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Drift Roses

If you’re looking for a stunning, low-maintenance drift groundcover with gorgeous flowers that bloom in all but the coldest months of the year, Drift Roses are a great choice. They are beautiful, require very little care, and will provide you with showy blooms for many years. This makes them an excellent choice for any landscape or garden.

If you’ve never heard of Drift roses before, then keep reading to learn about these gorgeous landscape plants. You may find yourself shopping for some this spring!

Closeup of peach-colored Drift roses.

What are Drift Roses?

Created by Knockout Roses, there are nine unique cultivars in the Drift series. These roses were created by crossing groundcover roses with miniature roses to create short shrubs that have large numbers of small, colorful blooms from mid-spring through mid-autumn. They generally bloom three to five times during that period, giving you near-constant blooms throughout the warmer months.

Types of Drift Roses

There are a total of nine beautiful varieties of Drift Roses. Each has a unique color and appearance, and all varieties have good disease resistance, as well as heat and drought tolerance.

Close of coral-colored Drift roses.

The nine varieties include:

  • Red Drift (Rosa ‘Meigalpio’) is one of the lowest maintenance varieties. The flowers are small and deeply rose-colored and look lovely cascading over a wall or terrace. Red Drift has the smallest blossoms of the nine varieties.
  • Sweet Drift (Rosa ‘Meiswetdom’) is a full double rose with soft pink flowers that bloom for most of the season. It gives a touch of old-fashioned romance to any garden.
  • White Drift (Rosa ‘Meizorland’) has lush, full double roses that are mostly snowy-white, but may occasionally have a hint of Sweet Drift.
  • Apricot Drift (Rosa ‘Meimirrote’) is a soft pink double flower with a true groundcover habit. It blooms in spring and continues through most of the year. Apricot Drift is best for smaller gardens and edging pathways.
  • Coral Drift (Rosa ‘Meidrifora’) is a short, mounding shrub that covered with stunning coral-colored blossoms that bloom from mid-spring through mid-autumn.
  • Lemon Drift (Rosa ‘Meisentmil’) is a creamy lemon-yellow rose that grows on a compact, rounded bush. It is only available in the Western U.S.
  • Peach Drift (Rosa ‘Meiggili’) has numerous pastel pink roses that bloom from mid-spring through the year’s first hard freeze. This particular cultivar has exceptional disease resistance.
  • Pink Drift (Rosa ‘Meijocos’) features single blooms with deep pink petals that fade to white near the center, which is a bright, lemon yellow. The blossoms are semi-double.
  • Popcorn Drift (Rosa ‘Novarospop’) is a creamy white color that looks like fresh butter. It blooms throughout the season and looks beautiful paired with other plants or flowers. This variety occasionally contains a bit of the Peach Drift color.
A white Drift rose shrub.

Where to Plant Drift Roses

Drift Roses prefer full sun in USDA hardiness zones 4-11, so be sure to plant them where they will receive at least six hours of sunlight. They can tolerate a little shade in the afternoon, but the more sun you can get them, especially in the morning when the dew needs to be quickly dried from their leaves, the better they’ll do.

You can plant Drift Roses in containers or directly in the ground. They prefer moist, well-drained soil that has some fertility, but not too much fertilizer. Too much moisture can cause the roots to rot, so drainage is vital.

If you’re unsure how the drainage is in your soil, you can perform a test to find out. Dig a hole in the area that is 12×12 inches wide and deep and fill it with water. Let all of the water drain completely. Then fill the hole with water again and note how long it takes to drain completely. Well-drained soil will drain at about an inch per hour. If it drains faster, the soil might be too dry or sandy. If it drains more slowly, you should amend the soil to improve drainage, or consider a new site for your roses.

If you don’t have soil with adequate drainage, or soil that can be easily amended, consider planting your roses in containers. Because Drift Roses are much smaller than most roses, they do well in containers.

Closeup of dark pink Drift roses.

Containers are especially useful when planting in USDA hardiness zones north of 4a. Because these roses can’t survive extremely cold temperatures, planting them in containers allows them to be brought inside during the winter for protection.

When planting Drift Roses in containers, use well-draining soil. Don’t use native soil that could have drainage problems or harbor diseases. Instead, use a quality potting mix that retains moisture without becoming waterlogged. You can add perlite to the soil at a ratio of 1 part perlite to 9 parts soil to improve drainage.

