Gardening: Caring for Roses

caring for roses

While most people do some gardening, caring for roses seems to have a reputation as being difficult, complex, and time consuming. Nothing could be farther from the truth although there are some tricks to dealing with these beautiful plants.

Planting and Culture

Roses require free air circulation, sun, and a well-drained acidic soil with a pH of five or six. They do best with eight hours a day of full sun, however in very hot, dry climates the roses should have some shade in the late afternoons to keep them from scorching. They should not be planted too closely to a building because they will have a tendency to mildew, and if there is a cement slab foundation it can change the pH of the rose bed. A three foot space between the rose bed and the building will be sufficient to keep the roses healthy, and will make it easier to repair and paint the building.

When preparing the bed, soil should be trenched and loosened to a depth of two feet. A mixture of half rotted manure and compost should be combined with the soil from the bed and then returned to the rose bed. Allow this mixture to settle for two weeks before planting the roses.

Roses need good drainage, so if the bed is located in an area where this is a problem, dig the bed as above, but lay down about two to four inches of pea gravel in the bottom of the trench and then fill with the compost mixture as above. If drainage still proves to be a problem, a French drain may need to be installed or the rose bed relocated.

When it is time to plant your roses, dig the hole slightly larger than the spread out roots of the plant, and it should be deep enough to barely cover the bud graft. Soil should be mounded up slightly in the center of the hole to allow the plant to be firmly seated on it. Prune off any damaged roots and remove a small amount of the tips of several roots. Half fill the hole with soil, and pour a pail of water into it. Allow the water to be absorbed and then fill the hole with the rest of the planting mixture, and tamp down firmly. Prune any straggly canes to six inches above the soil level.

Gardening, Caring for Roses is Ongoing

Planting the bushes is not the end of gardening. Caring for roses continues on a regular schedule throughout the growing season.

Roses need plenty of water during dry seasons. Rather than small, frequent waterings, the roses should be watered at one-week intervals in a large amount. The weekly watering should reach the deepest roots. If it is done during the morning hours there will be less of a chance of the bush contracting mildew. Keep the leaves dry if at all possible, using a slow trickle of the hose rather than overhead watering. Thick mulch, mixed with a nitrogenous fertilizer, will help the plant thrive during a hot, dry summer.

Feeding Roses

A good formula for feeding roses is:

  • Two parts fish meal
  • Two parts dried blood
  • One part cottonseed meal
  • One part wood ashes
  • One part phosphate rock
  • One part greensand

A side dressing of this mixture should be applied monthly during the growing season and stopped on the following schedule:

  • August 1 in northern areas
  • September 1 in the midsection of the country
  • October 1 in the southern states.

Winter Protection of Roses

If the temperature tends to fall below ten degrees in the winter, then roses will need protection.

  • Mound soil around the plant to a depth of eight inches.
  • Draw canes up and trim to a length of thirty inches.
  • After soil has frozen, mulch with a mixture of straw, manure, and compost.
  • Burlap may be used to shield the beds against strong, dry winter winds.

The mulch and burlap should be removed at the first sign of spring.

Diseases and Pests of Roses

Healthy roses can usually ward off diseases and pests; however, roses that are weakened by bad growing conditions can succumb to several diseases and insects. During the early spring always rake mulch and debris from the base of the plant to cut down on fungus, and insect infestations. Leaves that yellow, or fall from the bush during a normal growing season probably are infested with disease or insects and should be removed from the area. Leaves that are on the shrubs that show signs of disease should be removed and disposed of. Always wash your hands before touching another rose bush. If you happen to be pruning a diseased bush always disinfect shears and other equipment before moving on to the next plant.

Diseases and Pests of Roses
Name Cause Symptoms Remedy
Black Spot Fungus Black and discolored spots appear on leaves. Leaves yellow and fall off Gather and dispose of leaves. Mulch ground thoroughly
Canker Fungus Wounds in canes don't heal Prune all damaged canes back
Mosiac Virus Leaves turn yellow along the veins Plant should be destroyed. Be sure plants have enough iron, nitrogen, and potassium
Mildew Fungus White powder spreads over leaves and canes, and causes buds to die Full sun, adequate ventilation, and care to not get the leaves wet during watering should keep this at bay
Rust Fungus Orangey-brown masses on the undersurfaces of leaves Destroy infected leaves
Thrips Insect Silvering of the leaves. Malformed flowers and leaves Control with horticultural oils, or pyretherins
Japanese Beetle Insect Chewed leaves and flowers Hand pick or use Milky Spore bacteria, a natural predator of the beetle
Leaf Rollers Insect Damage to leaves, rolled leaves Use BT, bacteria that only harms caterpillars
Aphids Insect Damage to leaves Buy ladybugs, they are a natural enemy of aphids

There are many things that are pleasant about gardening. Caring for roses is a fascinating, and satisfying hobby. It produces a lot of beauty with just a little investment. Find which types of roses are best for your area and begin enjoying their beauty and fragrance today.

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Gardening: Caring for Roses