Please, Plant Anything Besides Red Knock Outs!

by Patrick Muir on July 25, 2011

Its the middle of summer, we hope, and the millions and millions of Red ‘Knockout’ roses planted in this country are in bloom or between flushes right now. (Can you imagine how much money Bill  Radler, the breeder, has made globally to date?)  Yes, I do miss my hybrid teas but I’m trying not to be a buzz kill on red Knock Outs.

My simple plea is can’t  landscapers and garden designers open up the color palette  to the single pink more? It seems to have the same garden performance of red Knock Out but the bubblegum pink bloom against the darker foliage is a beautiful sight to behold.  If they were used more by commercial landscapers and designers, then more homeowners would be asking for the pink.

I’m just sick of seeing commercial landscaping dumbed down to red Knockouts and the ‘Stella D’Oro’ daylily.  The green foliage of the daylily creates a traffic light troika of color. It’s not the right mood for every locale.  There are so many other combinations out there beyond the traffic light one.  At least everyone together, please try planting single pink Knockouts. You’ll be glad you did.



Patrick's Garden

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna July 28, 2011 at 3:32 am

I just got a chance to come see your blog. I really like it and feel it is a refreshing look at many subjects and plants with a differing perspective. Like your profound statement on Hens and Chicks and your comparison to the traffic light in this post. I never looked at it this way, but your are so right. BTW, I do not use red Knocks or Stella’s much. I pull them out more when I redesign for commercial projects. They really are overused for their long bloom time, ease of maintenance and disease resistance. I look at them as the lazy designer’s crutch. In fact, here, it is landscapers that do most of the designing, so you can see why plantings always look the same.


Patrick July 30, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Thank you for kind comments. I appreciate your perspective as a garden designer where you have ripped out your fare share of Knock Outs and Stella D’Oro daylillies. I most enjoyed your comment about the combo was the lazy’s designer’s crutch.
Thanks for stopping by.


Greggo July 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm

or even a flower carpet red or pink. thanks for the comment on kansas natives. btw I’m a osu graduate, wildcat.


Patrick July 30, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I have been so focused on red Knock Outs that other overused plants like Flower Carpets have been neglected. Now I’ve said my peace about red Knock Outs, my radar screen has been widened to attack other overused plants.


bakingbarb July 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm

You are spot on with this. I will admit to having both plants but there was good reason!
I need a rose that could survive me and I was wanting daylilies and I got them real cheap. Those daylilies I cannot wait to get rid of them though, not what I was hoping for from them.


Patrick July 30, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Thanks for your agreement on this one. One tip, be very wary of sale items particularly on big box retailers like Home Depot, especially later in the season. One quick impulse purchase can mean much disappointment. if you can’t control the impulse, ask for a return policy and if you’re happy with that then bring them home.
But promise to yourself, you will google your purchase to determine if its a keeper or a returner before plants get planted.


Kimberley September 6, 2011 at 5:59 am

Good advice to come home and Google the tempting plants you see at big box stores. I’ve gotten into that habit this year, and saved myself a fair amount of money on what would have been impulse buys after researching them and discovering they just really aren’t right for my gardens! (It’s a habit I actually began in bookstores–writing down titles that looked good, then checking my library’s catalog to see whether I could just borrow, rather than buy, the book!)

And yes, you can’t always rely on the knowledge of the employees, especially at places like Home Depot!


Patrick September 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I’ll have to try your book strategy for myself. The economy has made me rediscover the potential of the library.


Jennifer@threedogsinagarden July 31, 2011 at 7:30 pm

I think any plant can be made ugly. Spirea are another example of an overused shrub in commercial landscaping. They are always lined in rows for some reason. If I had only ever seen spirea in this kind of setting, I think I would hate them. In my garden, I have placed them carefully and consider them to be solid anchors in the sea of blooms.
Red Knockouts and the ‘Stella D’Oro’ daylilies are overused and under-designed into most commercial landscaping. I see them most often massed in geometric lines or boxes. I agree with Donna that they are a crutch for lazy or uncreative designers.
I like your comparison of the color combination to traffic lights. Red, yellow and green do make for a bit of an irksome color scheme.


Patrick August 11, 2011 at 8:36 am

Jennifer -
Good point on spirea. They are too overused as well.


Jayne August 1, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I know what you mean about seeing the same old thing over and over! Although I would rather see a great red knock out rose than an ugly strip of weeds!


Patrick August 11, 2011 at 8:17 am

Maybe someday there will be new varieties to inspire us but until then I guess we’ll see a lot of red.


The Sage Butterfly August 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm

I have tried to find the pink knock-outs but have had no luck. It seems the only pink ones I can find are the doubles which have no fragrance. I’ll keep searching, however.


Patrick August 19, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Per Midwest Gardening, the only fragrant Knock Out is ‘Sunny’ but I know it blanches out to a dull white in the Midwest summer’s heat.Thanks for stopping by, oh sage one.


Kimberley September 6, 2011 at 6:07 am

I have what I believe is a single bloom pink Knock Out in my garden. (I seem to have lost the tag.) My children gave it to me for mother’s day two years ago. It doesn’t have much fragrance, but it does produce a lot of blooms, and it recovered nicely from an aphid infestation late in the spring. I much prefer it to the red ones I’ve seen, but then, I’m much more a pink person than a red.

I am currently waiting for a shipment of 3 Jackson and Perkins hybrid teas to be delivered this week! Peace, Voluptuous, and Sedona.


