How to Successfully Grow Roses

RosesI have grown various sorts of roses over the past several years, and over the course of time many people have asked me how I managed to do it.  Usually afterwards they end up commenting about my green thumb vs their black thumb of death.  Today, I lay it all out for you.


Soak the rose: Before planting, you will want to soak the roots of the rose overnight before you plant it.   You will want to do this for 8 to 12 hours to help re-hydrate the plant.  However, do not soak for any longer than 12 hours.  You can use a bucket, or often times I use the bathtub to soak the plants.

Picking the right spot

Sunlight: For the best bloom and growth, roses required full sun and for 6 – 8 hours a day.  If you are in a warmer climate, you might choose a spot where they are shielded from the intense evening sun.  In cooler climates, you might look for a warm south or west facing wall to provide warmth and avoid damage during winter.

Soil: Roses require good drainage, and a a pH balance that is close to neutral (5.5 – 7.0).  You can use a soil test to determine the state of your soil.  If your soil is too acidic, you can apply ground up limestone, and soil that is too alkaline can be treated with ground sulfur.  Roses also thrive when the soil contains plenty of organic matter, so you should add compost to the soil.  I often take banana peels and chop them up to throw in a new whole.  The banana peels offer up phosphorous to the rose bush, which is said to promote flowering.

Water: Roses love water, but you might want to keep your bushes away from sprinkler systems.  Roses love to soak up the water, but if the soil retains too much moisture, then they will die.  Another reason to avoid sprinklers is due to diseases and the dreaded black spot.  Black spot is nearly unavoidable, but if water is allowed to sit on the leaves of a rose bush then it will develop black spot which is a fungal disease.  The leaves that are affected, will yellow and have black spots over them.  These leaves will then drop.  Instead of a sprinkler setup, you might opt for a soaker hose instead.  This way the water is focused on the roots of the plant and doesn’t come in contact with the leaves.

Dig your hole:  Usually, while the roses are soaking, I go ahead and dig the hole.  You will want to dig the hole between 12 – 18 inches deep, and 2 feet wide. At this stage, I usually add two shovel loads of compost or manure along with the banana peels to the bottom of the hole.  Once the plant is done soaking, you will want to immediate plant it.  You will want to position it so that the bud union is about 1 inch above the soil service in warmer climates, or 1 inch below in cooler ones.  Once backfilled, and the rose bush is planted, you may want to go ahead and water the area generously.   When you come back the next day, make sure there is no standing water, otherwise you may have to address drainage.

Prune the new plant: You will want to prune new roses back by about one-third.  Also be sure to remove any broken or dead wood.  This helps to encourage the plant to focus it’s energy into developing healthy canes.

Taking care of your roses

Watering: As I said before, roses simply love water and require more water than many other plants you may have.  This is especially true while the plant is still establishing it’s root systems.  You will want to soak the entire root area at least twice a week in warm weather.  However, if you see standing water (especially after heavy rains), you may want to skip watering so diseases don’t develop. Remember, the goal here is water the roots, not the leaves!

Mulching: You will want to mulch around your roses.  This helps to conserve and retain water, reduce the stress to the plant, it looks nice, and it helps to keep weeds out.  You will want to apply around 2-4 inches of mulch to the base of the plant.  After the plant begins to leaf, pull the much away from the stems.

Feeding: Fertilize your roses on a regular basis before and during the blooming cycle.  For chemical fertilizers, read the container and following the instructions.  However, if you plan on using your roses in the kitchen, avoid these types of fertilizers and opt for things such as manure and epsom salt.  I personally just use the chemical fertilizers since I don’t plan on consuming my flowers ?

Pests and Diseases: There are quite a few pests and diseases that can afflict roses.  I will go into these in more detail at a later date.  However, some basics are keep the watering to the roots and not the leaves to help prevent black spot.  For black spot, you may want to try some of the commercial products to help keep it in check as well.  Removing dead leaves and canes can help remove food for various pests.  Dead heading (removing spent blooms), can also help remove food for pests and it also helps to promote more growth.

Pruning Roses

Prune your roses every spring:  After the last frost, you’ll want to prune your roses. When you prune, make sure you use thick gloves and safety glasses.  No one likes a thorn in the hand…or an eye.  I usually use hand held pruning shears for the small stuff, and the long handled cutters for the thicker dead canes.  When you cut, make sure you cut at 45 degree angles.

Get rid of: Always remove any dead wood you may see.  Remove any suckers (growth from the roots from below the bud union).  Snip off old woody canes as well.   You will want to ensure that your leaves have good airflow, so any crossing canes will need to go.

Deadhead:  I can’t stress this enough, but deadhead your roses.  This allows for the flower to stop trying to keep the flower alive to produce seeds, and instead focuses that energy in new growth.  Also, this helps to keep insects at bay as well.  If I don’t dead head in spring, then the Japanese beetles just get way out of hand.

Stop deadheading and do not prune late in the season.  Before the first hard frost, about 3 – 4 weeks or so, you will want to stop dead heading.  This will discourage new growth during the cold season.  During the fall, you won’t want to prune either for the same reasons.

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