There may be a rose better suited by name and color to the autumn garden, but we doubt it. Hot Cocoa won the All-America Rose Selections award in 2003, and gardeners haven’t stopped salivating over it since. Chief among the attractions of this floribunda (a shrub rose that carries blooms in clusters or tresses) is its unique color, which is described as brick or chocolate-orange or smoky reddish brown. But fans also love the fragrance (tea, spicy, or fruity, depending on who you talk to) and the lush, dark green, disease-resistant leaves. Luckily you don’t have to wait for fall to enjoy Hot Cocoa—this award winner starts blooming in May.
Common name: Rose
Botanical name: Rosa ‘Wekpaltlez’ Hot Cocoa
Plant type: Shrub
Zones: 5 to 9
Height: 3 to 4 feet
• Sun: Full sun. Tolerates light shade, but flowering isn’t as good.
• Soil: Average, slightly acidic, well-drained
• Moisture: Average
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: Prune to shape in early spring. Cut out one-third of old canes. Can prune newer stems to 12 to 18 inches tall.
• Fertilizer: Fertilize in early spring, as growth begins, and early summer.
• By cuttings.
Pests and diseases
• Roses are vulnerable to a variety of diseases, including powdery mildew, black spot, cankers, and rust.
• Aphids, spider mites, borers, and Japanese beetles are among the pests that can be serious problems.
• Plant Hot Cocoa where you will be able to appreciate its fragrance: along a path that you use every day, near a doorway, or next to your patio or deck.
• Because of its season-long blooms, this shrub rose is great in a perennial border, where it provides interest during transitional times. Or use it as a beautiful—but formidable—hedge.
All in the family
• Rosaceae is a large family, and many of its species and genera are familiar, from apples, peaches, almonds, and raspberries to hawthorns, cotoneaster, and lady’s mantle.
Where to buy
• Gorge Top Gardens, Coeburn, VA, 800-673-1134, www.gorgetopgardens.com
• Heirloom Roses, St. Paul, OR, 503-538-1576, www.heirloomroses.com
• Regan Nursery, Fremont, CA, 800-249-4680, www.regannursery.com
(Photo of Rosa ‘Wekpaltlez’ Hot Cocoa by Tracy Walsh)