Rose Gardening Secrets From A Master Gardener
Expert tips to help the beginning rose gardener grow beautiful roses. Tips include site selection, feeding, pest and disease management, and pruning.
Growing beautiful roses can be one of your most challenging flower gardening experiences, yet one of the most rewarding. Whether you choose grandifloras, hybrid teas, floribundas, miniatures, or one of the old fashioned varieties, the unfolding of that first splendid bud will make all the extra effort worthwhile.
The first and most important consideration in rose gardening is location. The healthiest rose growing in the best soil under ideal moisture conditions will NOT bloom if it does not receive at least six or seven hours of direct sunlight each day. Morning sun is best because it will dry dew quickly from leaves and petals, helping prevent problems with mold and mildew. The sunny east side of a house or fence is an ideal locaton.
If all the sunny areas around your home are decked or paved, don't despair; roses can be grown in containers. Miniature roses do especially well in containers, but any rose can be container-grown, provided the container is adequately sized. Potted roses require more frequent watering and, consequently, more frequent feeding, but they are free of weeds and seem to be less susceptible to black spot. An important tip to remember is to "double pot" your container-grown roses. This will keep the roots cool and reduce evaporation from the soil. Place the rose in a planter with good soil and excellent drainage, then place the planter containing the rose inside a larger container without soil. Wooden planters make attractive exterior planters. Mulch well.
The second important consideration for growing beautiful roses is adequate moisture supplied by proper watering techniques. A rose, growing in excellent soil, may receive ample sunlight and be free of disease and pests, but its growth will be stunted and it will not reach its maximum flowering potential if it does not receive adequate amounts of water. During dry weather, daily watering may be necessary, especially for container-grown roses. A good layer of mulch will slow the evaporation of moisture from the soil. Remember, always water at soil level, preferably with a soaker hose; never water from above. Wetting foliage is an invitation to disease.
Nutrients are the third important component of successful rose culture. Roses ares heavy feeders and require adequate amounts of nutrients to reach their full potential. It is very important to remember to test your soil to determine its pH (alkalinity or acidity) BEFORE applying fertilizers. Soil that is too acidic or too alkaline will inhibit the uptake of nutrients. Roses prefer a slightly acidic soil (around 6.5). Always apply fertilizers or soil nutrients in a ring approoximately seven inches from the crown of the plant, taking care to prevent chemical fertilizers from touching the stems. Beware of applying too much nitrogen as this will increase the growth of foliage at the expense of blossoms. There are as many different feeding regimes as there are master rose gardeners; consult a varitety of sources and adopt the methods you prefer, whether organic or chemical.
Disease prevention and pest management will ensure healthy plants with lovely blooms. Never handle, groom, cut, or prune your roses when they are wet with rain or dew. Remove old mulch each spring and replace with new mulch. Remove all dead leaves and stems from around your plants. Disinfect your clippers or shears with 70% alcohol or a 10% bleach solution before you clip or prune. Always seal cut stems with wax or hot glue. Be alert for aphids (small green soft bodied insects), Japanese beetles (shiny green, winged beetles), and canes borers (black beetles that produce wornms that burrow into rose canes). These are the three worst pests of roses. If you are an organic gardener, use insectidal soaps, beetle traps, and predator insects to control pests. Consult your local extension agent for pest management tips if you prefer chemical controls. Always follow label instructions. Some rose varieties are less susceptible to black spot and mildew than others. Consider resistant varieties for your garden.
Learn to prune your roses to produce attractive plants with an abundance of buds. Many gardeners never learn to correctly prune their roses and do not realize what a difference good pruning can make in the health and appearance of roses. A well-pruned shrub rose has all old canes removed with three to five of the strongest canes remaining. These canes should be cut back to a height of approximately 24 inches to just above a large, strong, outward facing bud. Consult a dependable reference for instructions on when to prune in your particular location and for tips on pruning climbing roses, tree roses, and other special varieties.
Finally, check your vaccination records to make sure you have a recent (within five years) tetanus booster. Any gardener who works with compost is at risk, but rose gardeners are especially prone to puncture wounds. You certainly want to remain healthy to enjoy your beautiful rose garden!