Some timely tips for caring for your roses

Kay Hinkle
Adams County Master Gardener

In Sharon Lance article, 'A Rose of Every Garden' we shared with our readers some popular varieties of roses to be considered when planning the landscape. This week's focus is the care and planting of roses, as well as a few interesting tips provided by veteran rose enthusiasts.

Choosing the right spot for planting is important as roses need at least 5 or 6 hours of sunlight each day - more if possible. Soil should be near-neutral pH; somewhere between 6.5 and 7 - which is about what lawn grass needs. For best results, test the soil and follow directions for amending the pH as directed.

Diligently water roses, soaking the roots at least twice a week in dry weather. Shallow watering will discourage deep roots and may encourage fungus. Several weekly soakings in dry weather will coax roots to extend down into the soil, giving the shrub a good foundation.

Roses are subject to powdery mildew, black spot and rust, all of which may attack even disease-resistant roses - especially when the weather is damp and spores are abundant in old diseased foliage. The best way to avoid these problems is to spray weekly with a general purpose spray that helps to resist the occurrence of fungus.

Each month from April through July, apply a balanced granular fertilizer, either 5-10-5 or 5-10-10. Use three-quarters to a cup per bush, sprinkled around the drip line. In May and June, add an additional tablespoon of Epsom salts; the magnesium sulfate will encourage new growth.


Of optimum importance is pruning, and roses should be pruned every year. Heavy gloves and even goggles are advisable for the purpose of avoiding thorns that puncture and branches that whip back upon release. By pruning on an annual basis, all old or diseased plant material is destroyed and most rose plantings will produce blooms throughout the growing season as a result.

Repeat-flowering roses generally bloom on new wood and need to be cleared out and cut back very early in spring - before they start greening up. About the time forsythias bloom, take out all the deadwood, crossing canes and spindly growth. Then shape and prune back everything else, taking into account the style of the garden, and size and nature of the variety.

For species roses, old roses and once-blooming shrub roses, remove diseased, broken or dead branches in early spring. After flowering, prune lightly and selectively to shape the bushes and control growth.

For climbing and rambling roses, it is fine to remove dead branches or otherwise damaged wood early in the year, but be sure to delay your annual pruning until early summer after the peak of bloom. Prune to remove undesirable canes and to shape and train growth. Side branches tend to flower more heavily than central leaders.

Interesting Tips from Rose Enthusiasts

These helpful hints have not been tried by the author, so I can only pass them along and wish you luck! They are so interesting that I wanted to share them for you to try:

  • To root a rose cutting, stick it into a whole potato and plant the potato in rich soil, with the cutting above ground.
  • Banana peels are a good source of calcium, sulphur, magnesium and phosphates - all things that roses like. Place a strip of peel at the base of each rose bush or bury one black, mushy banana next to each bush.
  • Finally, to ensure that little insects called stem borers don't find their way into newly pruned rose stems, seal the stem cuts with non-toxic wood glue.

An organic rose spray that you can mix at home combines 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of Ivory liquid soap, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon Epsom salts in 1 gallon of water. Test a little spray on a few leaves first to ensure no adverse effects, then spray your roses every 10 days for happy rose bushes the entire growing season.

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