How to Plant Drift Roses – Planting, Care and Pruning

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Are you considering a perennial border, but you’re overwhelmed with choices, and you’re not exactly sure where to start? You could solve all your problems by planting drift roses instead. Drift roses make an excellent perennial border all by themselves with their miniature roses that bloom well into late summer. Their growth habit is low and wide, growing only a few feet tall but with a large spread, making planting a breeze.

They look lovely in all kinds of garden designs, from traditional to cottage gardens, and make a good choice for curb appeal in a foundation planting at the front of the house.

Peach drift flowers bloomed against dark green foliage.

Drift roses: What are they?

Drift series roses cross between full-size ground cover roses and miniature roses. They were bred to stay small in size and bloom from spring to the first frost without much fuss from the gardener.  

These deciduous shrubs look wonderful planted anywhere you need a burst of color. 

When to plant drift roses

I’ve never seen shrub roses I liked more than drift roses.  When planted in the right conditions, they will wow all season long.

You can plant drift roses at any time of the year in warmer zones. However, in zones 5-6, it is best to plant your drift roses in late spring.  

How to plant drift roses

Planting drift roses is easy and takes no time at all:

  1. Dig the hole: Start by digging your hole at least two to three feet wide. The hole should be at least 2 times the size of the root bulb.
  2. Prep the rose bush: Remove your drift rose from its nursery container by lightly squeezing the container. If the root ball does not release, cut the container away from the plant. Water the root ball deeply before placing it into the hole.
  3. Plant the rose bush: To plant, set your rose in the planting hole so that the top edge of the root ball is at or slightly above ground level. You can add a bit of backfill or extra compost to level out the soil around the plant. Water deeply.
Pink Drift Roses in full bloom.

Care for drift roses

So long as you follow the cultural and environmental care required for your drift roses, you will be rewarded year after year with the best performance.

  • Hardiness growing zone: USDA hardiness in zones 5-10
  • Sunlight requirement: Drift roses require full sun with a minimum of 8 hours. 
  • Soil requirements: Soil pH of 6.0-6.5 with good drainage. Soggy or constantly wet conditions can cause root rot. 
  • Fertilizer requirements: Slow release rose fertilizer right after winter pruning and then every 6 weeks through the growing season with specific rose food. Stop all fertilization 8 weeks prior to the first average frost date in your zone.
  • Water requirements: The roses are fairly drought tolerant once established. Do not overwater as frequent watering can cause rot and disease. Only water when the soil no longer feels moist to the touch.
  • Spacing requirements: Space plants a minimum of 3-4 feet apart.  
  • Bloom cycle: Drift roses are repeat bloomers and will bloom every 5-6 weeks. They are also self cleaning!
Pretty soft pink drift roses with dark green toothed glossy leaves.

Types of drift roses

There are nine different colors to choose from in the Drift series of roses, so there should be something for every garden.

All drift roses are hardy to USDA zones 4-11; they range in height from 1/2 to 3 feet, with some types growing slightly shorter.

These flowers are an exceptional choice for garden beds.

  • Apricot drift rose: Light soft apricot flowers – 1 1/2-2 1/2 feet tall.
  • Coral drift: Mid-tone coral flowers- 1 1/2- 2 1/2 feet tall.
  • Sweet drift: Mid-tone rose color flowers – 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 tall (my absolute favorite)
  • Pink drift: Soft pink flowers – 1 1/2 – 3 feet tall.
  • Red drift: Bright red flowers – 1 1/2 -2 1/2 feet tall.
  • Peach drift: Soft peachy flowers – 1 1/2-2 feet tall.
  • Popcorn drift: Soft light buttery cream flowers – 1 1/2-2 feet tall
  • White drift: Beautiful bright white flowers – 1 1/2 -2 1/2 feet tall
  • Lemon drift: lovely mid-tone yellow flowers – 1 1/2 -2 1/2 feet tall.

See The entire collection of drift series roses.

Note: Coral drift and sweet drift are the only drift roses with noticeable fragrances.

White drift roses in full bloom.

Diseases & Pests

If I haven’t convinced you yet that drift roses are the way to go, let me add how wonderfully disease-resistant they are. 

Drift roses are low-maintenance roses that are diseases resistant to rust, powdery mildew, and black spot. 

However, like any plant in the garden if the environmental conditions are not met and the plant is stressed or waterlogged it can become susceptible to canker, powdery mildew, and blight. Make sure your roses have everything they need to thrive and you will avoid many of the diseases listed here.

The plants may also be attacked by bud borers, spider mites, leafcutters, or Japanese beetles.

  • Related: My favorite natural method for pest control in the garden is companion planting. Check out this list of the top 10 companion plants for roses to learn more!


To keep your rose bushes full all season long, prune them in early spring before new growth begins.  Good annual pruning will encourage blooms. Cut the plants back 4-6 inches above the ground.

When pruning, use a clean, sharp pair of sheers to ensure clean cuts. 

Ragged cuts take longer to heal and can introduce disease.  Also, always use sanitary tools to avoid spreading disease through your garden. 

Winter care

In-ground drift roses should receive 2-3 inches of mulch or leaves around the base of the plant. You should also cover plants with burlap to help retain moisture and protect them from the drying winter winds.

If you planted your drift roses in containers, they should be brought inside and stored in a cool dark area to protect them from winter temperatures.

What’s the difference between knock-out roses and drift roses?

The primary difference between a drift rose, and a knock out rose is the size of the rose bush. Drift roses grow between 2-3 feet in height, whereas the knock-out roses can grow as high as 5 feet. 

Low growing rose shrubs are a good choice for the garden.

I became enamored with these roses the first time I saw them in bloom at a friend’s house mid-summer. The flowers rimmed the entire circular driveway and were a mass of beautiful flowers. I had to have them!

These are flowers for someone who wants a garden but does not want to be a gardener. They are effortless to grow with very little fuss or work required to make them beautiful. Plant them in the ground, give them what they need, and watch them grow.

I love these flowering rose bushes for edging, containers, perennial beds, and garden beds all around the garden. I can’t think of anywhere I wouldn’t plant them!

A drift rose in full bloom.

Looking for more Flower Gardening Inspiration?

Why are my drift roses not blooming?

The primary reason drift roses do not bloom is lack of sunlight. The roses require at least 8 full hours of direct sunlight to flower. Also, avoid using too much fertilizer as it can encourage lots of green foliage growth at the expense of the blooms.

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