Roses are one of the most highly prized garden flowers, but they also are one of the most finicky. And a struggling rose bush will bloom only sporadically if at all. But if you follow six principles of growing roses, your plants 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 it doesn't end until the first frost arrives.
Equipment / Tools
- Bypass pruners
- Balanced fertilizer
- Organic mulch
- Fungicide and pesticide (as needed)
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 sun exposure.
- Choose a site that is sunny for at least six hours each day. 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 site by digging an 18-inch hole and filling it with water. If the water hasn’t drained away after two hours, consider building a raised bed or choosing a different site. Roses that sit in soggy soil are susceptible to fungal diseases and root rot.
- Don't plop your rose bush into a hole and simply refill it with native garden soil. Excavate an 18-by-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.
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 modern options. Top choices for roses that rebloom profusely throughout the growing season include:
- Bright Melody: A red shrub rose
- Carefree Delight: A hardy and low-maintenance plant
- Danae: A very fragrant option
- Fairy Moss: A miniature choice
- Graham Thomas: A climber with peony-like blossoms
- Knock Out: A low-maintenance favorite that's available in red, pink, and yellow
- Carefree Beauty: A plant featuring 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: A bright pink floribunda with full flowers
- Touch of Class: An excellent hybrid tea rose with orange-pink blossoms
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 deadheading, or removing the spent blossoms, tells the plant to produce more blooms in its effort to make seeds. Cut spent blooms 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. However, it doesn't result in additional flowers on once-blooming varieties, such as old-fashioned Alba and Gallica roses. These roses bloom heavily once per year but have other advantages, including vigor, a high petal count, vibrant colors, and a rich fragrance.
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 the temperature and humidity increase, most roses will experience some signs of disease.
Control disease by spraying with the appropriate product at the first symptoms. Some gardeners choose to use preventative treatments at the beginning of the growing season, so new growth is protected. Also, keep your rose leaves dry by watering at the base of the plant. Fungi like a moist environment. And remove any dead or diseased foliage as soon as you spot it.
Nip Pests in the Bud
Pests decrease the bloom count on roses in two ways: by weakening the plants and by eating the blossoms. A systemic pesticide can protect 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. Organic options, such as neem oil or insecticidal soap, also can work for rose bushes, especially when they're adjacent to vegetable gardens.
Moreover, don't forget about beneficial insects as an effective way to control rose pests. Chemicals kill the good insects with the bad, creating an imbalance in the landscape that welcomes more pests. So use pesticide sprays as a last resort, especially if the infestation isn't severe. A few ragged leaves won't lessen your bloom count.
Feed Hungry Roses
Like many plants with 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 for blossom formation. The first fertilizer application should occur as the plant breaks out of dormancy in the spring. Two more applications in mid-June and mid-July will keep the flower show going. But stop fertilizing in August to allow the plant to prepare for dormancy.
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 fertilizer that you dig into the soil is better to provide a steady supply of nutrients for the plant.
When to Maximize Rose Blooms
The only time during the growing season you should not be working in some way to maximize blooming is at the very end when you are preparing the bush for dormancy. At all other times—including when first planting in the spring—you should be making decisions based on how they will affect the blooming of the plant. After all, the exceptional blooms are really the primary reason to plant roses.