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TIPS FOR GROWING BEAUTIFUL ROSES

Anne K Moore
Photograph by Anne K Moore

A multitude of blooms, concentrated color, and intense fragrance are the rose rewards of hard work.  Given that extra effort, roses thrive.

  • The best site for a rose garden is an open space with six hours of morning sun and some afternoon shade, sheltered to the north and west by higher ground, walls, or hedges.  Roses do best if planted in their own garden, rather than in a perennial border.  There should be plenty of air circulation around the bed, so don’t plant too near the windbreaks.

  • Raise the bed to give rose roots good drainage.  To make the planting bed, combine composted humus and aged manure turned into your native soil.  Keep any tree or shrub roots out of the bed.  The soil pH should be around 6.5.

  • You can plant roses in the fall or early in the spring.  If you receive bare root roses, carefully remove the packaging, trim off any broken roots, and soak the roots in a bucket of water for a few hours before you plant.  Do not leave them in the water for more than 5-6 hours.  Build a cone of soil in the hole before planting bare root roses and spread the roots over the cone with the bush perched on top.  Then fill in with the rest of the soil.  Or, buy a potted rose and plant it as any other potted plant.

  • Space the roses so that they will have air movement in between the plants, 3 feet apart for Teas and Floribundas, farther apart for larger roses.  This cuts down on fungal diseases.

  • Prune roses in March in colder areas and in February in warmer areas.  Prune to allow air to reach the center of the bush by cutting back to outward-facing buds.  Slant the cut so that water will run off and not collect in the cut end.  You can put a drop of white glue on the cut ends but it isn’t necessary.  Leave 3-5 strong canes about 12 inches long.  Cut out the rest, leaving the center of the bush open.

  • You should only prune climbing roses to remove dead canes and to remove the oldest canes.  They should not be cut down all at once or you will sacrifice flowers.

  • Mulch the bushes to hold in moisture.  Do not let the mulch touch the base of the bushes.

  • Keep the bushes well fertilized and well watered throughout the growing season.  Use a rose fertilizer with a high middle number (phosphorous) to promote blooms.  Water them deeply two times a week if there is not sufficient rainfall, making sure you keep the foliage dry.  Use drip irrigation if possible.

  • Cut off the spent flower heads (deadhead) to keep the bushes blooming.  Cut off the spent flower just above a leaf with 5 leaflets.  This is said to promote quicker bud set.  If you want large flowers, then remove all of the smallest buds as they begin to swell, leaving one large bud to develop. 

  • To control insects, use insecticidal soap or a systemic product.  Always follow label directions.  Spray when bees and butterflies are not flying.  Usually early morning or late evening is the safest time to spray.

  • To control black spot and other fungal diseases, begin a spray program as soon as the new foliage breaks in the spring and continue throughout the growing season.  Use fungicidal soap and wettable sulphur.  A homemade solution is 1 teaspoon of baking soda and a few drops of liquid soap in a quart of water.  You cannot cure these problems with spray.  Spraying is a preventative, not a cure, so start a spray program early.  Spray again after every rain, it does wash off.

  • If your bush becomes infected, then cut off the infected branches, being careful to remove all of the infected pieces from the garden.

  • After the first heavy frost kills back the foliage in the fall, clean up any fallen leaves and then mound mulch around the rose bush.  In the colder zones 3-5, invert a rose cone over or build a burlap shield around the bushes.


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