Don’t get the Drift


Here’s another guest rant from James Roush, a professor of veterinary medicine who blogs at Garden Musings.


Was anyone else seduced by the hype of the Drift® roses this year?  The slogans were enticing:  "From the introducers of the Knock Out family," and "The Next Big Thing for Small Gardens."  Well, I might be alone out here on this limb, but even so, I'll be the first to say that I'm underwhelmed.  Was I biased from the start?  In the interest of full disclosure, maybe a little bit, since I know that while Conard Pyle had introduced the Knock Out roses to commerce, the creator of Knock Out, Bill Radler, is not the breeder of the Drift roses; they came from the lines of French hybridizers Meilland International.

I attended a seminar last spring on these and was told by the speaker that his personal favorite was 'Peach Drift'.  Despite being a shrub and old garden rose fanatic, I was encouraged enough by his enthusiasm to decide that I'd try one or two out this year, particularly if I could find 'Peach Drift'—although one-foot tall roses are really not to the scale of my garden.  Perhaps, I thought, a container on the patio might work well? (They are marketed as excellent choices for containers.)

Fortunately or unfortunately it took me a week to start looking and by then the local nurseries had all sold out except for the pink and red varieties.  And they were priced at $30.00 each!  Given a price 50% higher than most potted hybrid teas, and taking into account that 'Red Drift' is more double-petaled than 'Pink Drift', I chose the red and only purchased one. I put it into a very large container in full sun and gave it more attention than any other plant this summer. 

And it is a good thing I only ended up with one, because I'm not impressed at all by my 'Red Drift' rose.  You can see it above, pictured at the end of what was admittedly a very hot summer, the leaves a little scorched from all the Kansas sun.  Yes, it seems to be blackspot resistant, but I did have to fight a bout of spider mites with pressurized sprays of water.  It didn't grow 6 inches in any direction all summer long, despite almost daily watering in the extreme heat and careful attention to fertilization.  And what you see above is the best bloom display I saw all summer, as pitiful as it is.  The lack of bloom was a bit understandable during the heat spells, but I would think that the cooler weather of September would have kicked off a bloom cycle, wouldn't you? 

So, pending further evidence, I'm done with the Drift.  They're just not enough of a landscape spectacle for me to overlook the fact that the blooms are not individually striking. I'm going to keep the container outside, so by next spring, I will have a strong test of how hardy mine really is.  I also plan to see how these roses did in the garden of a friend who planted 50(!) of them this spring, so there's still a chance I'll change my mind. Or maybe not. If you get my drift.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I bought three of the “Pink Drift” to give ’em a try. (They were on clearance for $5 at the time, mind you.) What I wanted was a groundcover for a sunny slope, and so far, they’re alive and well on said slope. The flowers aren’t excessive, but they’re okay. (I’m hoping they get decent hips.) I won’t know until next year how well they’re going to spread. At the moment they’re healthy but haven’t grown too dramatically in any direction.

    That said, I think if you wanted a groundcover, you’re probably less likely to be disappointed with this one than if you wanted a rosebush. I’m comparing it to stuff like Green-and-Gold and moss phlox, not to other roses, so for the moment it seems fine.

  2. Now I’m glad I didn’t get around to buying a Drift, but I have to say I have other Meilland landscape roses and they are great, even in my cold zone 5a garden.

  3. My experience differs. Last spring I bought 3 Peach Drifts from Roses Unlimited,, at their usual price of $16 for a gallon size. I got three well grown plants and planted them out immediately even though I usually keep young roses in pots in the shade through their first Virginia summer. The Peach Drifts have more than doubled their sized, bloomed all through the heat and are covered with attractive flowers now in October. I was looking for something low growing to fill in front of a bed of shrubs and the color echoes the climbing rose, The Impressionist, at the back of the bed. I’m very satisfied with Peach Drift.

  4. I have three pink and a single sweet, all blooming their heads off (still)and totally free of black spot . I think they are marketed as dwarf and or groundcover, so that is what I am using them for. They are at the forefront of the flower bed right by by entrance door and make me smile every time I walk by. I hope you give them another try!

  5. I didn’t buy any of the Drift roses this year. I need big and bold and disease resistant in my garden since I don’t spray. True performers, or they aren’t worth their space in my large, rural garden. Thanks for the information and your experience.~~Dee

  6. Gotta say the Peach Drift we brought in to our nursery was fabulous! We mostly sell ‘own-root’ potted up bare root roses we do, but we started getting kinda thin in the rose dept. mid June so I augmented it w/ some albeit expensive #3-#5 well developed roses, and in that lot I thought I’d try the ‘Peach Drift’. In a #3 pot they were about 1.5′ x 1.5′ and they literally didn’t stop blooming until the last one sold 2 weeks ago. Our nursery here in central Oregon is z5.

  7. I second Denise, but I’m scornful of roses in general. They’re either dull as dishwater like these are gorgeous but more high maintenance than a 2 year old human. I’ll pass all around and make do with my daturas and lone pet gardenia.

  8. In my zone 4b/5a garden roses have to be tough and durable. I have some groundcover roses but this variety isn’t one of them.

    Based on opinions I’ll pass. But I will offer a suggestion to try “Red Ribbons”. This rose is so durable about 3 years ago I dug out and moved in August during some landscape renovation. I dug then back up in October and re-planted. Started back then with 5 and ended up planting eight!

    I also get some really long canes on one of my Meidlands which I stake down late fall and cover with soil and have a new rose plant next year.

  9. I got the Pink drift and they’ve done really well. I planted them in the ground. We are Georgia 7b and had a hot dry summer. I didn’t do a ton of supplemental watering, and I didn’t fertilize them at all. They’ve bloomed all summer, and they’re still blooming. Just got another one (more of a coral color) from a big box store for $5.

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