Benjamin Whitacre for Better Homes & Gardens on rose growing tips. Let the professionals at SRB Signature Kitchen & Bath help you with your Spring kitchen or bath remodel.
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With a little prevention or a couple of fixes, you can grow better blooms from spring through fall—and have more fun doing it.
When you think of roses, a garden full of velvety, dew-covered blooms may come to mind, looking like they often do in a magazine photo. However, that vision can quickly turn into frustration when the roses you’re trying to grow don’t quite live up to the ideal. Here’s the good news: By making a few tweaks during planting and maintenance, you can absolutely have picture-perfect roses. The first step? Adopting a balanced mindset—set aside any fears of getting pricked or making a mistake so you can start giving your roses the care they need. From there, watch out for these nine common pitfalls when growing roses.
Choosing the Wrong Location
There are all kinds of roses—from huge ramblers to mini shrubs— so it pays to read the label carefully before you buy. A naturally large and rambunctious rose may not do well if it’s constantly pruned down to fit in a small space. Likewise, a rose that needs full sun will not thrive in shade. As much as possible, place your rose in a spot where it can be itself and its needs can be adequately met. Trust us: You’ll both be happier that way.
Skipping Soil Amendments
Even if you’ve picked the perfect place for your rose, you still need to improve the soil for optimal growth. For each rose, dig a hole up to two feet around and deep, then mix in a bag of manure or organic compost. If you have heavy clay soil, you may also want to loosen the ground a foot deeper and add ground bark or coir to improve drainage and texture.
Not Accounting for Wildlife
You might think that deer wouldn’t like a mouthful of thorns, but young rose stems, leaves, and blooms are actually among their favorite treats. If you grow a lot of roses, installing a tall fence may be the best option for your needs. However, if you only have a few roses to protect and a smaller deer population, odor-based repellents can often be enough to persuade them to go elsewhere for a snack.
Skimping on Water
Most types of roses love water, but hate soggy roots. In dry weather, you’ll get the most blooms from your plant if you water at least once a week. You can use a hose, watering can, or drip irrigation system, but try not to get the leaves wet. This can encourage certain diseases that can cause your plant to drop its foliage. If that happens, your rose will spend energy replacing leaves instead of flowering, but it’s not usually fatal.
Removing faded flowers from your rose bushes encourages new blooms and maintains a clean look. Because most roses repeat bloom from spring until late fall, keeping up with deadheading can be a chore. To make efficient work of this pesky task, twist off old flowers with your hand each time you walk by the bush. If a rose flowers so densely that removing each bloom would take forever, you can clip the whole plant back a few inches with hedge shears after the majority of the blooms are spent. In a couple of weeks, new flower buds will appear.
Putting Off Pruning
A more thorough clean up than deadheading, pruning can reshape the entire plant and encourage healthy new growth. It only needs to be done once a year, usually in spring. You can also avoid prickles by using telescoping pruners, tongs, and a makeshift cardboard dustpan to rake clippings onto.
Going Overboard with Pest Control
Many roses attract butterflies, bees, and other beneficial pollinators. Of the insects that feed on roses, most do such little damage that it’s not worth treating for them because you’ll often harm the pollinators, too. If the damage gets out of control, try using less toxic organic pest control options such as insecticidal soap or neem oil to take care of the problem.
Not Providing Enough Fertilizer
To get the best blooms from your roses, apply fertilizer after the last spring frost and again after the first bloom. You can repeat once a month until September, but if you fertilize too late in the season, the plant may keep growing and trying to bloom when it should be going dormant for winter.
Not Removing Plants with Rose Rosette Disease
If you see a rose with unusual growth, it could be a symptom of Rose Rosette Disease (also known as RRD), the most serious rose illness. Check roserosette.org to see if it has spread to your area. You can upload photos of your rose onto their database to get an expert opinion. You can also call your local extension office. If one of your roses has RRD, remove it immediately and put it in the trash rather than your compost bin or with other yard waste so it has less chance of spreading.