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The rush to sell plants can Knock Out quality

Last week I talked about shrub roses and how to maintain them. I mentioned that I have a pet peeve with Knock Out roses. Let me explain.

My pet peeve is not really with the Knock Out rose varieties specifically. It’s really a frustration with our industry and the rush to get new plants to market. Sometimes growers don’t take enough time to field test or try them out before they start selling them.

I can think of several plants over the past years that have been highly marketed and sold by the dozens, only to discover after a year or so, the plants were dogs. (No disrespect to dogs. It’s just an endearing term we use when a plant simply doesn’t perform as touted.)

After my article last week, I got an email from an Allen County master gardener volunteer, Starr Gephart. She was hugely disappointed with the Rainbow Knock Out, a variety that was introduced after the original red.

She loved it when it first came out and purchased quite a few and has since ripped them all out. They were not self-cleaners (blooms don’t need deadheaded), as promised by the advertising.

Starr spoke with several growers in the industry around the country about this issue and a couple of the growers agreed that this particular plant might have been rushed to market prematurely.

So this is my pet peeve: Don’t rush plants to market until you know they are solid performers. Gardeners don’t want to be disappointed in our products.

I understand the need to get plants to market quickly. It takes time and a lot of research to develop a new plant, and the sooner it’s on the market, the quicker you recover the costs.

In addition, gardeners are constantly begging the industry for the newest, latest and greatest plants. Those plants that are going to be successful and stick around awhile are the ones that will perform in the garden.

Don’t get me wrong: Some of the Knock Out rose varieties are fantastic and are very easy to care for. However, they also have had their share of problems.

In the beginning, they were marketed as black spot resistant, but since they have become susceptible to this disease. There are a few other insect species that also affect this plant, and last year, we discovered rose rosette, a disease.

Field trials and plant evaluations are very valuable to the gardener. Through trialing and evaluating plants, we can determine those that have great qualities and are likely to thrive in your gardens.

If you want to know which annuals performed well last season in Ohio, take a look at the results of our annual trials in the Gateway Learning Gardens at:

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