Rose Care Tips for Healthy Roses
It isn’t hard to have beautiful healthy roses. Once the following rose care tips are completed, your roses will be on their way to offering a wonderful display of growth, color, fragrance and beauty to the garden throughout the rest of the season.
Roses perform best when they receive full sun for at least 5-6 hours per day. Morning sun is essential; partial afternoon shade is acceptable.
Good air movement through the foliage will keep it dry and discourage disease. Plant away from areas that will prevent good air movement. Plan to prune your bushes so they’ll receive adequate air circulation.
Roses need good, well-drained soil. Properly prepared soil is the first step towards success. To prepare the soil for a new plant, it is advisable to mix organic matter in to help break-down heavy clay soil to help assure good drainage and aid in the ability to retain moisture. Organic matter adds nutrients to the soil. Add mushroom compost, worm castings, bone meal, and Rose-tone into your soil. The addition of Super-phosphate (3-4 lbs. per 100 square feet) is a great nutrient to add for stronger root development.
Whether digging for a single rose to be planted or an entire bed, remember to dig or till deep (14-18 inches) and add the amendments mentioned above resulting in a raised area that is also at least 8-12 inches wider than the mature spread of the bush (approximately two-thirds its high). This allows for less competition from nearby plants for water and nutrients. A deeply cut edge also prevents surrounding turfgrass or roots from nearby plants from competing as well.
For grafted roses, the proper depth to plant them in our climate is so that the bud union (grafted area between roots and stems) is at the soil level or slightly above. This area is particularly sensitive to extremely cold temperatures. Most of the shrub roses such as Knock Outs or Drift Roses are grown on their own roots. Plant them so that the stems are at or just below the soil level.
Adding mulch is a great way to control weed growth, retain moisture and prevent soil crusting. Mulch also adds nutrients and improves the soil texture and mulch also prevents rapid temperature changes in the soil.
Roses are thirsty plants, but should not be allowed to sit in standing water. Remember that good drainage is key! They need an average of 1-2 inches of water per week, all-at-once, starting in early spring and continuing through the fall is best. Deep, thorough watering is essential. Shallow and frequent watering promotes weak, shallow-rooted plants. Water at the soil level if possible. If using overhead sprinklers, water early in the day only, so that the foliage is allowed to dry during the day.
Unless a soil test reveals specific nutrient deficiencies, a good fertilizer such as Espoma Rose-tone® is recommended. Dry or granular fertilizers are applied to the soil surface and working in to the soil and spread to the roots by watering. Liquid fertilizers are added to water and applied to the roots. Foliar liquid fertilizers are sprayed onto the leaves where nutrients are absorbed.
Frequency: Species and shrub roses, old roses, and climbers — one application of dry fertilizer as buds begin to break. Repeat blooming old roses and climbers benefit from a second feeding of liquid fertilizer after their first bloom.
Modern roses — Begin to apply a dry granular fertilizer such as Espoma Rose-tone® to newly planted and established roses once their buds begin to break in spring and foliage appears. Apply monthly from April through August, six weeks before the first frost date. Do not fertilize after this time as the new growth is more susceptible to damage from the cold. A liquid application of fertilizer can be made between the second and third dry application if desired.
It is ideal to prune roses while the plant is still dormant just after the last frost. Removes buds without reducing the energy stored in the roots and canes. The heavier you prune and the more buds that are removed will provide more energy to be available to the remaining buds. The farther down the cane a bud eye is, the stronger the cane and larger the bloom will be. Canes the thickness of a pencil or larger will produce strong flowers. One exception is with roses that bloom only once a year, remember to prune after they bloom. If pruned the following spring, you will be sacrificing blooms from these varieties.
Always prune out dead wood. It harbors diseases and attracts insects. Pruning stimulates growth and the newer the growth, the more prolific the plant will be. Always prune canes that are crossing each other (remove the weaker ones), old, thick and woody canes, weak and spindly canes and suckers (undesired shoots that grow from the root stock below the bud union). Keep the center of the plant open to increase air circulation and sunlight.
Prune just above the bud-eye where a leaf attaches to the stem. Cut close (1/4”) so as to not leave any stem above this leaf. It’s always best to cut to an outward-facing bud-eye to promote an open habit for the plant. When pruning to remove spent blooms always cut to the first five-leaflet leaf, avoid just snipping off the flower unless the plant is young. Young plants need all the leaves they can produce to develop a strong root system. Cutting to the five-leaflet-leaf or lower on the stem on established plants results in stronger stems and often larger size and number of blooms. In our climate it’s best to stop pruning after mid-September or early October so as to allow hips to form and slow down the plants growth and allow it to harden for winter. Petals may be pulled or left to fall to the ground at this time.
Remember that a greater number of stems per bush can result in smaller stems and blooms and often fewer blooms as well. Keep pruning, it’s good for roses! Be sure to know which type of rose you’re growing so the proper pruning techniques and times can be learned.
It is essential to keep watering, even after the last rose fades if you’re experiencing a dry autumn. Modern, grafted and some shrub roses and climbers will need to be protected at their bases from cold air. When the temperatures are 35 degrees and lower, mound soil or decomposed manure or compost at the base of your plants. Mound as high as 6-10” if possible. This will protect the most vulnerable and important part of your plant. Be sure to wait until the last freeze in spring to remove the mulch. You can even mix it into the soil as a beneficial amendment. At the end of winter remove any damaged or frozen stems until only healthy green, burgundy, or chartreuse-colored stems with creamy white centers remain.
Remember to water at the soil level whenever possible and increase the air circulation by placement and pruning for the best disease prevention. Removing diseased leaves, both on the plant and ones on the soil will help prevent further disease. To prevent fungus disease use a good organic fungicide every 7 to 10 days or consider using Bayer Advanced™ All-In-One Rose & Flower Care Concentrate which controls insects, and fungus as well as fertilizes every six weeks.