Roses are one of the most highly prized flowers of any garden, but they can also require more care and maintenance than any other plants in your landscape. A rose bush that is struggling to survive will bloom only sporadically, if at all.
If you follow the principles described here to grow and care for roses, your rose bushes will reward you with profuse blooms for the entire growing season. Maximizing rose blooms starts with the selection of the right planting site and doesn't end until the first frost arrives.
Choosing the Right Rose Varieties
Gardeners often seek out heirloom roses for their hardiness and renowned fragrance, but the older 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 fragrant, ruby-red shrub rose
- 'Carefree Delight': Produces large clusters of pale pink blooms
- 'Danae': A very fragrant option with clusters of light yellow blooms
- 'Fairy Moss': A miniature choice with bright pink blooms
- 'Graham Thomas': A yellow climber with peony-like blossoms
- The Knock Out® family of Roses: Easy to grow, low-maintenance shrub roses that are available in red, pink, coral, white, and yellow blooms
- 'Carefree Beauty': Large, light pink double blooms
- 'The Fairy': Many large clusters of small, pink double to semi-double blooms
- 'Fourth of July': A climber with red and white saucer-shaped semi-double blooms
- 'French Lace': A floribunda rose that produces clusters of medium-sized 2- to 3-inch white blooms with flushes of pale pink
- 'Sexy Rexy': A medium pink floribunda rose with medium-sized 2- to 3-inch blooms
- 'Touch of Class': An excellent hybrid tea rose with very large, 6-inch orange-pink blooms
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.
Before Getting Started
The right planting site affects the future blossoms of your rose bush before the plant even goes in the ground. Pamper your roses by planting them in a garden location that has excellent drainage and full sun exposure.
Choose a site that receives sunlight for at least 6 to 8 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's drainage by digging an 18-inch hole and filling it with water. If the water hasn’t drained after 2 hours, consider building a raised bed or choosing a different site. Roses that are planted in soggy soil are susceptible to fungal diseases and root rot.
Prepare the soil at the planting site by digging an 18-by-18-inch hole and backfilling 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.
Equipment / Tools
- Bypass pruners
- Balanced fertilizer
- Organic mulch
- Fungicide and pesticide (as needed)
Deadhead Faded Blooms
Allowing a rose bush to go into seed production mode (by forming hips from faded blooms) is a signal to the rose bush that the bloom season is finished.
You can prevent hips from forming and continue the blooming cycle by removing faded blooms, a practice known as deadheading. On rose varieties that are capable of re-bloom or continuous bloom, deadheading encourages more blooms and also keeps the plant tidy and clean. Cut back faded blooms to the first branch that has five leaves to keep the plant bushy and compact.
Deadheading won't produce additional blooms on rose varieties that are only capable of one flush of blooms, such as the two oldest classifications of roses: the Albas and Gallicas roses. These roses bloom heavily only once per year but have other advantages, including vigor, a high petal count, vibrant colors, and a rich fragrance.
Control Fungal Diseases
Black spot and powdery mildew diseases do more than disfigure rose bush foliage and cause leaf drop. These diseases weaken the entire plant, exhausting the energy needed to produce bountiful blooms. As the season progresses and temperature and humidity increase, most roses will experience some signs of disease.
Treat these fungal disease by spraying infected bushes with the appropriate product at the first sign of symptoms. Some gardeners choose to use preventative treatments at the beginning of the growing season to protect new growth.
An effective preventive measure is to keep rose foliage as dry as possibly by watering only at the base of the plant because fungi like a moist environment.
Remove diseased foliage as soon as you spot it and disinfect your pruners or scissors after making each cut.
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. Systemic pesticides are usually in a granular form that is mixed into the soil; sometimes they are combined with fertilizer and fungicides. Organic options, such as neem oil or insecticidal soap, can also be effective on rose bushes, especially when they're adjacent to vegetable gardens.
Don't forget about attracting 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. Use pesticide sprays as a last resort, especially if the infestation isn't severe. A few ragged leaves won't significantly decrease bloom count
Feed Hungry Roses
Like many plants with large blossoms, roses are heavy feeders. Roses that bloom continuously throughout the season require 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. Stop fertilizing in August to allow the plant to prepare for winter dormancy.
Additionally, you can apply nourishing mulches, such as leaf mold, compost, and rotted manure, to keep roses happy. Water-soluble fertilizer is absorbed quickly. Granular time-released fertilizer that you mix into the soil provides a slower and steadier supply of nutrients.