Plenty of people may have considered planting a rose garden, but it can seem like a daunting challenge for those who've never done it before. However, it only takes a little knowledge to successfully cultivate roses and keep them healthy and thriving all year long.
The first challenge is to decide which type of rose to grow. There are several types of roses to choose from, including climbing roses, miniature roses, hybrid roses, and old-fashioned roses.
- Old-fashioned roses are breeds that were introduced before 1867. Also called "old roses" or "heirloom roses," they are more fragrant than their hybrid sisters.
- Hybrid tea roses are a popular choice that features one large bloom per long stem. Hybrids, or "modern hybrid roses," as they're sometimes called, were introduced after 1867. They are well-loved because they're disease-resistant, long-blooming, and fragrant.
- Wild roses are those that have grown in the wild for thousands of years. Wild roses work well as windbreaks and hedgerows.
How to Plant Roses
- Before buying a rose, make sure it's suitable for your climate by checking your hardiness zone.
- Check with a local rose gardener or contact your county extension office for advice on good rose choices for beginners in your area.
- If you order through the mail, do so early, in January, February, or March. Expect to receive bare-root plants through mail-order companies.
- Roses bought locally will usually be planted in containers. For best results, buy these in May or early June.
Preparing the Soil
- Soil for roses needs to be between 5.5 and 7.0 pH, with 6.5 being ideal.
- To get roses started off strong, have a soil test performed. Most local extension offices perform soil testing.
- Results will include suggestions for soil amendments to treat the soil if it's not optimal. Limestone is often suggested for acidic soil and ground sulfur for alkaline soil.
- Morning sun is especially important because it dries the leaves, which helps prevent disease. Eight to ten hours of sun is optimal.
- Soil should be rich and loamy with good drainage.
- Bare-root roses need to be soaked for at least eight hours prior to planting.
- Roses from containers should have their roots loosened before planting.
- Dig a hole about 15 to 18 inches wide. Add aged manure, peat moss, or leaf compost to the hole. Then, plant the rose and mound soil around it.
Caring for Roses
- Roses require 1 to 2 inches of water daily during the summer.
- You want to soak your roses, but not so much that they're drowning.
- Mulch roses with grass clippings or shredded leaves to help conserve moisture.
- Granulated fertilizer should be added starting as early as April.
- Epsom salts will bolster the health of your plants and should be added to the fertilizer in the months of May and June.
- Banana peels can add phosphorus to the soil to help roses thrive.
- Alfalfa tea is also a great fertilizer. It provides triacontanol, a natural growth stimulant.
- In the spring, prune your roses and get rid of the old plant material.
- Wear sturdy gloves that are thick enough to protect you from thorns.
- For smaller growth, use pruning shears. For branches more than a half-inch thick, use long-handled shears.
- Wear safety glasses.
- Deadhead roses to keep plants healthy and promote new blooms.
- Pruning encourages new growth, so don't prune in the fall. Cutting off dead canes is all that's necessary prior to winterizing.
- Remove all debris from your rose beds to prevent overwintering disease, and spray them with a dormant spray.
- Six weeks before the first frost, stop fertilizing but continue watering.
- After a few touches of frost but before the ground freezes, put mulch around roses. Areas where temperatures dip below freezing for extended periods require specialized winter handling.
Pests and Diseases
Removing dead leaves and other debris from your garden beds will reduce bug infestation. Check your plants regularly and be on the lookout for pests and diseases. Here are some common threats to roses:
- Japanese beetles are highly damaging to rose bushes.
- Aphids literally suck the life out of your plants. Planting garlic and mint around roses has been shown to discourage these little vampires.
- Watch for black spots on your rose leaves, often caused by water splashing on the leaves and rainy weather. A simple fungicide coating is usually enough to put it in check.
- Powdery mildew, spider mites, thrips, and rust are a few other threats to your roses.
- Deer think roses are tasty. Consider planting deer-repellant plants nearby to discourage them.
- Learn to recognize common pests and diseases in roses: Early treatment is key to healthy roses.
Best Rose Types for Beginners
There was a time when roses were spectacularly difficult to grow, but thanks to a little modernization, some roses are lower-maintenance and some are even recommended for beginning growers.
- Hybrid musk roses can grow very tall and have leaves that are nearly as attractive as their blooms. Buff Beauty roses are a solid choice.
- Shrub roses are hardy and a good choice for cold climates. Carefree Wonder is a particularly good variety to start with.
- For a more unconventional look, plant Flower Carpet roses, which make excellent ground cover.
Wisdom and Folklore
Try out these unique uses for roses and you'll soon see that they're good for more than just beautifying your yard.
- Rose Hips as Medicine: This article from the National Library of Medicine discusses research indicating that rose hips may be useful in treating several ailments, including skin disorders, hepatotoxicity, renal disturbances, diarrhea, inflammatory disorders, arthritis, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and obesity.
- Rose Water: This article from Shape has a recipe and video showing how to make your own healthy rose water, which is great for the skin.
- Rose Facial Masks: Make your own facial mask from powdered rose petals, clay, and a few other ingredients.
- Rose Petals as Candies or Cake Decorations: You can make rose-based foods at home with these simple recipes.
- Rose Hip Recipes: (PDF) Rose hips are high in vitamin C and antioxidants. They also are delicious in teas and jams.