Rose care is easier than you think – anyone can grow it successfully. Plant your roses in a sunny place with good drainage. Fertilize them regularly for impressive flowers. Pour them evenly to keep the soil moist. Prune established rose bushes in the spring. And watch out for diseases like mildew or black spot.
If you were afraid to plant a rose garden, roses are actually no more difficult to care for than other flowering shrubs. “Modern rose bushes are both beautiful and tough in a variety of growing conditions and therefore easier to grow than ever,” said Christian Bedard, research director at Weeks Roses, America’s leading rose grower. To help gardeners who may not have grown roses yet, Bedard gives some of his expert advice on successfully growing the queens of the flower garden.
Follow these ten basic rules to grow your own beautiful roses:
Know your roots
You can buy roses that are already potted in the ground, or as dormant root-free plants. Each type has its advantages.
If you are a beginner in rose breeding, container roses are a great way to go because they are easy to plant and quick to establish. They can also be purchased from local nurseries throughout the growing season so that you can plant them in ideal climatic conditions.
One of the biggest advantages of bare root roses is the larger variety of varieties. Bare root lants are also an inexpensive and convenient way to order plants by mail that you won’t find in a local nursery. Unlike container roses, however, root-free plants must have their roots soaked in water overnight before going into the ground, and the roots must be kept moist for the first few months after planting.
Don’t overdo it
There are numerous classes of roses, from micro-miniatures to grandifloras and from ground cover to climbing roses. Some classes contain hundreds of varieties. While it may be tempting to fill your rose garden with a wide assortment, you will likely end up with a messy arrangement and too many plants for the room. Some well-chosen strains will make you far more satisfied than dozens of mismatched plants that don’t work harmoniously.
Find the right site
For the best display of flowers and the healthiest plants, rose bushes should receive six to eight hours of sunlight a day. In particularly hot climates, roses are best suited if they are protected from the hot afternoon sun. In cold climates, planting a rosebush next to a south or west facing fence or wall can help minimize frost damage in winter.
Roses also thrive when planted in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Mix compost, peat moss and other organic matter into heavy clay soils to improve drainage. In lean, sandy soils, adding compost helps keep moisture close to the roots of the plant.
Time it right
The best time to plant roses is in the spring, after the last frost, or in the fall, at least six weeks before the average first frost in your area. This gives the roots enough time to dig into the soil before the plants rest over the winter.
Naked roses are usually only available in early spring and should be planted shortly after bringing them home. Roses growing in containers offer you more flexibility in planting time and can get into the soil in pleasant climatic conditions.
For best results, plant roses on a calm, cloudy day. Planting on a hot, sunny day or during a summer heat wave can strain a rosebush or any type of plant.
The size of the hole where you plant your roses is one of the key factors for a good start. Regardless of whether you’re planting rootless or container roses, you’ll need to dig a hole that is deep and wide enough to accommodate the roots of the plant and allow good drainage, since roses don’t like wet feet. If you are planting several rose bushes together, place them at least 3 feet apart so that the plant has enough space to grow during ripening.
Mix a generous amount of garden compost, peat moss or other organic matter with the soil that has been removed from the planting hole. Use some of this mixture at the bottom of the planting hole and place the rosebush in the hole. The crown of the plant should be at ground level in mild climates and 2 to 3 inches below ground in cold climates. Partially fill the hole with the soil mix and add a slow-release fertilizer. Water thoroughly and then fill the hole with the rest of the bottom. Water again and then place loose soil around the sticks to protect the rose as it gets used to its new location.
To achieve an impressive flower show, a rosebush must be fertilized regularly. Organic methods ensure a slow and even supply of nutrients. Monthly applications of compost, composted manure and other organic and natural fertilizers like this organic fish emulsion work well. Organic changes also help promote useful soil microbes and a balanced soil pH.