The ideal soil pH is 6.0 to 7.0. Most garden soil measures in this range, but it’s a good idea to test the soil to be sure. You can purchase a pH testing kit, or have the soil tested by your local cooperative extension.

To raise your soil’s pH, add pelleted limestone. To lower it, add chelated iron, aluminum sulfate, or soil sulfur. Adding organic compost to existing soil also helps balance its pH.

Closeup of pink Drift roses planted along a sidewalk.

How to Plant Drift Roses

In-Ground Planting

If you’re planting in-ground, start by removing weeds and grass from the area. It’s best to pull weeds by hand or till the soil rather than using a weed killer that might damage your roses. If necessary, you can use a glyphosate-based weed killer. Wait a minimum of two hours after spraying before planting your roses to ensure the chemicals have dried.

Till the soil well unless you’re planting on a slope. This will give the roots a better chance to grow, as well as provide valuable oxygen to the roots.

Dig a hole two to three times as wide as the root ball and slightly deeper. Retain the soil removed from the hole. Amend the retained soil as necessary. Add composted cow manure or mushroom compost mixed in a 50/50 ratio with your garden soil to create fertile soil that is not too intense for the plant’s health. Add peat moss if the soil drains too quickly.

Gently squeeze the container your roses came in to loosen the root ball. Slowly and carefully remove the plant from its container. Loosen a few of the outer roots, and place the rootball into the hole at ground level. Push the retained soil mixture gently around the rootball to fill in the hole and press firmly to anchor the plant into the soil.

Once planted, water deeply and mulch the area around the base of the plant well with an inch of chipped or shredded wood or two inches of pine straw. Do not use wood that has been freshly chipped or shredded, because it can take nutrients away from your roses as it breaks down. Use only wood chips that have been composted for at least six months. The mulch will lock moisture into the soil as well as act as a barrier to suppress weeds.

Closeup of coral-colored Drift roses.

Container Planting

If planting in containers, use a high-quality potting soil with good drainage and moisture retention. Add about ten percent perlite to assist in drainage, if necessary.

The container should be at least 6-12 inches wider than your plant’s root ball to encourage growth and accommodate such growth for the next few years.

Line the bottom of your container with a porous landscape fabric to prevent the roots of nearby plants from growing through drainage holes seeking nutrients, and to prevent drainage holes from becoming clogged. Add enough soil to the bottom of the pot so that your plant’s root ball will be near the surface when you place it in the container. Then fill the area around the root ball with more of your soil. The root ball should be about one-half to one inch below the container’s rim. Press the soil firmly around the plant.

Water thoroughly until water begins to drain through the bottom. If necessary, add more soil to fill the container if any settled during the first watering. Add half an inch of composted wood chips or sphagnum moss to the surface of the soil to help retain moisture. This also makes the presentation of the roses look more attractive, at least until the plants grow and start flowering.

Watering Drift Roses

While Drift Roses have lower maintenance requirements than other roses, they do still need care to fully thrive. While some varieties can tolerate mild drought conditions, they should be watered at least weekly to look their best.

Always water the base of the plant, not over the leaves. Watering the leaves can scald them if direct sunlight filters through the droplets. Take care not to splash soil onto leaves while watering, which can carry diseases such as fungal infections that can infect the plant and cause serious damage.

Closeup of pink Drift roses.

Fertilizing Drift Roses

Drift Roses do require nutrient-rich soil, but don’t over-fertilize. Use a fertilizer meant to encourage blooms, such as Scott’s Rose & Bloom, Dr. Earth Flower Girl Bud & Bloom Booster, or Espoma Organic Rose-tone.

Fertilize roses at the time of planting and every three to four weeks afterward with a mild fish emulsion until plants are fully established.

Once established, fertilize when new foliage emerges (early to mid-spring). A high-nitrogen fertilizer encourages leaf growth and Epsom salts will provide magnesium to encourage strong growth of canes. Every two to four weeks through the growing season, add more of your chosen fertilizer.

Near the end of the season, in late summer or early fall, add a slow-release fertilizer with little to no nitrogen. Bone meal is ideal for late-season application. This allows roses to enter their winter dormancy while promoting strong root development for the next year.

Stop applying fertilizer six to eight weeks before the average first frost date in your area. The plant must be dormant to prevent new growth the frost will damage or kill.

