Growing Great Roses

If you love roses, but have always been afraid to try, or simply want to improve your rose garden, then this guide will help you learn how to grow great roses! Let’s begin with a brief history of the rose.

Roses are a group of herbaceous shrubs found in temperate regions throughout both hemispheres. All the roses of the Antipodes, South Africa and the temperate parts of South America have been carried there by cultivation. The birthplace of the cultivated rose was probably Northern Persia, on the Caspian, or Faristan on the Gulf of Persia. Thence it spread across Mesopotamia to Palestine and across Asia Minor to Greece. And thus it was that Greek colonists brought it to Southern Italy. It is beyond doubt that the roses used in ancient days were cultivated varieties.

Horace, who writes at length on horticulture, gives us an interesting account of the growing of roses in beds. Pliny advises the deep digging of the soil for their better cultivation. In order to force their growth, it was the practice to dig a ditch round the plants and to pour warm water into the ditch just as the rose-buds had formed. The varieties were then very limited in number, but it would appear that the Romans, at all events, knew and cultivated the red Provins Rose (Rosa gallica), often mistakenly called the Provence Rose. The word rosa comes from the Greek word rodon (red), and the rose of the Ancients was of a deep crimson color, which probably suggested the fable of its springing from the blood of Adonis.

The voluptuous Romans of the later Empire made lavish use of the blossoms of the rose. Horace enjoins their unsparing use at banquets, when they were used not only as a means of decoration, but also to strew the floors, and even in winter the luxurious Romans expected to have petals of roses floating in their Falernian wine. Roman brides and bridegrooms were crowned with roses, so too were the images of Cupid and Venus and Bacchus. Roses were scattered at feasts of Flora and Hymen, in the paths of victors, or beneath their chariot-wheels, or adorned the prows of their war-vessels. Nor did the self-indulgent Romans disdain to wear rose garlands at their feasts, as a preventive against drunkenness. To them, the rose was a sign of pleasure, the companion of mirth and wine, but it was also used at their funerals.

As soon as the rose had become known to nations with a wide literature of their own, it was not only the theme of poets, but gave rise to many legends. Homer’s allusions to it in the Iliad and Odyssey are the earliest records, and Sappho, the Greek poetess, writing about 600 B.C., selects the Rose as the Queen of Flowers. (The ‘Rose of Sharon’ of the Old Testament is considered to be a kind of Narcissus, and the ‘Rose of Jericho’ is a small woody annual, also not allied to the Rose.)

It was once the custom to suspend a rose over the dinner-table as a sign that all confidences were to be held sacred. Even now the plaster ornament in the center of a ceiling is known as ‘the rose.’ It has been suggested that because the Pretender could only be helped secretly, sub rosa, that the Jacobites took the white rose as his symbol. Although we have no British ‘Order of the Rose,’ our national flower figures largely in the insignia of other orders, such as the Garter, the order of the Bath, etc.

As you can see roses have much historical meaning and significance. Yet in spite of their importance both as symbols and
sheer beauty they really are easy to care for.

Planting your roses properly is a major factor in successfully growing healthy roses. First, if you purchased bare root roses or grown on their own rootstock roses, a long soak in a bucket of tepid water with transplant hormone, will help rehydrate the roots. An overnight soaking is best, but even an hour or two will help the bush settle in much better. Then check the roots for broken or damaged pieces and prune those off.

Dig the planting holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the spread root system comfortably. Imagine your feet shoved into a pair of too tight shoes- OUCH!

Backfill a small amount of soil, to create a small mound in the center of the planting hole. Set the rose bush with the roots spread out, over the top of this mound, and begin to fill in. Hold the rose steady to make sure it’s straight from all angles, and continue to fill the planting hole. If you live in moderate winter areas, with little to no snow and frost, the knobby bud union should be just above the soil line. If you live in a harsher winter area, the bud union needs to be below the soil line.

Once all the soil has been filled in, walk lightly around the bush pressing firmly, to force air to be expelled from the soil. Air pockets can kill a bush very, very quickly. Create a shallow basin or berm around the rose, and water deeply. Mulch to help keep down weeds and hold in moisture. Cedar or cocoa mulch are 2 excellent choices. A properly planted rose will give you years of enjoyment under ideal conditions. Yearly amendments will help you keep your roses glowing with health, and producing armfuls of bright beautiful blooms.

