Growing Roses
Dennis Nelson
American Rose Society Consulting Rosarian

The Basic Steps
  • Choose a site which gets 6 hours of sun daily
  • Prepare the soil to assure adequate drainage, proper composition, and PH
  • Plant the roses at the proper depth and add super phosphate
  • Provied adequate fertilizer and water
  • Keep the plants pest free
  • Remove spent blooms during the growing season
  • Provide winter protection

Roses produce best if they get at least 6 hours of sun daily.  Morning sun is preferred over late afternoon sun so that moisture on the plants can dry as soon as possible.

Soil serves to anchor the plants and to provide an environment from which the roses can absorb the nutrients dissolved in water.  A good loam is ideal, which means around our area most of us will need to ament  our natural soil with peat and other organic material.  Roses are dry land plants.  They like rain to fall, percolate through  the soil and drain away.  They will not tolerate "wet feet," so drainage is important.  PH of the soil is also improtant and should be slightly acid, 6.0 to 6.5 being ideal.  Soils which are very acid  or very alkaline will cause the necessary minerals in the soil to become bound up and the roses will be unable to use them.

There are differences of opinion as to the depth to plant grafted roses. I believe to enjoy more carefree roses in our area it is best to plant the bud union 2 to 3 inches below the surface of the soil. This will reduce winter kill by protecting the bud union. When planting a rose, mix a handful of super phosphate with the soil in the bottom of the planting hole. Phosphate is slow to migrate down through the soil, so it is best to put some in at planting time. Make sure to allow adequate space between roses when planting. Hybrid teas should be spaced 24 to 30 inches apart. Floribundas can be planted 18 to 24 inches apart, and miniatures as close as 12 inches. Apply a 3 inch deep mulch around the plants to save some work weeding and to conserve moisture. 

A newly planted rose should not be fertilized, except for the super phosphate in the planting hole, until after it has bloomed. For existing plants, fertilize when uncovering in the spring, around April 15 in our area. There are many formulations available and any balanced fertilizer will do. Another work saver is the use of time release fertilizers, like Osmocote, which need to be applied only once per season. The use of organics is good for improving soil structure and providing a long term source of nutrients.

All of the nutrients roses get out of the soil must first be dissolved in water; therefore, adequate water is vitally important. Roses need 1 to 2 inches of water per week.  If you can not feel moisture an inch below the surface of the soil, it is time to water. Contrary to what you may have heard, roses can be watered from above as long as the foliage can dry quickly.

Rose pests come in two broad categories, insects and fungus. The two main fungus diseases in our area are black spot and mildew. To keep your roses free of fungus, you must prevent the fungus, not try to eliminate it after you see its effects. As soon as the bud eyes start to swell in the spring and you have pruned your plants back for a new growing season, begin your spray program. There are many commercial products available and you should follow the label directions as to the amount to use and the frequency of spraying. Some choices are Funginex, Rose Defense (neem oil), and Banner Maxx. Remember—Prevention, not cure is the secret to fungus control. 

Insect pests can be approached a bit differently than fungus. I would recommend not spraying for them until you see them, and then I would use the least toxic method to get to your level of tolerance for insect pests. Some serious exhibitors feel they must have "perfect roses," while most of us can accept some damage before we take up arms. Major insect problems in our area and methods of control are:

  • Aphids - Two or three times in the spring, at two-week intervals, apply malathion or pyrethrum. They can also be washed off with a garden hose.
  • Thrips - Usually a problem on light colored roses. Spray two or three times in early spring with carbaryl or malathion.
  • Spider Mites - Washing them off with a water wand is effective. The use of a miticide, like Avid, is effective but costly.
  • Cane Borers - At spring pruning, seal the ends of the canes with Elmer's glue.
  • Japanese Beetles - These beasts have hit the top of the Hate Parade around here. If you have a few, pick them off by hand and destroy them. The best way to control them is to attack them in the grub stage. Some ways to kill grubs are to use nematodes, chemicals (GrubX), and bacteria (Milky Spore). The nematodes are effective, but expensive and have to be sprayed each year. The Milky spore takes a couple of years to build up in the soil, but lasts many years once established. Chemicals are less expensive, but need to be applied each year. The use of pyrethrum sprayed on the adult beetles is also effective.

During the growing season, remove spent blooms. Cut above an outward facing 5 or 7 leaflet set. This will keep the center of the plant open and will encourage repeat blooms. 

Discontinue fertilizing by September 1 to allow the plants to harden off for winter. After a hard freeze, tie the canes together and cover your roses 10 to 12 inches up the canes with mulch or compost. It can be held in place by a simple paper collar. If the plants are extremely tall, they can be cut back to 3 feet to prevent the wind from whipping them around during the winter.

The Belleville Area rose society Offers

  • Monthly newsletter, Rose Talk
    Monthly Meetings at SWIC with informative programs on all phases of rose culture
    Annual plant auction
    Annual Rose Show
    Annual installation Banquet with guest speaker
    A chance to meet with others who share our interest in roses
    Community service by maintaining the West End Square Garden in Belleville

If you would like to join, please send a check for $10.00, made out to the Belleville Area Rose Society, to David Sturgill, 5668 U.S. Rt. 66, Il 62069.  the annual fee covers all members of your family.  If you are not sure, call 233-4609 to find out the time of our next meeting and come check us out.  We always have cake and coffee after our meetings, and we would love to chat with you.


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Article reprented with permission from Dennis Nelson

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