Roses have long been prized for their dramatic colors and tantalizing scents. These hearty plants are easy to grow, but they must be properly maintained or they will not produce the strong, scented blooms for which they are known.
Roses require a large amount of water, more than they will get through rainwater alone. During the spring and summer months, water your roses every other morning. Apply the water at the base of the plant, not over the foliage. Wet leaves can burn in the sun or develop mildew and molds.
Weed your flower beds frequently. Weeds also use a significant amount of water, and can steal this resource from your roses and provide you with little in return.
Roses need adequate nutrition to provide lush blooms. Look for fertilizer that is high in phosphorus, as this will promote bloom growth. You will likely need to purchase fertilizer made specifically for roses, as most general fertilizers are high in nitrogen. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers will promote lush leaf growth, but not lush blooms. If you prefer to garden organically, apply bone meal as a fertilizer. It's naturally high in phosphorus.
Apply fertilizer in the spring, and reapply after your rose has produced a set of blooms. Stop applying fertilizer altogether in the late summer, about 2 months before the first frost is expected in your area.
Applying mulch can help you reduce weeds and provide your rose with nutrients. Mulch also helps the soil stay aerated, which will help your plant absorb water. Wood chips, shredded bark and pine needles are all good options. Apply the mulch generously in the spring, and replace it as it is depleted throughout the summer.
Many new gardeners are reluctant to prune their roses, as they worry they will kill the plants. The opposite is true. Pruning helps you remove dead material from the plant, and increase airflow to the center of the plant. This can help you cut back on disease. Pruning also helps your rose produce thicker, stronger canes that can support bigger blooms.
Your main pruning will occur in the late winter (January or February), after the last frost has past. Clear your mulch from the base of your rose, and look for diseased canes and suckers. These should be removed first. Prune back any canes that are thinner than a pencil or that rub against one another. Next, choose 5 to 6 healthy canes. These will be green on the outside, and cream-colored on the inside. Prune these canes at a 45 degree angle, 1 to 4 feet from the root of the plant. Remove all other canes at the base of the plant. When you're done with your winter pruning, your plant will have a bowl-shaped appearance with 5 to 6 arms reaching out and plenty of airflow in the center.
Remove dead blooms in the summer. Grasp the dead bloom and look down the stem for a branch with five leaves. A new, red bud should be beginning here. Cut the stem at a 45 degree angle, right above this new bud. Following these basic guidelines, you can expect to raise healthy, beautiful rose bushes.