Slow-release fertilizers such as Jobes Organic Fertilizer Spikes provide the right balance between nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other small nutrients and give rose bushes the food they need for optimal growth. For newly planted root-free plants, apply organic changes to the soil at the time of planting and wait for the plant to produce its first flowers to apply full strength fertilizer so that you do not burn the new roots.
The nutrient content in synthetic fertilizers is higher than in organic changes, so that fewer applications are required. However, synthetic (chemical) fertilizers do not improve the soil or have a positive residual effect like organic fertilizers. Regardless of what type of fertilizer you use, be sure to refer to the product label for the amount and frequency of application.
Roses work best when the soil moisture remains even throughout the growing season. The amount and frequency of irrigation depends on your soil type and climate. Roses that grow in sandy soils need more watering than roses in heavier clay soils. Hot, dry and windy conditions also make roses dry quickly. How you pour is as important as frequency. It is recommended to use an impregnation tube so that you give water directly to the roots and avoid the leaves.
It is almost impossible to kill a rosebush by overlapping. However, if you follow a few simple rules, the results will look more professional and will result in a healthier plant. “Modern roses do not need as much cutting as most people think. An established rose bush, however, appreciates a basic cut in early spring,” says Bedard. A good pair of bypass scissors (not anvil-style) and rose gloves can do that Make work even easier.
First remove all dead and damaged sticks (all that look brown) and then reduce one-third to half of last year’s growth until you find healthy, white centers on the stick. If you live in a climate with a rest period, the best time for a hard cut is early spring, such as March or April. However, you can prune your roses easily throughout the season to keep them well cared for. For a step-by-step guide to pruning, see Pruning Roses.
The only other cut that is needed for most varieties of blooming roses is deadheading to encourage blooming throughout the season. Simply cut back under the first stem with five leaflets to encourage regrowth. If your rose bushes are “self-cleaning”, which means that they don’t develop rose hips, then no dead head is required as the flowers will fall off automatically and the plants will continue to produce more flowers.
Keep them healthy
The best way to prevent rose diseases is to choose disease-resistant varieties. These roses are grown and selected to withstand the most common rose ailments such as mildew and black spots.
Mildew usually occurs in summer, especially when the days are hot and dry and the nights are cool and wet. The telltale signs include leaves that curl and twist, and the development of a white, powdery bottom on the leaves. To avoid mildew, water the plants near the ground in the morning, as damp leaves, especially overnight, provide the perfect growing environment. Pruning a rose bush so that air can circulate through the foliage also prevents this powdery growth.
Black spot is a waterborne fungal disease that appears as circular black or brown spots on the top of the leaves that start at the bottom of a bush and work their way up, eventually causing defoliation. Prevent this disease in the same way that you prevent mildew by improving air circulation through the plant and watering it near the ground.
Annoying insects that like to feed on rose bushes include aphids, Japanese beetles, spider mites and saws. Most of these pests can be controlled with neem oil or insecticidal soap. In the case of aphids, a water jet from a hose is often the only necessary treatment in the morning.
Roses are mostly tough and resilient and thrive with minimal pampering. “You don’t have to do much for the best new roses to grow well,”. “Newer varieties of rose are much stronger and more disease-resistant than older varieties.”
Show them off
- Roses last the longest if they are cut immediately after the bud stage, when the petals begin to open.
- Use hand cutters or secateurs with sharp blades to cut the stems without damaging the water intake channels.
- Prune roses when they are moist, fresh, and hydrated, either early in the morning or in the evening, so that the plant is not stressed by hot weather and sunlight.
- Cut the rose stems shortly before inserting them into a vase to remove air bubbles that prevent them from absorbing water. Also cut the stems at a 45 degree angle so they don’t lie flat on the bottom of the vase.
- Remove any lower leaves that fall below the waterline to prevent rotting and bacterial growth. Leave as much leaves as possible above the waterline to absorb water.
- Change the water frequently – if possible daily – to remove bacteria. Also cut the flower stalks every few days to improve water absorption.