Now that you've decided that you're going to start planting your own rose garden, you'll…
Roses are woody perennial flowering plants of the genus Rosa in the family Rosaceae. Rose bushes and trees live for many years and provide many years of enjoyment. There are many varieties of roses. Roses come in bush form and in hedge form. There are climbing roses, tree roses, ground cover roses and miniature roses. There are multi-petaled roses and single-petaled roses. Roses come in nearly every color of the rainbow and the blooms range from the miniature roses at one inch across to giant extra full blooms that are more than three inches across.
You may have heard that roses are difficult to care for and grow. This is just not true. Roses must be planted and cared for differently than annuals and perennials but the planting and care is not difficult nor is it any more time consuming than any other type of flowering plant.
Roses are grown only from existing plants. They are sold as potted plants or as bare root plants. Some roses also come wrapped in wood or paper pulp. Roses are also sold as either 1-year plants or 2-year plants and, infrequently, as 3-year plants. The best option, especially for beginning gardeners, is a 2-year plant. This means that the plant is two years old and has a fully developed root system. Most experienced gardeners insist on 2-year plants for their gardens.
Soil preparation for rose gardening is the same as for all other plants. However, soil preparation is particularly important for roses. Roses require a lot of nutrients to produce their large woody stems and lush blooms. They are also very susceptible to disease unless they are well fed. Preparing the soil bed with 100% compost is highly recommended for rose gardens.
Roses require a minimum of six hours of sun per day. When choosing a spot for your rose garden, make sure they get as much full sun as possible. Planting roses in too much shade not only slows growth and bloom production, it also encourages disease. Roses that are not getting enough sunlight will tend to lose their leaves or the leaves will be yellowish and unhealthy.
Roses do not like to be planted in places that are crowded with other plants. They will co-exist happily with smaller plants, like lavender and other herbs. But, as a general rule, they will not be happy planted too close to other shrubs and large plants that will be competing for moisture and nutrients.
Roses also need plenty of fresh air and a well-drained soil bed. Roses will die if left in standing water too often. So plant your roses where the space is open on at least three sides. Roses should be planted in early spring or summer to allow their roots plenty of time to develop before winter sets in.
Planting potted roses
Dig a hole about twice as wide as the root system of your rose. If your rose came as a potted plant, simply dig the hole to the same depth as the soil in the pot and plant the rose at the same height it was in the pot. Pack the soil firmly around the existing soil, pressing lightly but also firmly enough to avoid forming air bubbles.
Once the rose is securely planted in the ground, water the plant with a very slow trickle of water from a hose with no attachments. Water slowly and thoroughly until all the soil around the rose is well soaked. If the soil settles after watering, add more soil to make sure that the plant is placed at the same depth that it was in the pot. Check your newly planted roses frequently over the next week to make sure that the soil has not dried out, watering as frequently as necessary to keep the soil moist.
Planting bare-root roses
If your roses came as bare-root plants, soak the roots again for at least one hour before planting in order to fully hydrate them. Dig a hole about twice as wide as the root system of your rose.
To determine the depth, look at the base of the rose, where the plant stem meets the root system. Just above the roots will be a knob or bud. In warmer regions, zones 6 and above, the bud should be planted just above the ground. In colder regions, below zone 6, the bud should be planted just below the ground to protect it from deep and prolonged freezing.
Once you have dug a hole to the required depth, build a mound of dirt at the bottom of the hole, set the plant on top of the mound and wrap the roots around this mound. Carefully fill dirt in and around the roots, making sure there are no empty spots. Lightly press the soil down as you fill the hole, making sure that no air bubbles will form and that the plant is firmly held by the soil.
Again, water the plant with a very slow trickle of water from a hose with no attachments. Water slowly and thoroughly until all the soil around the rose is well soaked. If the soil settles after watering, add more soil to make sure that the plant is placed at the same depth that it was in the pot. Check your new roses frequently over the next week to make sure that the soil has not dried out, watering as frequently as necessary to keep the soil moist.
If your rose came with the roots wrapped in pulped wood or paper, remove all the material from around the roots, rinsing with water if necessary and plant as a bare-root plant. Water as described above for bare-root roses.
Once your roses are planted you should mulch your roses with two inches of mulch to help keep moisture in the soil and discourage weeds.
Caring for Your Roses
Your new roses will need an inch of water each week. It is best to irrigate roses or use a soaker hose. Sprinklers are not recommended for roses because getting the leaves wet will encourage disease, such as Black Spot and Powder Mildew. Bury soaker hoses under a layer of mulch to hide them and prevent overspray onto the leaves of the plants. Soak your roses to a depth of eight to twelve inches each time you water.
Fertilizing Your Roses
Most roses bloom repeatedly all through the season and use a great deal of nutrients. As soon as the first leaves begin to bud on your roses, it is time for their first fertilizing of the year. Sweep the mulch back from the base of the rose and apply a time-release granule fertilizer, carefully following the directions on the label. There are several excellent time-release fertilizers formulated just for roses on the market.
