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How to properly take care of your roses

Roses can fit into any landscape. From large shrubs that create hedges to petite miniatures in containers, there is a size and shape for any situation. And with such an unforgettable flower and fragrance it’s no surprise that roses are one of the most popular flowers in the world.

It’s often thought that rose care is complicated, but roses are just another plant. With a few simple tips on watering, fertilization, mulching and pruning, growing roses can be easy and enjoyable for everyone.


Roses grow best in at least six hours of sunlight each day. Morning sun is preferred, as it dries the moisture on the foliage sooner than afternoon sun. Good drainage and good air circulation will keep roses healthy. When planting, mix 1/2 soil and 1/2 organic matter, such as compost or peat moss, to enrich the soil. The best time to plant container roses is spring, but here in the Northwest they can be planted year-round. Water well and mulch.


Pruning shapes the rose plant and encourages new growth and large flowers. For repeat-flowering roses like Hybrid Teas and Floribundas, prune here in the Northwest at the end of February, or when the Forsythia come into bloom. Remove dead or diseased wood, crossing canes and weak, twiggy branches. Cut the remaining canes to 12-18″ off the ground, with an angled cut, just above an outward facing bud. This will promote outward growth and not crowd the inside of the plant. For Shrub and Old Garden Roses, little or no pruning is needed, only deadheading and occasionally removing old stems to open up the plant.


Roses perform best when given extra nutrients found in fertilizers. Use a good organic fertilizer with naturally occurring materials like alfalfa meal and bone meal, as well as mycorrhizal fungi. This is good for plants and the soil. Start fertilizing in the spring and follow the recommendations on the package for great looking roses.


A rose will grow best in moist well-drained soil. That means water them deeply and consistently throughout the year. Not enough water and the shoots at the top begin to wilt, too much water and the lower leaves turn yellow and drop. Avoid overhead watering; this can cause fungal diseases, such as black spot, to spread more readily. Try using soaker hoses, drip irrigation or low sprinklers so the foliage doesn’t get wet.


A 2-3″ layer of mulch around roses will help the soil retain moisture during our dry summers and reduce weeds. To reduce winter injury, cover the graft union or the base of the plant with mulch in the winter as well.

Insect Pests

Aphids, Spider Mites, Scale and Caterpillars can damage a rose plant, leaving behind ugly foliage as they chew and suck on the plant. The first control is to simply pick off the ones that you can see. Some pests, like aphids, can be washed off with a strong jet of water. Insecticidal soaps and Neem Oil sprays are natural products that also control many rose pests.

Rose Diseases

The most prevalent fungal disease is Black Spot. It causes circular black spots on the leaf, frequently surrounded by yellow. Spores are spread by splashing water. Downy Mildew, Powdery Mildew, Rose Rust and Botrytis Blight can also affect roses, especially during a cold, wet spring. Control of disease is always more effective when started early. Inspect your plants often for signs of both insect and disease damage. Remove infected leaves, as well as those on the ground, and then treat with a Neem Oil spray to halt the spread of infection.

Rose Descriptions

Hybrid Tea Roses are characterized by large flowers with one blossom on each stem. The long, strong stems are good for cutting and these roses make excellent cut flowers as they have been bred for perfect form and outstanding colors. This upright shrub is medium to tall in height and looks good when under-planted with perennials or annuals.

Floribunda Roses are excellent roses for landscaping. They are shorter than Hybrid Teas and produce profuse clusters of blooms on each stem throughout the summer months. The color, fragrance and growth habit of floribundas combine to make beautiful hedges or borders.

Grandiflora Roses are the result of crossing Hybrid Teas and Floribundas. They have large flowers that are borne in clusters and grow up to six feet tall.

Climbing Roses add vertical interest and drama to the garden landscape. The long arching canes and profusion of blooms can cover arbors, trellises, walls and fences.

Shrub Roses come in all shapes and sizes. These shrubs are good for large plantings, rather than individual blooms. Landscape roses grow close to the ground and have a spreading habit, acting as a groundcover.

Miniature Roses grow from six inches to two feet tall and have flowers which are perfect replicas of Hybrid Teas. This rose is hardy, flowers continuously and is good for containers, window boxes or in any flower bed.

Old Garden Roses date from before 1867, the year the first Hybrid Tea was introduced. Most are very hardy, quite disease resistant and flower just in spring. Examples are Alba, Centifolia, Damask, Gallica and Moss Roses

From the Gray Barn Green Thumb Guide.

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