When I first began rose gardening, I routinely nuked whatever moved around my bushes. The stronger, the better was my thought at the time. All that mattered was that my roses looked and smelled perfect. Now that has changed. As my understanding increased about the interaction between insects and flowers, I began to look for safer, more balanced ways to deal with the problem. I hope through this article, I can help you learn a better way to handle rose pests.

The most frequent pest in the rose garden is the ubiquitous aphid. They can cluster so thickly they completely cover young buds. Look around the rose beds and you will most likely find ants. Why? They herd aphids for the honeydew they suck from the buds. One thing you can do is rid the area of ants. Sprinkling diatomaceous earth near the anthills, will cut the population down quickly and safely.

If the aphids are very thick, cup the buds with your hand and spray with the hose full force to dislodge them. Once aphids are on the ground, they rarely are able to climb back up the bush. If you really can’t deal with the little pests, Neem oil is an effective organic product that has been excellent in ridding gardens of aphids. It also also very effective against thrips.

But even this would be almost unnecessary, if you use this simple program of spraying your roses twice a year with dormant oil. This oil, when used in the Fall, prevents the overwintering of insects in your canes. A Spring spraying effectively smothers soft bodied insects, so they never get a good start.

Keeping your rose beds clean and free of debris is another very necessary component of good pest control. Weeds, damp leaves, and spent blooms, all provide great hiding places for pests.

Another very common and little understood cause of pest break out, particularly in the Spring, is the use of high nitrogen fertilizers. These potent greening agents act like a siren song to pests, begging them to come chomp on your roses. Use instead, the slower releasing organic fertilizers: liquid fish emulsion or kelp, cottonseed meal, or a good granular organic feed. Besides making your roses much less attractive to pests, they are much easier on your bushes, providing a gentler greening, with much less overall stress to the bushes.

The use of beneficial insects can exert a wonderful balancing effect in the rose garden. Lacewings, ladybugs and parasitic wasps consume many times their weight in pests. Spiders are frequent and hefty eaters. Take a small clay pot and turn it upside down. Tip one end up on a small rock. The spider will crawl inside and wait for unwary visitors. Toads and lizards are another ally in the war on pests. Dig a shallow depression in a moist area of your garden. Place a piece of board across the depression, and you have a small Toad Hall.

All of these ideas will cut down on the use of chemical pesticides, making your garden a welcome place for birds, bees, and butterflies to visit. Understanding the why’s of insect behavior, gives us a perspective on healthier ways to handle the problem, without harming the earth.

Please visit: and and read the different organic control methods available. This will broaden and deepen your knowledge of ways to practice safer and saner disease and pest controls in your own garden.

Roses have a great built in defense: their thorns. But they’re useless against the fungal diseases that afflict them so often. Blackspot, powdery mildew, and rusts are a troubling aspect of rose gardening. Viruses, which usually come in on rootstock, hide and eventually decimate the bushes.

Except for the viruses, most common rose diseases are largely preventable. How? First, always buy roses from reputable breeders. Buy only number one field grown plants or grafted on their own stock roses. Look for money-back guarantees on the plants, and if buying from a retail center, inspect the stock carefully. Avoid dried looking roots or leaves. If the leaves show mottling of any kind, look elsewhere.

Plant most roses at least 3 feet apart to allow for good air circulation around the bushes. Blackspot thrives in damp moist environments. Prune out any crossed, dead or broken canes, leaving good air circulation through the middle of the bush. Pick roses that are labeled blackspot resistant, and always choose the right rose for your particular climate zone. There are now roses bred specifically for harsher or more difficult climates. Choosing well from the beginning, will greatly increase your chances of having a great rose garden.

Vigilance is crucial to stopping blackspot. Removing the first spotted leaves you see, is often all that’s needed. Keep the beds free of damp debris. A few minutes of cleaning up is worth it’s weight in gold.

If it’s too late and blackspot is widespread, using a fungicide like Ortho’s Funginex, will clear the problem up. Rose Defense is another product receiving raves from rosarians. Tomato leaves have been found to contain a substance which retards blackspot. Planting tomato around your roses is very beneficial. Always clean pruning shears and other equipment in a mild solution of soap and bleach, after coming in contact with fungi. Dispose of any infected materials in the trash, not the compost heap.

