A Garden Guide To Growing Roses
One of the most beautiful and distinctive flowers, roses have a reputation as being high maintenance and difficult to grow, but with a little know how and care, they can be an attractive and fragrant mainstay of your gardens.
In addition to a kaleidoscope of colors, roses come in a number of varieties that have different growing habits and care requirements. Choosing the right variety for your space and climate is vital to cultivating a successful rose garden.
Roses grow in a number of habits. Bush roses grow upright, to heights of as much as 5′, and bear flowers atop gracefully arching canes. These roses require little or no support, and are the type most people picture when thinking of roses.
Climbing roses have long, arching canes that do not actively climb on their own. They require careful attachment to a trellis or arbor, making them one of the higher maintenance varieties.
Tree roses are roses that have been grafted onto a sturdy, central trunk. They range from 2′ for miniature varieties to as tall as 6′ for hybrid varieties, and often take on a weeping habit when in bloom. Tree roses require more care and winter protection than bush roses, especially in cooler climates.
Finally, ground cover roses are low plants that vine along the ground. These hardy varieties work well as edging or ground cover around larger rose bushes.
Among bush roses, there are several categories, each with its own characteristics. Hybrid tea roses produce long stemmed blooms that make excellent cut flowers. These are the most widely grown of all roses, and reach 3′ to 4′ at maturity.
Floribunda roses remain smaller, growing to only 2′ or 3′ feet. These bushes produce large quantities of flower clusters all summer long, and are among the easiest roses to grow.
Grandiflora rose bushes combine the traits of hybrid teas and floribundas to produce tall bushes that produce abundant, clustered blooms. Because of their tall size and ongoing blooms, these roses make a good backdrop to smaller plantings.
Miniature roses are small, bushy roses that produce dainty, perfectly formed diminutive blooms. Well suited for edging, these roses are easy to care for and fairly hardy.
When purchasing roses, there are two options: bare root and potted, and the planting procedures vary slightly according to which variety you choose. Regardless of variety, roses need a full day of sunlight, ample air circulation, and well drained soil. Low, swampy areas should be avoided, as “wet feet”, especially over winter, can kill even the hardiest rose. Roses are fairly tolerant to various soil types, but prefer loamy earth. Amending soil with organic matter such as leaf mulch or composted cow manure can ensure sufficiently rich soil for ideal rose growth.
Bare root roses are less expensive, because they are packaged and shipped in their dormant state, but they need some extra care in planting. Ensure that the planting hole is large enough to accommodate the entire root system, and create a small mound in the bottom of the hole to support the plant. Cut the ends of the roots at the tip to encourage the growth of new feeder roots, and arrange the root system carefully in the hole. Mix a high phosphate fertilizer, such as those designed specifically for roses, into the soil before filling the hole. Mound the earth around the central canes to protect the plant, and add a garden stake to increase stability.
Potted roses require less care in handling and planting, because their roots are already active and established in the soil. Prepare the soil with a small amount of rose fertilizer, and dig a hole slightly larger than the pot. When positioning the rose, be sure that the bud union, where the canes split off of the root, is about 2″ above the soil level. Fill in the hole and pack soil firmly but gently around the plant. Depending upon the maturity of the plant, adding a garden stake might be necessary to add stability until the rose becomes established.
Pruning and Care
Roses should be pruned in both spring and fall to maintain plant health and encourage new growth.
The first step of spring pruning for bush roses is to clear out any dead, old or weak canes. Using a sharp, scissor-type hand pruner, cut dead or damaged canes down to healthy growth. The next step is to cut back any suckers, which sprout from the top of the rootstock below the graft. Then, remove any twiggy, non-productive growth, focusing on clearing out the center of the plant to encourage proper air circulation. Finally, trim healthy canes back to an outside bud to encourage outward growth. The final result of spring pruning should be a plant that is approximately 2′ tall, with 4 to 8 strong, healthy canes.
Fall pruning is not as severe as spring pruning. When the foliage is still on the vine but the plant has finished blooming, simply cut back twiggy growth and remove any dead or damaged canes.
Winter coverage is necessary to protect roses against freezing temperatures and snow. A layer of mulch 8″ to 12″ deep should be piled around the plant before the first freezing temperatures of the winter. Caps, cones, or baskets can be used to secure this mulch in place and provide added protection in northern states. Leaf mulch works well, because it can be worked back into the soil in the spring, enriching the soil and making de-winterizing the garden simpler.