Patrick September 6, 2011 at 6:34 am

Glad to growing the pink one. I love Peace It’s my mother’s and grandmother’s favorite..Mine hands down is ‘Double Delight.
If you’re a reader, you must pick up an oldie and cheapee at Amazon named For the Love of a Rose by Antonio Ridge, It’s the amazing history of rose introduced in 1945 in honor of the peace after WWII. It’s also a romantic tale of two French families that came together to breed this rose. It had been the best selling rose in the world but I’m sure Knock Out must have that title by now.


Kimberley September 9, 2011 at 11:43 am

I will look for it. I’ve had “The Tulip” by Anna Pavord in my reading pile for quite a while, but I’ve never been able to get very far into it. Very dry history; not enough story.


Patrick September 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm

For the Love of a Rose is a much smaller books written so well written, you think it’s a fictional work. I know you’ll love it but to give you a taste, here goes. The unnamed hybrid was hybridized by a Frenchmen and the cuttings for testing flew out on the last flight out before the Nazis invaded France. The Frenchman had no contact for four years without contact with the outside world during the Nazi invasion. During that time, the hybrid on the AARS award and received the award the day the Americans liberated France and was mostly appropriately named ‘Peace’.. And that is just part of the story behind ‘Peace’.


Janet Smart September 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I love the pink one, too. Like how you call them bubblegum pink.


Patrick September 6, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Bubblegum nails it on the head.. Thanks for stopping by.


Wendy September 6, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I’ve got a few white knockouts! :)


Patrick September 6, 2011 at 2:18 pm

i haven’t seen the white ones in person but I’m sure they look great against the dark foliage. Thanks for stopping by.


Masha September 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm

I am not a big fan of Knockouts although they are great landscape shrubs (or so they say), but I love the picture of that pink Knockout hedge.


Patrick September 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm

I can’t say enough about the beauty of the pink against the copper foliage. Whatta hedge to see in person?


Town Mouse September 10, 2011 at 10:59 am

Thanks for visiting Patrick! And yes, I couldn’t agree more. I find the knockouts to be about as interesting as plastic flowers…


Patrick September 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm

As interesting as plastic flowers … i love it. Very appropriate. It’s a little dismaying to think the are millions of reds all over the world.. Oh how I’d love to have the plant royalty fees.


Randy September 20, 2011 at 7:45 pm


Never been a fan of these roses. Any plant that is trademarked one can not propagate ‘legally’ I’m not not interested in. Roses for centuries have been passed along by cuttings.


Patrick September 20, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Can you imagine how much money Bill Radcliff, the breeder, has made on the Knock Out?. Must be nice.


Dorothy Pepper September 21, 2011 at 7:56 pm

The Bubblegum Pink is beautiful!!!!


Patrick September 21, 2011 at 7:59 pm

And it looks even better in person. Thanks for stopping by, Dorothy.


Cathy and Steve September 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Patrick, I’m cringing. My husband and I designed a rose garden for an inner city location, the Masonic Lodge. Guess what we used? No don’t bother. I’ll confess…. we used double red knockouts, with double pinks, white reblooming rhodies, white drift roses, and peonies in shades of blush, pink, rose, and burgundy. Add in some white platycodon, a couple of roses of Sharon, a Cleveland pear, assorted annuals and bulbs, and well, have redeemed ourselves?


Patrick September 22, 2011 at 9:02 pm

With that array of beautiful plants you certainly have redeemed yourself. Have you posted those shots previously would love to see pix. Is a relative a Mason? Thanks for stopping by.


Cathy and Steve June 21, 2012 at 7:05 am

Hi Patrick:

We posted about that garden here:

I clicked on the link for this post because AFTER I replied to one of your more recent posts and suggested adding some double KO’s to your peony bed, I saw the link on the side for this and thought, oh gosh, I’ve put my foot into it now, but happy to see it’s just the single red KO’s that have your ire LOL.

I confess, we don’t have and single pinks or the original single red… we have some doubles in our own yard and three Blushing, which is a pale pink that occasionally throws a red streak out onto a petal. I love the soft color of Blushing. The bubble gum pink of the single pink and double pink are not my favorite color at all.

As for the Masons in the family, both my husband and son are Masons and my son is also a Knight Templar.

I hope you are feeling better and have an easier time this summer — no more hospital stays. I know about the problems of low BP related to the PSNS in people with quiadriplegia and it is a major frustration, I know.

BTW, since we planted that garden (at the Masonic Center), we have gone back and added in several more peonies – that rose/peony combo is stunning.

Stay well – you are such an inspiration!



Sissy September 23, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Patrick, I was fascinated with Knock-Outs when they first appeared in the retail stores. So much so that I lined the front of my border planting with them. I am now so sick of them that I am tempted to “shovel prune” them, all 11 of them. They are a glorious site in June, but after that, the Japanese Beetles damage them to the point of hideous.
They are in flower, today.
(thanks for visiting!)


Patrick September 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Hey Sissy,
You’re cracking me up with shovel pruning. I think I’ll borrow that in the future if you don’t mind. Yes rip them out and just think about all the exciting opportunities that are out there to replace them. Let me know what you decide.


Jean February 8, 2012 at 2:22 pm

I feel the same way about Bradford Pear trees. Here in Oklahoma, they are a poor choice because they do not stand up well to windy conditions. A good native redbud would be a better choice. Besides, those Bradfords smell awful in the spring. But, all the Lowes and Home Depots have hundreds of them, so they get planted everywhere.


cheryl hillman April 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I agree. We live in a new subdivision and all I see is the hot pink knock outs. Where are the azaleas? I live in the south, and the encore azalea is so beautiful. I found the yellow knock outs and they are gorgeous! trying to be a little different here in suburbia!


Patrick July 4, 2014 at 7:40 am

Don ‘t believe I’ve see a yellow knock out. Seen ads for ‘Encore’ so will have to investigate.


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