Powdery mildew can be largely avoided by watering only in the morning, and only at the base of the bush. Evening watering and overhead watering set up perfect conditions for mildew to thrive. Spraying with sulfur and copper can eliminate rose rust and scale. Again, removing all infected plant materials, will greatly cut down on the infections.

If you discover that you have a rose infected with a virus, remove it. There is no cure, and ultimately the bush will die anyway. Prevention, cleanliness and vigilance are the three most important things to remember in trying to prevent rose disease. They are not time consuming, but are critical to maintaining a healthy rose garden.

What do roses need to keep them well-fed and happy? A variety of things as it turns out. Roses are heavy nitrogen feeders, needing a sustained amount over the entire blooming season. But heavy duty high nitrogen feeds are not always a wise choice for roses. Why?

First, that fast flush of high nitrogen fertilizer will produce significant greening of the leaves and help contribute to blooming. But once the peak effectiveness has passed, the rose is stressed and needing more to keep it in peak health. Very much like a diabetic receiving an insulin load.

Second, foliar feeding with high nitrogen fertilizers only greens the bush, but gives little else to the basic plant structure. And as I mentioned earlier, this also attracts the very pests you work so hard to avoid.

A better, more even method of feeding your roses involves the use of more balanced organic feeds. SuperPhosphate contributes significantly to the overall health of your rose bushes. Bone meal, blood meal, alfalfa meal, and kelp all deliver steady gentle doses of required nutrients to your rose bushes. Two very good products are Dr. Earths and Lily Miller for Roses. These are granular feeds that can be dug in at intervals throughout the growing season.

Manure tea is also an excellent liquid feed. Take a large crock or barrel and add 2 shovelsful of either horse or steer manure. Add water and let sit 24-48 hours. This can then be fed to your roses through spray or root feeding.

Tucking a banana peel beneath your rose bushes will deliver nitrogen and potassium. This can be done monthly. Now when reading the labels on these products, the numbers might not be very impressive, in terms of the NPK- nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium ratios. But these lower nitrogen fertilizers are much more beneficial, overall to your roses.

I have personally observed over the years the difference in bloom quality, amount of blooms and the total health of my roses, using this method of feeding. The difference is startling! I no longer have periods between feedings, where my roses look limp, weak and appear to be struggling. What I see is steady consistent blooms of great beauty, truer colors and a much more vigorous growth. Just give this a try over a season or two. Make your own observations and share them here with me. I think you’ll be very pleased with the results.

Pruning is another key element to growing healthy roses. It is probably the question I receive most often from readers. Knowing the basic reasons for pruning, helps you understand how very necessary it is for overall rose health. Start with a pair of good pruning shears. This is one area where you don’t want anything less than the best. A good pair of pruning shears can last a very long time, with good care. Try them out in the store, finding one that fits your hand comfortably. This is important, as you will be using them often. Keep them sharpened, using a whetstone, and oiled. I recommend having an extra pair, just in case. A larger pair of lopping shears is ideal for pruning climbers and thicker canes.

Why and when do you prune your roses? First, you prune to promote good air circulation to the interior of the bush. By cutting out crossed and dead canes, fungal diseases have a much more difficult time getting established. Since roses produce new growth every year, old, dead canes should be removed in the Spring. Use a sharp angled cut for best results. In mild winter areas of the country, Fall pruning is recommended. Cutting bushes back by a third. The finished bush should resemble something like a cup with 2-3 of the best canes left, open in the middle.

In harsher winter climates, roses, should be just lightly pruned for shape, and the more severe pruning left until Spring. Where there are areas of high winds or snow, roses need to be pruned back enough, that they can’t be easily broken. In particular, climbing roses are very vulnerable to high wind or heavy snow damage.

Pruning is also done to remove infected or pest-ridden canes. When a rose is heavily riddled with cane borer damage or infected with fungal problems, pruning may well be the court of last resort for the bush. In this case severe pruning, followed by thorough cleaning of the beds, may save the rose. Any infested or infected material should be disposed of in the garbage, not the compost heap. Your shears should be disinfected in a 10% solution of bleach and hot water, before using again. Even your garden gloves should be run through the washer before reusing. Many diseases and pests live in the soil, or are air borne. A little care minimizes the chance of their recurring again.

As for general shaping of your rose bushes, this can be done at anytime during the blooming season. Long, straggly canes are unattractive and can snag clothing or unwary hands. So, it’s much better to give them an occasional touchup to keep them healthy and looking their best.

