The National Garden Bureau has named 2017 the Year of the Rose. Just the thought of growing roses strikes fear in the hearts of many gardeners. How can a plant so beautiful be so intimidating?
Maybe it is because they are seen growing in large formal collections in botanical gardens.
Maybe it is their place in history. Cleopatra seduced Mark Anthony with them. Roman armies were showered with rose petals upon their victorious return from war. Maybe it is because they have inspired painters, poets and playwrights for centuries.
Maybe it is because some roses are divided into fussy-sounding classes like hybrid teas, grandifloras and floribundas. Today, in the United States, the most often-sold types of roses are shrub roses, sometimes called landscape roses. They don’t sound scary, do they?
Roses are plants like any others. Plant them correctly in conditions they prefer, give them a little tender loving care, and they will thrive.
Plant roses in a suitable spot.
Roses are sun worshippers. Six to eight hours of full sun is best. A little shade in the afternoon is acceptable and will actually keep the color of their luscious blooms vivid longer. Roses must have well-drained soil that is rich with organic matter. They cannot survive in wet, heavy clay soils.
Plant roses correctly.
It is easiest to plant container-grown roses. These plants, actively growing with strong roots, establish into the soil quickly. When planting a new rose, gently remove it from its pot. Check to make sure that roots are not circling around the pot. If they are, untangle them with your hands if you can, or score the roots in 3 or 4 places with a garden knife.
The depth at which to plant is determined by the type of rose. Hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses are sensitive to our cold Midwestern winters. When planting these types, the bud union (the swollen area near the base of the plant where the rose was grafted on the roots) should be positioned 2 to 3 inches below the soil where it will be protected from winter damage.
Shrub and groundcover roses are not grafted and should be planted at the same depth they are growing in their pots.
Dig a wide hole and add organic matter to the pile of soil removed from the hole. While incorporating it into the soil, mix in bonemeal or superphosphate according to the directions on the package. Place the rose in the hole, fill in with soil/organic matter mix, gently firm the soil with your hands, and water in well. Add a 2-inch layer of mulch to help conserve moisture in the soil.
Give roses some tender loving care.
Roses need water and fertilizer. They prefer consistent moisture and need an inch of water per week during the growing season. If you need to water because Mother Nature isn’t providing sufficient rainfall, try to keep water off the foliage to reduce the chance of fungal diseases.
Roses are hungry plants. It is hard work producing all those beautiful blooms! Most varieties benefit from two feedings – one in spring and another around the 4th of July. Use a balanced fertilized (10-10-10) or a specially blended rose food. Stop feeding after mid August. New growth after this point is easily damaged in winter.
Protect your roses for cold winter months. After some hard frosts, pile 10 to 12 inches of well-drained soil or loose mulch over the base of the plant. I open a bag of mulch and dump it right over the top of the rose. Gently jiggling the stems of the rose encourages the mulch downwards over the base. Do not prune roses in fall – wait until spring to perform this task.
Prune roses in late winter or early spring before they begin to grow. Remove dead stems and tips of branches that have died back in winter. Any wayward stems can also be removed. Another option is to prune entire plants back by one-third to one-half. Many shrub roses don’t require pruning, but annual haircuts will keep them more compact.
Growing roses is not nearly as difficult as their reputation suggests. Grow them in shrub borders, in foundation plantings, and as companions to perennials in borders. Just grow them! And while you celebrate the Year of the Rose, garden with me!