Scrambling up arbors, spilling over pergolas or espaliered against garden walls, a Lady Banks rose (Rosa banksiae) is a captivating spring bloomer. The vigorous, prickleless canes on this climbing species rose will even sprawl along the ground if there's nothing to support the plant's vertical growth. Across its perennial range in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 11, Lady Banks may be evergreen or deciduous depending on the location. Generally speaking, it's deciduous in zones 6 through 8 (the cooler regions of its perennial range) and evergreen in the warmer climates of zones 9 through 11.
In springtime, Lady Banks is covered with single or double flowers, which may be single white (Rosa banksiae normalis), double white (R. banksiae banksiae), single yellow (R. banksiae lutescens) or double yellow (R. banksiae lutea). The individual flowers are only about 1 inch in diameter, but their visual impact is magnified because they are borne in clusters. Lady Banks is a remarkably low-maintenance plant that needs only minimal care to perform beautifully year after year.
Lady Banks Rose Cultural Needs
Although the Lady Banks rose flourishes in full sun, it also tolerates a partial-shade location. Flowering is reduced, however, where there's too much shade. The springtime floral show won't be nearly as dramatic in a shady spot. It's not too fussy about the type of soil as long as there's good drainage.
Water Lady Banks as you would any other type of rose, making sure it receives 1 inch of water per week. After your plant is established, it's tolerant of drought. You'll only have to water mature plants during times of intense heat or lengthy droughts. Conserve soil moisture by applying a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around your plant, pulling it back so that it doesn't keep the canes moist at ground level.
If a soil test indicates the need for fertilizer, follow all recommendations from the test results for the rate and type of fertilizer needed. In the absence of a soil test, fertilize Lady Banks with a water-soluble rose fertilizer, making periodic applications throughout the growing season and following all label directions. If you're using a slow-release rose fertilizer, you may only have to make one application at the beginning of the growing season. If you're using an organic rose fertilizer, you may need to make monthly applications during the growing season so that your Lady Banks plant receives the nutrients it needs to bloom to its potential the following spring.
Pruning Needs and Potential Problems
With canes that can reach 50 feet in length, pruning a Lady Banks rose is a must unless you have the perfect spot for it to run rampant. Because this rose blooms only once a year in spring, timing your pruning is essential to make sure you don't remove developing flower buds. Wait until after it's finished flowering in spring to trim back its long canes and avoid pruning after July. Sterilize your pruners by wiping the blades with 70 to 100 percent alcohol before each cut.
Unlike many types of roses, Lady Banks suffers from virtually none of the diseases that typically plague many roses. It may succumb to fungal root rot if the roots remain in waterlogged soil for extended periods, which is why well-draining soil is important to this plant's healthy growth.
Victoria Lee Blackstone is a horticulturist and a professional writer who has authored research-based scientific/technical papers, horticultural articles, and magazine and newspaper columns. Her writing expertise covers diverse industries, including horticulture, home maintenance and DIY projects, banking, finance, law and tax. Blackstone has written more than 2,000 published works for newspapers, magazines, online publications and individual clients.