Finally, when gathering roses for cut flowers, always cut back to a 5 leaved junction, using an angled cut. Many rosarians claim cutting them back to the second junction promotes better reblooming. And keeping fully opened blooms removed, helps prevent the formation of hips, too early in the season. Hip formation should be saved for after the last blooms of the year.
Wise pruning practices will help your roses grow bigger and better, year after year.

Are you an urban gardener? And have you always wanted to grow roses? You can! I grew 30 roses in containers very successfully for over 4 years. I’ll show you how to have a mini rose garden on your patio or porch.

The first thing you need to find out is where the best spot for your new rose should be. Roses need a minimum of 6 hours of morning sun to grow successfully. More is even better. Although a few roses can do well in some shade, most require sunlight to bloom and develop their fragrances. A sunny post or fence is perfect for a lush climber. Miniature roses are great for porches and pathways. And tree roses make perfect container specimens, when you want a more formal look.

The size of the container is critical to successful rose growing. I use 18 inch or bigger pots, up on pot feet. Pot feet help avoid the baking temperatures soil can reach when placed directly on concrete. It can be 90 degrees outside, but the soil can reach temperatures of 135 degrees, baking roots, and ultimately killing the bush. Avoid pots that taper down at the bottom. The rose needs plenty of room to spread it’s roots. I prefer terra cotta, as it’s porous and doesn’t hold moisture around the roots, causing root rot. Durastone is another excellent choice. If you do use plastic, make certain there are enough drainage holes in the bottom, allowing excess water to drain off. Placing pebbles in the bottom of the pot, or Styrofoam beads will slow the water down a bit.

Don’t skimp on your soil. Use a top quality rose mix, or make up your own. I have a 5 gallon paint bucket. I mix compost, bonemeal, sulfur, peat and Kelloggs GroMulch. Using manure in container planters is not a good idea, as the chance for burning the plants is greatly increased. I use this mix both for starts and for planting new roses. When you are ready to plant, hill up a small amount of soil in the bottom of the pot. Place your rose, which has been soaking in a bucket of tepid water and rooting hormone into the pot. Start filling in pressing down gently to remove air pockets. Fill the pot until the bud union is just above the soil. You can add a layer of cocoa mulch to help hold in moisture. Water in well. Prune off any damaged canes, and place the rose in it’s new home.

Watering is even more important for container grown roses. They dry out much more rapidly, and will need more frequent watering, when temperatures are high. I watered mine in the early morning and again in the early evening. And feeding requirements are much higher in your container roses. I feed mine once a week with fish emulsion, and twice a month with a small amount of granular feed. Take a fork or small hand rake, and turn the soil frequently, to keep it nice and loose. You can tuck a half of a banana peel into the soil, once a month for an extra boost. Coffee grounds are an excellent amendment, when added infrequently to large amounts of soil. But for containers, it often causes burning, so it’s best left for the garden.

By using a little thought in the choice of container, the type of soil and amount of sunlight available, almost anyone can grow roses. The starkest landscape is improved by the dark green foliage and beautiful colors roses bring to our gardens.

Landscape roses are tough colorful choices for hard to plant areas. Relatively carefree they still have a few drawbacks. Landscape roses were developed for gardeners and landscapers who had to deal with tough hard to plant areas, where a massed rosy effect was needed. growing low to the ground, hardy and disease and pest resistant, they are an answer to many a gardeners prayers. Colors range from scarlet to white. They a small very dark green glossy leaves, and long horizontal fine canes. They are also drought and cold hardy.

My first experience with this class of roses came when an apartment complex requested help in planting some bare areas where nothing was surviving, after planting. The soil was hard pan clay and dry as dust. After studying the sun patterns in the 5 areas, I decided to give groundcover roses a try. Based on intense sun, poor soil, strong north winds and little available direct water. I only amended the top 6 inches of soil with compost and Gro Mulch. 3 weeks after planting they had visibly grow and had masses of red, pink and yellow blooms. They have thrived there happily now for 4 years.

The drawbacks are canes grow out of bounds and need regular snipping, and falling masses of petals, which need regular clean up in residental areas. By learning to work with nature and not against it, and by using proper pruning and planting techniques anyone can enjoy the fragrance and beauty of these lovely plants.

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