Tips For Growing Roses

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The Queens of the Garden, roses have a reputation for being the prima donna’s of the flowerbed. While it is true that some varieties of roses can be a bit demanding in their requirements, overall, there are many roses that are easy to grow. With these rose gardening tips, your garden can be filled with lovely flowers this year.

How To Choose Roses For Your Garden

There are many varieties of roses available, with new additions to the rose world each year. While they are all beautiful, and all share common growing requirements, though some classes of roses are easier than others to grow.

  • The rose most people picture when they think of the typical bloom is a hybrid tea. While these are truly beautiful, and most make excellent cut flowers, hybrid teas are also the most demanding rose to grow. Mr. Lincoln is a beautiful example of a hybrid tea.
  • Floribundas are similar to hybrid teas, but with smaller flowers usually produced in clusters on a typically smaller bush. Iceberg, available in white, pink or purple, is a fantastic, hardy and prolific floribunda.
  • Miniature roses are three feet or under, and can be quite charming when grown in a container on the patio. Bee’s Knees is a stunning multi-colored miniature rose.
  • Shrub roses, also called landscape roses, are currently the hottest category of rose, and contain most of the easiest varieties to grow. The Knock Out series of roses, available in red, pink, yellow and white, are probably the easiest rose to grow that is currently available.
tips for growing roses ideal home garden tips for growing roses ideal home garden

Planting Roses

All roses require full sun for the healthiest growth and best production of flowers. If you live in a very hot summer climate, some afternoon shade is welcome, but roses like to have at least six hours of full sun each day.

  • Choose a site for your rose bush that has rich soil with impeccable drainage. Roses cannot stand to have their feet wet, and a damp location will quickly lead to disease.

Though you can find roses growing in nursery containers year round at the garden centers, the biggest selection with the best prices is during bare root rose season. The time of year will depend on your area of the country, but bare root roses will become available in nurseries late winter through spring, when the soil is warm enough for immediate planting.

Bare root roses, as the name suggests, are dormant roses pruned down to just a few inches, with the roots surrounded by a bit of sawdust in a plastic bag. After purchasing bare root roses, you should plant them as soon as possible.

  • Dig a hole for your roses that is at least 18 inches across, and a foot deep. Mix plenty of compost in with your soil, and create a watering basin with soil around the base of the plant to hold in water.

Rose Gardening Tips

Roses love water, although they do not want to stay wet. Be prepared to water your roses daily in the most intense summer heat, and at least weekly in cool weather. Watering frequency will depend on your soil, the weather, and time of year, but never allow your roses to dry out. Check the soil at least every few days, and keep it moist but not soggy.

For the healthiest rosebushes, provide fertilizer to keep your roses happy. Organic fertilizer is preferred by many rosarians, and can be found in any garden center. Give your roses the first feeding of the season when the new leaves open in the spring. Spread rose food around the base of the plant, keeping it several inches away from the canes of the bush. Always water fertilizer thoroughly after applying.

For the easiest method, you can use a slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote, which will reduce your fertilizing efforts to every three months. If you like to be more hands-on with your roses, you can go as elaborate as you want. Some common additions to the rose feeding menu are:

  • Fish emulsion
  • Epsom Salt
  • Bone or blood meal
  • Liquid kelp or seaweed
  • Alfalfa pellets
  • Coffee grounds

Insect and Disease Control For Roses

Roses have a bad reputation for being disease prone and bothered by a never-ending stream of garden pests. To a certain extent, it’s a deserved reputation, but modern roses tend to be somewhat more resistant to disease than in the past, and the newer shrub roses even more hardy.

  • Aphids are one of the most common pests you will find on your roses. These small insects, which can be green, black, orange or tan, are usually found in large clusters on the buds, new leaves or upper stems. You can sometimes eliminate aphids with a strong blast of water from the hose, but if not, a mixture of a few drops of dish soap in water will wash them away. Lucky for you, the aphid’s biggest predator is the ladybug. Pick up a container of ladybugs at your local gardening center, and release them to help control the aphid population.
  • Other insects you might encounter are thrips, which are extremely tiny insects that suck the juices out of the flower petals, and Japanese beetles, which are shiny, green and brown insects that can do considerable damage to leaves. Both can be controlled with insecticide, or you can try to pick the beetles off the plant by hand.

Some of the most common diseases infecting roses are:

  • Downy mildew: Common in cool, moist conditions, downy mildew appears as purplish-brown blotches on the leaves, advancing to yellowing leaves and black spots. A severe case can defoliate the bush. Fungicide will help cure downy mildew, but it is very important to keep the garden clean and free of fallen leaves.
  • Powdery mildew: Resembling gray powder, powdery mildew is also common in overcast weather, and is very unsightly on new rose foliage and buds. Fungicide from the nursery will cure powdery mildew, though it will often clear up as the weather becomes warm and dry.
  • Blackspot: This dreaded disease starts with black spots on the leaves, progressing to yellow, spotted leaves that fall from the plant. Remove infected leaves as soon as you see them and always dispose of diseased foliage in the trash. Fungicide will treat blackspot, but it tends to reoccur.

Pruning

Roses need to be pruned after the winter, although how severe that pruning needs to be depends to a great extent on how severe the winters are in your area. Pruning should be done in the late winter or early spring. General tips for pruning:

  • Remove all leaves from the plant
  • Cut off any canes that are diseased, dead, broken or growing through the center of the plant
  • Cut off thin, spindly canes
  • Prune the remaining, large healthy canes down to 18 inches or less
  • Dispose of all pruning clippings to avoid spreading fungal disease
  • (See Winter Pruning Guide)

Roses are truly the garden queens, and no flower garden is complete without at least one rosebush. Don’t be frightened away by tales of endless spraying, primping and pruning. There are roses that are quite hardy, and pruning comes but once a year. For more information on rose gardens, see How To Design An English Cottage Garden.

Last Updated: February 4, 2013
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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