KC Gardens

These colorful plants are great replacements for struggling roses

In Kansas City, colorful crepe myrtles grow as shrubs.
In Kansas City, colorful crepe myrtles grow as shrubs.

Rose rosette disease continues to devastate KC roses. There is no method of prevention or cure except to remove the plant, leaving you to plant another susceptible rose or trying something new. The common question I hear is, “I miss the season-long color of my roses. What can I plant to have summer color?”

There is no shrub that can match the ongoing flower power of the Knock Out rose, but there are a few plants that can provide a splash of color. Like most shrubs, these may have color for only about a month. To ensure season-long color in the post-rose era, plant a variety of shrubs to extend the bloom time. Best of all, these plants all have about the same requirements as the roses.

▪ Butterfly bush is a landscape staple. But in the last few years it has been reinvented: Instead of straggly large plants, new releases are waist high or even shorter.

This plant flowers for a long time and is fairly low-maintenance and easy to prune each spring as it flowers on new growth. And it also provides nectar to passing butterflies. Flowers can be white, purple, blue, pink or magenta.

▪ Panicle hydrangeas provide a bold showy flower from mid-July through August. Panicle hydrangeas have large white flowers and are not as fussy as the big leaf or macrophylla types with the pink and blue blooms.

This plant is much more heat- and drought- tolerant, making it the almost perfect plant for summer color. There are a number of varieties, including Quickfire, Limelight, Pinky Winky or Strawberry Vanilla.

Hydrangea Paniculata Limelight
Panicle hydrangeas are not as fussy as the big leaf types with the pink and blue blooms.

▪ Crepe myrtles are a Southern favorite that have been working their way north as the winters are warming. Crepe myrtles in KC will not become trees like in the South. They are small shrubs that fit perfectly into locations where roses once graced the landscape.

The plant is very heat- and drought-tolerant and rewards with flowers in shades of white, red, pink and purple. The plant is easy to care for, as it usually winterkills to the ground. Cut back the deadwood in the spring and watch all the new growth emerge from the base to burst into flowers come late June or July.

▪ Caryopteris, or blue mist spirea, is a 2- to 3-foot rounded shrub that delights with blue-gray flowers in July and August.

This plant is also a magnet for butterflies and native pollinators and is easy to care for as it blooms on new wood. Simply cut back to about 6 inches each spring. New growth will appear and flowers will set for the summer display. Caryopteris is fairly drought-tolerant and prefers the sun.

As you can see, there are several plants that can replace the popular rose. You just have to open your mind to new possibilities.

Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with Kansas State University Research and Extension. Got a question for him or other university extension experts? Email them to garden.help@jocogov.org.