In order to care for roses, you'll want to know a little bit about them first. With its classic beauty and intoxicating fragrance, the rose has graced our presence since time immemorial. Roses make appearances at festive celebrations and solemn occasions, in urban penthouse gardens and on stage after riveting performances. The cultivation of roses is easy with a little know-how. Of special importance is choosing the right species for your climate and determining the correct planting season, location and technique. You'll also want to understand your roses' watering and pruning needs, as well as pest and disease control, and proper winterization.
The hybrid tea rose, floribunda and grandiflora varieties are all popular, modern roses. These include miniature roses, hybrid musks, shrubs, polyanthus and climbers. They flower throughout the growing season, have distinct shapes and come in a rainbow of colors. All-America Rose Selections at rose.org lists the easiest roses to grow by U.S. region.
Planting season varies by region. In the Pacific Northwest, bare root roses appear in nurseries around President’s Day. Floridians plant in November and December. In California and other warm climates, January and February are recommended. March is safe for the upper South, and in the far northern regions of the country, gardeners hit the nurseries in April or early May. Plants are available as bare roots or in pots.
Where and How to Plant
Choose a site with at least six hours of sun during the summer months. Full sun is ideal; afternoon shade is acceptable. Find a spot that doesn’t compete with the roots of other vegetation. Gentle breezes help prevent disease, but severe winds can damage roses. Soil with good drainage is necessary. If in doubt, fill an 18-inch hole with water and return in a few hours. If the water is gone, you’ve found your spot. Mix the soil with organic matter while planting, and mulch around the base of the newly planted rose bush to discourage parched soil.
There is only one rule when watering roses: Don’t let them dry out. Wilting is the telltale sign of water deprivation. Though roses usually recover if they haven’t been thirsty for long, prevention is best. Check the soil regularly.
All-America Rose Selections recommends pruning established roses in late winter or early spring, after the last hard frost. Use thorn-proof gloves, a bypass hand sheer for foliage and the longer bypass lopper for canes. Remove suckers, canes that are less than a pencil size in width, canes that rub or cross one another and weak interior shoots. Create a vase-like shape. Deadhead spent roses throughout the season to promote new growth. Prune above an eye head with five leaves.
Pest and Disease Control
Black spot, powdery mildew, aphids, beetles…these are the bane of a rose gardener’s existence. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Garden supply centers sell many rose care products. Apply them regularly without fail. Remove diseased leaves from the area immediately. A good spray of water every morning does wonders to help prevent disease and get rid of bugs.
In harsh areas, pile six to twelve inches of dirt and mulch around the base of your bushes before the first hard freeze to protect the roots and crown. Remove carefully when all signs of frost are over.