Plant a Rose Garden

Rose gardening has given many people the impression that roses are difficult to grow and maintain. Growing roses can be challenging, but you don’t have to leave it to the experts. Here is a brief tutorial on rose basics for beginners.

Rose Planting Types

Roses are available in three types for planting:

  • Bare-root roses are dormant, sold during winter and early spring. Plant them as soon as the ground warms enough to be workable.
  • Prepackaged roses are bare-root plants packaged in a bag or box with a moisture retaining medium such as sawdust around the roots.
  • Container-grown roses are grown in containers at the nursery. They’re budding or already blooming and are available in spring.

Rose Growing Types

Roses are defined by their growing type.

  • One type is budded, meaning that one variety of rose is grafted onto the roots of a sturdier variety. The grafting is visible at the bud union. Grafted roses combine the best qualities of strong rootstock with the foliage and blooms of the grafted variety.
  • Roses are also grown on their own roots. Own-root plants are grown from cuttings so the entire plant is of the same variety.

If a grafted rose is heavily pruned or cold-damaged, the rose that grows back may be of the rootstock’s variety, not the grafted one you purchased. Under the same circumstances, the own-root rose will grow back true to its variety.

Rose Grading

Bareroot roses are graded according to the quality of their growth. Grades also designate the future size and productivity of the rose. Grades are established by the American Association of Nurserymen and should be noted on the plant tag. The three grades are:

  • #1 is the best of a variety. Three or more healthy canes and a strong root system are essential.
  • #1.5 roses have two or more thin canes and usually take longer to develop.
  • #2 roses have one or two small, thin canes and may require extra care to establish.

For the best of the best, look for The All-American Rose Selection (AARS) designation. These roses are judged to be the superior in disease resistance, flower production, color and fragrance.  With all of the varieties available, you’re sure to find a variety to fit your taste and garden style.

Planting Roses

When planting roses, whether bare-root or container-grown, the procedure is the same as for other shrubs. Remember a few key factors that especially affect roses:

  • Remember that the bud union should be about one inch below soil level when planted.
  • In warm areas, the graft can be slightly above soil level.
  • Prior to planting, cut off any dead leaves as well as decayed or thin shoots. Also prune damaged or extremely long roots.
  • Soak bareroot roses in tepid water overnight before planting.
  • Always water soil well when planting.
  • If you’re able to plant within ten days of getting the rose, leave it in its package in an unheated (but frost-proof) room. Keep it moist until you’re ready to plant. If planting after ten days, heel-in the plants until you are able to plant properly.
  • Make sure the hole is large enough to accommodate root growth.
  • Roses appreciate organic matter mixed into the soil when planting.

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Fertilizer, Water and Mulch for Roses

Fertilizing Roses
Roses are heavy feeders and need several applications of fertilizer during the growing season. Use a fertilizer formulated especially for roses and follow the instructions on the package. In general, begin feeding when new growth starts in the spring and discontinue feeding in early fall. Feeding too late will stimulate new growth that is susceptible to winter injury. Do not exceed the recommended application rate. Water thoroughly after each feeding.    

Watering Roses

Roses need a lot of water. Remember how deep you planted the rose? Water needs to reach that level to get to the roots and keep the plant healthy and blooming. Water thoroughly at least twice a week if there is no rainfall. Set a watering schedule and adjust as dictated by the weather.

Summer especially brings a need for vigilance. Even though you may see fewer flowers during the summer, cooler weather will bring more, so keep up the watering schedule. To discourage black spot and mildew, water in the morning and avoid wetting the leaves. 

Mulching Roses

A three- to four-inch layer of organic mulch will control weeds, retain soil moisture and help maintain a constant soil temperature. As organic mulch breaks down, it improves soil structure and adds nutrients.

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Pruning Roses

Proper pruning increases blooms and promotes healthy plants. In general, prune when growth just begins; from midwinter to mid-spring depending on where you live. Your signal is when the uppermost buds begin to swell, but leaves are yet to appear. Each variety has specific recommendations, so check yours before cutting.

  • First remove all dead wood, cutting back to healthy wood.
  • Reduce the number of canes. The number of canes to leave and their recommended lengths differ by variety.
  • During the growing season, prune only to remove diseased foliage or canes.
  • Deadhead faded flowers.
  • Destroy any diseased foliage to control disease spread.
  • Use curved by-pass pruners for the cleanest cut. Keep your pruner blades sharp.

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Other Tips for Rose Care

  • Buy good, healthy plants.
  • Roses need full sun for optimal growth and blooming. Select an area that receives a minimum of six hours of sunlight a day.
  • Plant in an area with good air circulation to decrease disease susceptibility.
  • Avoid overcrowding.
  • Prepare the soil with organic material before planting.
  • Provide good drainage. Soil should be loose (not compacted).
  • Feed plants for proper plant development.
  • Clean up dead branches and leaves from the rose garden.
  • Inspect plants regularly for any problems.
  • Treat problems immediately.
  • Treat both the top and bottom of the leaves when applying sprays or dusts to leaves.
  • Find a concise rose grower’s guide to use as reference.

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