Lady Banks’ Rose

There are at least 2 cultivars of the Lady Banks rose: white-flowered Rosa banksiae ‘Alba Plena’ and the yellow ‘Lutea’. Both are large climbing roses that bloom heavily once a year in spring.

Yellow Lady Banks rose
Close up of Yellow Lady Banks rose flowers – Latin name – Rosa banksiae Lutea

Origin of Lady Banks’ Rose

The Lady Banks’ climbing rose is a species rose which originated in Scotland. It made its way to the U.S. in 1885 inside a box of rooted cuttings sent to Mary Gee, the homesick bride of mining engineer Henry Gee who relocated to Tombstone, AZ to work for the Vizina Mining Co.

The box contained several rooted cuttings and Mary planted 1 out by the patio of the boarding house owned by Vizina where she and Henry lived when they first arrived in Tombstone.

That plant, known as the Tombstone rose, is still alive and thriving outside the boarding house which is now the Rose Tree Museum. This white Banks’ rose has grown into an 8,000 sq. foot tourist attraction.

The curator of the museum claims that all Banks’ roses growing in the U.S. today are descendants of the Tombstone rose.

The Lady Banks’ climbing rose is a species rose which originated in Scotland. It made its way to the U.S. in 1885 inside a box of rooted cuttings sent to Mary Gee, the homesick bride of mining engineer Henry Gee who relocated to Tombstone, AZ to work for the Vizina Mining Co.

The box contained several rooted cuttings and Mary planted 1 out by the patio of the boarding house owned by Vizina where she and Henry lived when they first arrived in Tombstone.

That plant, known as the Tombstone rose, is still alive and thriving outside the boarding house which is now the Rose Tree Museum. This white Banks’ rose has grown into an 8,000 sq. foot tourist attraction.

The curator of the museum claims that all Banks’ roses growing in the U.S. today are descendants of the Tombstone rose. Below is a picture of the Lady Banks’ Rose in bloom at the Rose Tree Museum.

Copyright © 2016-2017 Rose Tree Museum

The species bears white flowers which smell of violets. Rosa banksiae Lutea (sometimes called Lutescens) is the yellow Lady Banks’ rose. Some growers say Lutea is mildly fragrant but I have a Lady Banks’ yellow rose in my side yard and I have never detected any scent at all from it.

I have always believed that there were just the 2 colors but lately, I’ve been hearing whispers about a pink Lady Banks’. Rosa banksiae ‘Rosea’, perhaps? Also, there may be a second white cultivar called ‘The Pearl’.

The flowers (whichever color they are) are small–about an inch in diameter. They occur in clusters and a mature Banks’ rose in full flush is breathtaking.

Growing Tips for Lady Banks’ Rose

Lady Banks’ roses are big. The flexible canes can reach 30 feet or more in time so be sure to give the Lady some elbow room. She likes to climb trees and will have no trouble blooming in the high shade of a tall tree.

Just make sure the tree you train this rose into is large and sturdy enough to handle her. My Lutea was happily growing into a mature oak. All was well until several hurricanes blew through town, back-to-back, a few years ago. The storms took out the oak and the rose as well.

I thought my Grand Dame was dead until I noticed a familiar cane waving in the wind through my office window last spring. No. It couldn’t be…I ran out to take a closer look. It was my Lady Banks’ climbing rose! Just 1 thornless, whiplike, flowerless cane but I would know those small, unusually-shaped leaves anywhere. The roots must have survived all this time. It may take her a few years to grow into a blooming monster again but that’s o.k. She’s worth the wait.

Pruning a Lady Banks’ Rose

This seems to be what confuses people growing this rose the most. It’s simple.

You don’t actually have to prune it at all unless:

  • You plant it too close to something else you don’t want it to grow into.
  • You train it over a rose arbor which is too small for it.
  • You notice dead or broken canes.

Again, it’s a big plant that can grow quickly if fed and watered regularly. If you want to prune it, do so immediately after the flowers fade and you won’t have to worry about messing up next spring’s bloom. This old rambler blooms on old wood so don’t ever cut all the canes back hard like you would a Hybrid Tea or you’ll have to wait a couple of years for it to bloom again.

Lady Banks’ roses are evergreen and virtually immune to roses diseases. I’ve never seen a single spot on the 1 I’m growing here in humid Florida. It is also the most drought tolerant rose I have ever grown. Water a newly planted Banks’ rose regularly (as you would any other plant) until it has been in the ground for 2 years. Then, just water it deeply during dry spells.

Once it matures, it will only need supplemental water during periods of extreme heat and extended drought. Propagating Lady Banks’ is easy. She grows easily from cuttings.

Plant Rosa banksiae in zones 7-11.

Dan

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