Feed your roses again after the first heavy bloom has finished in the same manner as the first feeding. Your roses will need to be fed a third time before winter. In southern states, where roses will bloom well into October, the third application of fertilizer should be applied in late September or no later than the first of October. In the northern states, the third application should be applied no later than August 15.
Dealing with Diseases That Affect Roses
Roses are susceptible to Black Spot, which is a fungus, and mildew, as well as several insect infestations. Aphids and thrips are the rose gardener’s greatest problems.
The best way to resolve the problems of disease and insect infestation is to use preventive measures. Each spring, as soon as the first leaves appear on your roses, begin a regular weekly program of spraying for fungus and mildew. There are several fungicides on the market that have been developed specifically for the fungi and mildew that infect roses. Regular application of one of these products will prevent infection.
Once your roses have been infected with Black Spot, the only way to rid the plant of the fungus is to remove all infected leaves. Black Spot shows up as small black spots that go all the way through the leaves. If left unchecked, the leaves will turn yellow and fall off. Black Spot can kill your roses. As soon as you notice signs of Black Spot, remove all the infected leaves from the plants and discard them. Do not put these leaves in your compost heap as the fungus may linger in the compost and spread to your plants next year.
It is painful for a gardener to have to cut leaves from their cherished rose bushes. However, the leaves will grow back very soon and the plant will be healthier.
Dealing with Insects That Affect Roses
Aphids and thrips are the greatest insect threats to your roses. Thrips are tiny insects that crawl inside a flower bud to feed. You will probably never see a thrip but you will see their handiwork on your rose buds and blooms. The buds will look withered and the blooms will look shabby and deformed.
Planting Marigolds and garlic among your roses will discourage thrips. You can also use chemical insecticides, but remember that chemical insecticides will also kill the beneficial insects in your garden. An effective way to control thrips is to import predator insects that prey on the thrips. The Pink Spotted Ladybeetles and Green Lacewings are two predator insects that are very effective against thrips and can be purchased a many local garden centers and on many Internet gardening sites.
The Ladybeetles will also stay around to devour the aphids that may infest your roses a few weeks later in the season. Aphids will collect around newly formed flower buds and chew through the bud, partially and sometimes completely consuming the bud. Although aphids are very tiny, they collect en mass and you will be able to see the tiny clusters of insects on the buds and stems. Ladybugs love aphids and are your best defense against these destructive insects. If your garden is a little short on Ladybugs, you can purchase a supply of them at your local garden center or many Internet gardening sites.
If you prefer not to use predator insects to combat aphids and thrips, there are several insecticides on the market that are specially formulated for rose bushes and the pests that infect them. Read and follow the label instructions carefully and limit the use of these chemicals as much as possible.
Cutting Flowers from Your Rose Bushes
After taking such care in planting and maintaining your roses, you will surely have an abundance of beautiful blooms to cut and bring into your home with plenty left over to leave on the bush and grace your garden. By cutting and dead-heading your roses correctly you will encourage repeat blooming and help keep your rose bushes healthy.
On the stem of the rose that you wish to cut, find a leaf stem that has five leaflets. Cut the stem at an angle just above stem with the five leaflets. As a general rule, it is best to cut the flower right above the first leaf with five leaflets. Cutting far down on the stem in order to obtain a long stem can weaken your rose bush due to the loss of too many leaves. Especially during the first year after you plant your roses, take care not to cut too far down on the stem.
It is also best not to cut your roses during the heat of the day. Cutting roses in the early morning or evening will ensure that the stems and flowers are full of water, which means your cut flowers will last much longer.
A bypass pruner is the best tool for cutting and pruning your roses. The pruner should be kept as sharp as possible in order to give you a clean cut and to avoid tearing or crushing the woody stems of your roses. To keep that pruner clean and prevent spreading disease among your plants, dip your pruners into a light solution of bleach water after each cut.
Winterizing Your Roses
In areas where the winter temperatures regularly go below 25 degrees, it is necessary to winterize your roses by covering them with a thick protection of mulch. The worst winter damage to roses happens as a result of repeated freezing and warming. Therefore, it is best to apply the covering of mulch after the ground is already frozen.
Mound six to twelve inches of mulch around each rose plant, making sure that the entire base and bud of the plant is heavily mulched to prevent the plants from freezing and thawing repeatedly. If heavy winds are liable to disturb the mulch or in areas with extreme cold, build a little fence around each rose bush with chicken wire and fill the area inside the fence with one to two feet of straw, mulch or leaves.
Getting Your Roses Ready in The Spring
Just before your roses leaf out in the spring, prune your roses to prepare them for the coming season. Look for little nodules on the canes. These little nodules are where the leaves will sprout. Prune about one third of each cane, cutting on an angel right about a nodule. This is also the time to remove any dead branches. Cut as close to the base as possible when removing dead branches from your rose bushes.