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30 Roses

A quick tutorial for anyone interested in raising roses

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While it does take a bit of work when you first plant the roses, caring for them afterward isn't as daunting as some think.

They need at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Choose your location with this in mind.
Nurseries ship roses bare-roots but at a local nursery you can buy rose bushes in cardboard containers. If you plant them bare-roots, you need to dig a hole that is 2 ft wide x 1.5 ft deep. If you buy them in a cardboard container you may get away with a smaller hole (follow instructions on container) Roses need room to spread their roots.
They need slightly acid, well-drained soil (pH 6.5). Amend the soil as needed before filling the hole!
Most roses are grafted onto root-stock of another variety. The graft union is the knobby place where the root stock is joined to the rose variety, or "cultivar", you have bought. When planting and covering the roots with the amended soil, make sure the graft union is several inches under the ground if you are in an area that gets below freezing at any time of year. Freezing can kill the graft union. Mulching before winter also keeps the graft union warm.
Spray as needed for pests and disease. Yes, this is a nuisance. So why bother? Because rose bushes need lots of leaves to be healthy and to produce roses-- the leaves make the plant's food. Diseases can quickly defoliate the plant. The bush can't thrive without leaves. Furthermore, some diseases are extremely contagious, like Blackspot (fungus.) Remove infected leaves so the disease doesn't spread to other leaves.
They need one good soaking per week, if it doesn't rain. Don't water from above-- wet leaves are more vulnerable to fungus and water drops on the leaves act as magnifying lenses that focus the sun's rays and burn holes in leaves. It's best is to have soaker hoses at the base. Do not water frequently and lightly as that would encourage the roots to remain shallow.
Prune in early spring after the appearance of a number of healthy buds (see below for reason.)

Pruning (including cutting roses to bring indoors, which is a form of pruning) is a matter of common sense when you know a few basic things:

Roses always grow on new stems that sprout off the existing canes. People are sometimes afraid to prune the canes hard in the spring, but here is why you should cut the canes low: look at a tree-- do you see how each twig is thinner than the branch it grows off, which in turn is thinner than the one it originates from, and so on all the way to the trunk? The same is true of rose bushes. New, rose-producing stems which sprout off a cane will be thinner than that cane. If you prune a cane low down, where it is thick, the new stem that sprouts from it will also be substantial and strong enough to support the weight of a fully-open rose. But if you prune the cane up high where it is splindly, the new stem will be even thinner and won't be able to hold up the heavy-headed rose blossom.

So prune the old canes low, just above a healthy outward-facing bud whenever possible. That bud will grow into the new stem that will produce a rose. (This is why I wait until a number of healthy buds appear-- it is easier then to choose the optimal place to prune.) The outward-facing part is important. You want the stems to all grow outward so the bush has the shape of an urn, which allows for air flow. With good air flow, the bush will be less vulnerable to fungus and the thorny stems won't rub together and abrade each other or block each other's growth.

Similarly, when you cut a rose to bring it indoors, cut it on an angle just above an outward-facing mature leaf. Angle the cut to drain water away from the leaf so it doesn't rot. A new stem will sprout just above that leaf, and will grow outward, maintaining the shape of the bush.

Dead-head (cut off) faded roses so the energy of the plant will go into making new roses rather than rose hips, which are the fruit of the rose. Dead head just below the rose; this preserves as many leaves as possible to make food for the bush. Lots of leaves > lots of blooms! In the fall, though, you may like the look of the rose hips-- some are bright red, very pretty.

When winterizing, I have learned to prune the canes to about half their height (don't be fussy about where to cut before winterizing; any place will do.) When the bushes are shortened, they will sway less in the wind during the winter. Swaying widens the hole in the ground where the canes enter the soil, allowing freezing water to enter the hole and potentially kill the graft union.

That sounds like a lot, but after the first year it becomes second nature. Really!


  1. 30 Roses's Avatar
    Sorry I didn't notice your post until just now!

    Our soil is clay as well, and that is a problem as it doesn't drain well at all. Amending the soil in the hole will be a must. You will need to remove the soil in the hole and mix it well with purchased/bagged soil, and line the bottom of the hole with rocks/gravel to assist drainage.

    We definitely do "hot and humid" in Connecticut! This doesn't seem to harm the roses. It is more likely to be the cold of winter that is harmful. If you order from a catalog, read the zones that are recommended for that rose.

    As to other recommendations, ask yourself what appeals to you:

    • Do you want roses that (often, but not always) grow singly on long straight stems, and don't mind if the bush doesn't produce abundantly? Then look for hybrid tea roses.

    • Do you like a shrubbier rose bush, roses that (often, but not always) grow in clusters, have thinner stems and make relaxed-looking bouquets? Check out the English Roses.

    • Do you want landscaping roses and don't care that you won't be able to cut them for vases? Rugosas are for you.

    There are other types, like old garden roses-- historic varieties.

    If you can, visit a rose garden or a nursery, take photos and notes, and do a lot of sniffing. Pay attention to what the bush looks like when the roses are past peak-- some look a lot better than others. A catalog only shows you the bush at its best. Notice also how high the bush grows; some have a low growth habit, others are gangly and make good climbers but are difficult as stand-alone bushes (like David Austin's "Evelyn".)


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