Roses are one of the most highly prized of all garden flowers, but they are also one of the most finicky, and a struggling rose bush will bloom only sporadically, if at all. But if you follow six principles of good rose-growing practice, your roses will reward you with profuse blooms for the entire growing season. Maximizing your rose blooms starts with the selection of the right planting site and doesn't end until the first frosts of winter.
01 of 06
Prepare the Planting Site
You can affect the future blossoms of your rose bush before the plant even goes in the ground. Pamper your roses by placing them in a garden spot that has excellent drainage and great sun exposure.
- Choose a site that is sunny for at least 6 hours each day, or even more if possible. Roses need direct sun to generate the energy necessary for abundant blooms. Diseases and pests plague roses that are weakened by shady conditions.
- Test the future garden site of your rose bush by digging an 18-inch hole and filling it with water. If the water hasn’t drained away after 2 hours, consider building a raised bed or choosing a different site. Roses that sit in soggy soil are very susceptible to fungal diseases and root rot.
- Don't plop your rose into a hole and simply refill it with native garden soil. Excavate an 18 x 18 inch-planting hole, and backfill the hole with a mix of 50 percent garden soil and 50 percent compost and peat moss. This lightweight soil blend encourages the development of feeder roots.
02 of 06
Choose Reblooming Rose Varieties
Gardeners often seek out heirloom roses for their hardiness and renowned fragrance, but old rose varieties don’t rebloom as reliably as their descendants. Top choices for roses that rebloom profusely throughout the growing season include:
- Bright Melody: a red shrub rose
- Carefree Delight: hardy and low maintenance
- Danae: very fragrant
- Fairy Moss: a miniature choice
- Graham Thomas: a climber with peony-like blossoms
- Knock Out: a low-maintenance favorite, available in red, pink, and yellow
- Carefree Beauty: deep pink semi-double flowers
- The Fairy: a polyantha rose that produces large clusters of pink flowers
- Fourth of July: a climber with red and white single flowers
- French Lace: a floribunda rose with pale apricot flowers
- Sexy Rexy: bright pink floribunda with full flowers
- Touch of Class: excellent hybrid tea rose with orange-pink blossoms
03 of 06
Deadhead Your Rose Bushes
Letting roses form hips, which contain seeds, is a signal to the rose bush that the growing season is finished. But removing the spent blossoms signals the plant to produce more blooms in its effort to make seeds. Cut the spent bloom back to the first cluster of five leaves to keep the plant bushy and compact.
Deadheading works to produce more blooms on all the repeat-bloomers, but it does not result in additional flowers one once-blooming roses, such as old-fashioned Alba and Gallica roses. These roses bloom heavily one time per year, but have other advantages, including vigor, high petal count, vibrant colors, and rich fragrance.
04 of 06
Control Fungal Diseases
Black spot, mildew, and rose rosette disease do more than disfigure rose bush leaves and cause leaf drop: These diseases weaken the entire plant, taking away the energy needed to produce bountiful blooms. As the season progresses, and temperatures and humidity increase, most roses will experience some signs of disease.
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- Control disease by spraying at the first sign of symptoms. Some gardeners choose to use systemic treatments at the beginning of the growing season so that new growth is instantly protected from fungi.
- Use the right product. Preventatives are best for healthy roses, while curatives aim to knock out active disease.
- Keep your rose leaves dry by watering at the base of the plant. Fungi need a moist environment to penetrate leaves.
- Remove any dead or diseased foliage to deny spores a place to spend the winter. Good garden hygiene also controls pests that spread disease.
05 of 06
Nip Pests in the Bud
Pests decrease the bloom count on roses in two ways: by weakening plants and by eating the blossoms themselves. A systemic pesticide, such acephate, protects tender new growth from aphids, mites, thrips, and whiteflies. These products are granules that are mixed into the soil; sometimes they are combined with fertilizer and fungicides. Other pests like rose sawfly are less common but equally devastating in the flower garden.
Organic options like neem oil or insecticidal soap are options for rose bushes adjacent to vegetable gardens.
And don't roll your eyes at the mention of beneficial insects as an effective way to control rose pests. A generation ago, that's all rose lovers had to rid themselves of bad bugs. Chemicals kill off the good insects with the bad, creating an imbalance in the landscape that welcomes more pests. Use pesticide sprays as a last resort; a few ragged leaves won't lessen your bloom count.
06 of 06
Feed Hungry Roses
Like many plants with dramatic, large blossoms, roses are heavy feeders. Roses that bloom throughout the season need at least three fertilizer applications. A balanced, 10-10-10 fertilizer provides nitrogen for healthy foliage, phosphorus for vigorous roots, and potassium to promote blossom formation. Additionally, you can apply nourishing mulches such as leaf mold, compost, and rotted manure to keep roses happy. Water-soluble fertilizer is acceptable, but granular time-release fertilizers that you dig into the soil provide a steady supply of nutrients for the plant.
- Apply the first fertilizer application as the plants begin to break out of winter dormancy in the spring
- Two more applications in mid-June and mid-July keep the flower show going.
- Stop fertilizing in August to allow the plants to prepare for dormancy.