). Bloom shapes can be hybrid tea form (a high-centered flower with a circular outline and petals that spiral outwards from the center) or decorative (absence of a high center and often their most beautiful stage is fully open with stamens showing). Blooms may have only a few petals, such as ‘Playboy’ or ‘Playgirl’ (four to 12 petals); or, they may have several petals, as in ‘Julia Child’ or ‘Heaven on Earth’ (41 petals or more).

There is a full spectrum of floribunda colors, including stripes, as in ‘George Burns’ or ‘Scentimental’. Some floribundas even have reverse coloration: ‘Ketchup and Mustard’ is red on one side and yellow on the other. Regardless of color, size, or shape, floribunda roses are always in bloom, providing a spectacular display throughout the season.
 

‘Playboy’ holds its petals for a long time, especially considering it is a single (four to 12 petals) and will repeat rapidly. Per the literature, it is disease resistant, but mine will get black spot, so a preventive fungal spray program is recommended.
 

Floribunda rose plants tend to be shorter and wider than most hybrid teas, ranging in height from 1½ to 5 feet, making them versatile in the garden, perfect for planters, smaller gardens, hedges, or borders. Because of their bushy growth habit, they will blend in nicely with and enliven any existing perennial garden. Don’t let their small size fool you, floribunda roses are tough plants – they are disease resistant and hardy. They can flourish in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 11 and Zone 4 with winter protection.

Although not often acclaimed for their fragrance, the floribunda class does contain several highly-perfumed varieties, including ‘Sheila’s Perfume’, ‘Honey Perfume’, ‘Sunsprite’, and ‘Julia Child’.

When selecting roses for your landscape, consider what kind of gardener you are. What roses do you love? Is fragrance a necessity, or can you live without it (providing the roses have other great attributes, such as vitality and striking colors)? How much work are you willing to invest weekly? Are you mainly interested in an easy-care garden – one where roses flourish with a typical perennial-garden-type care, such as soil preparation, planting, feeding, and watering? Or are you willing to invest a little time doing chores such as cleaning, deadheading, and spraying?
 

‘Sheila’s Perfume’ has a lovely hybrid tea form, and mostly one bloom per stem, rather than clusters. The yellow blended colors and magnificent fragrance makes this rose a necessity. Hardy to USDA Zone 6b, winter protection is recommended.
 

Do your homework and select wisely when purchasing any new rose. Most important, start with healthy, disease-resistant, winter-hardy roses. Many local garden centers and big box stores will carry some floribundas, but for the best selection, mail-order them.

No matter your personal preferences, the floribunda class of roses has a rose you can live with and love.


‘Nana Mouskouri’, when fully open, displays an interesting red stigma surrounded by yellow stamens. The sweet fragrance keeps the pollinators attracted and busy.


Easy Care Floribundas
Floribunda rose care, for the most part, is no different than caring for any other roses in your garden. The principles below can be applied to nearly all roses (except for old garden roses and climbers, which may have different recommendations for pruning).

Roses prefer the sunny side of life, requiring at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day. A sunny east-facing garden is ideal. Roses can be planted on the south or west side, just remember to supply additional water, as the site may become hot in midsummer. Pick a location where you can see or visit your roses often, enjoying the brilliant colors, various forms, shapes, and the wonderful fragrance. Frequent visitation also serves in early detection and prevention of disease or insect damage.

Ensure good air circulation. A gentle breeze dries the morning dew on the foliage, promoting health and reducing foliage fungal disease.


‘Blueberry Hill’ is a prolific bloomer with a mild apple fragrance. It is listed as hardy to USDA Zone 5; however, most mauve roses are a bit tender, so I suggest some mulch at the base of the plant for spring freeze protection.


Good soil drainage is a must.
Invest in the soil for a happy, healthy rose now and years to come. For many gardens, a good soil mixture consists of equal parts sand, compost, and existing soil. However, the percentages of these three ingredients may vary, depending upon your individual microclimate and garden conditions. Yet, nearly all soils will benefit from adding compost. All compost, regardless of the source, should be well mixed and aged. Compost can be homemade with leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen vegetable scraps, or composted horse manures, or mushroom compost.

The ideal pH for roses is 6.0 to 6.5, or slightly acidic. Rose roots absorb nutrients in the form of a slurry; the slurry consists of dissolved nutrients blended with water. Soil pH determines how that slurry, and thus nutrients, are absorbed. If pH is out of range, certain life-sustaining nutrients may be blocked from the plant.

If the soil has been properly amended at planting time, other than adding a handful of bone meal in the bottom of the hole, nothing more is needed the first year. The second year, add an organic soil conditioner (or a homemade concoction of alfalfa meal, bone meal, blood meal, fish meal and cottonseed meal) in the early spring (around March or April) and again in midsummer (July or August). A well-balanced granular or slow-release fertilizer may be added annually in the spring, and worked into the top layers of the soil without disturbing the rose roots. Every two to three weeks, provide a liquid supplement of alfalfa tea, manure tea, or use a hose-end sprayer liquid fertilizer with routine watering. Liquid fertilizers provide a pick-me-up for the plant and a quick boost for bloom production.


Falling in love with the color and rich fragrance, ‘Julia Child’ personally selected this rose to bear her name.
 

Roses are forgiving of a few pruning errors; they will survive a mishap or two. So, relax and get it done.

Spring pruning is done while the plant is still dormant. Start with sharp, clean pruners. Remove old, damaged, diseased or dead canes. Cut away weak, small, or crossing canes, and bottom spindly suckers. Dormant canes should be cut back to healthy tissue, usually indicated by a white crisp center. As a rule of thumb, cut back the remaining canes by about one-third to one-half. If you fail to prune back to healthy wood, the cane may experience dieback. In which case, you will have the opportunity to practice your pruning skills again.

Summer pruning usually consists of deadheading or removing spent blooms. This encourages new flowering, and keeps the garden clean. Also trim the bush for desired shape and style. Stop deadheading after the September flush -- this allows the plant’s metabolism to slow down and harden-off for winter.


Playgirl’ blooms are large, flat, and ruffled. It is the result of a cross between ‘Playboy’ and ‘Angel Face’. Its growth habit and floriferous blooming characteristics are like ‘Playboy’. The mauve color, wonderful fragrance, and winter tenderness (hardy to USDA Zone 6b) is inherited from parent ‘Angel Face’.
 

Mulch after planting and water routinely. Mulching helps to conserve water and suppresses weeds. One to two shovels of mulch for winter protection may be added for tender varieties.

Inadequate watering of roses is the main reason they fail to thrive, and, weakened roses are vulnerable to disease. If necessary, install a drip system or use soaker hoses. It is said in the rose world, the three most important things about taking care of roses are: first, water; second, water; and third, water.

 

A version of this article appeared in a May/June 2017 print edition of State-by-State Gardening.
Photography courtesy of Linda Kimmel.

 


Linda Kimmel is a freelance writer for several state gardening magazines and The American Rose. Linda thanks Mark and Cathy Nolen, who graciously allowed her to photograph their garden for this article.