Please note that since container-grown roses lose nutrients more quickly than in-ground roses due to more frequent watering, you have to add fertilizer more often to counteract leaching of nutrients.

Closeup of dark pink Drift roses.

Deadheading Drift Roses

While many roses need to be deadheaded to remove old blooms, Drift Roses are self-cleaning, which means old blossoms drop off the plants on their own. You can remove dead blooms yourself if you prefer. You should clean the dead blossoms from around the plant occasionally, as they can harbor various pests that might attack the plants.

If you want to remove single dead flowers, pinch or cut off the blossoms at the spot where the flower’s base adjoins the stem. This leaves the rest of the buds to keep flowering.

If you want to deadhead your plants to remove entire flowering heads once all the blossoms on that head have died, use the 5-leaf junction method. Prune off dead blossoms by cutting the stem above the first leaf that has five leaflets. Once the flower heads are removed from the plant, cut any stems that are too long to match the height of the other stems, if desired.

Pruning Drift Roses

Pruning Drift Roses controls their size and growing habits, and allows them to grow lush, bushy foliage each year. Pruning also protects roses against diseases, and promotes good air circulation through the branches.

Closeup of pruning shears making a cut on a rose cane.

Many people prune their roses a couple of times each year. The first pruning is in early spring, when all threat of frost has passed, to remove deadwood and parts of the plant that died over the winter. It’s important to wait until there’s no danger of frost so new growth that happens after pruning isn’t damaged by an unexpected frost.

The second pruning is to cut lower than the first leaflets to control the shape and growth of the plant. This is necessary for plants that grow vigorously, such as climbing roses and some shrub roses.

Trim your Drift roses to one-third the size you want them to be when they’ve reached full growth — typically, six to eight inches tall. Remove diseased or damaged canes and foliage. This encourages airflow between the branches, and promotes stronger, bushier growth.

Using good, sharp pruning shears, make cuts at a 45-degree angle, approximately a quarter-inch above the bud of a leaflet that faces outward. Dull shears damage canes by crushing or cracking them instead of cutting and leave irregular edges that heal poorly and invite disease.

Prune leaves that have five leaflets, because the branches growing at these buds produce more blooms. If you prune where there are only three leaflets per stem, roses grow “blind wood,” which are branches that won’t produce flowers.

After pruning, you can add a little Elmer’s white glue to the cuts you made to seal the wounds and protect the rose from disease. Use plain white glue — other types of glue may damage plants.

Don’t forget to remove pruned foliage debris from around the base of your plants. This prevents potentially infected foliage from reinfecting the plants and also eliminates habitats for pests.

Closeup of cluster of pink Drift roses.

Common Pests & Diseases of Drift Roses

While Drift Roses are less susceptible to pests and diseases than many types of roses, they aren’t completely immune. They become susceptible if they are stressed due to drought, overwatering, under or overfeeding, etc.

Drift Roses can be attacked by canker, Cercospora leafspot, or blight. They’re more resistant to rust, black spot, and powdery mildew than other roses, but are occasionally infected by them. Many of these diseases are treated with products like Bonide Fung-onil Concentrate, Bonide Liquid Copper Concentrate, or Bonide Neem Oil Fungicide, Miticide, and Insecticide.

Common rose pests include aphids, spider mites, leafcutters, Japanese beetles, chilli thrips, and bud borers.

Aphids on the underside of a leaf.

Organic pesticides such as spinosad-based and neem oil-based products will control many of these pests, and insecticidal soaps will work on others.

Encouraging or releasing beneficial insects like ladybugs and scale predators is an effective countermeasure. You can also blast smaller insects like aphids off your plants with a garden hose, but do this during the day so the leaves dry quickly.

Where to Buy Drift Roses

Many local nurseries and garden centers carry Drift roses. You can also buy them from online retailers, like Nature Hills Nursery. They currently carry several varieties, such as Pink Drift, Red Drift Roses, Popcorn Drift, Lemon Drift, and Apricot Drift.

Conclusion

Drift Roses make a stunning groundcover that needs very little maintenance and bathes any area in color throughout most of the year. Their ease of care and remarkable appearance set them apart from other types of roses and groundcovers. With proper care and maintenance, they’ll delight you with waves of colorful blooms for many years.

Closeup of coral-colored Drift roses.

Are there Drift roses in your landscaping? If so, we’d love to hear about your favorites in the comments section below! To read about other types of roses, click here for our roses blog posts.