|By any other name, a rose would smell just as sweet, and be just as tricky to grow. Depending on where you live, climactic conditions can make over-wintering very difficult, and hot summers can destroy what does manage to survive the cold. So before you leap happily into the thorny issue of growing roses, stop and make sure you are well prepared to plant, care for, and provide year-round shelter to your garden beauties.
The hybrid tea rose is the most familiar rose bush to most homeowners. These are the ones that grow on tall bushes, with long stems, and a single, delicately shaped blossom at the end. A single branch may produce three blossoms, or some people will nip off all but one bud, to produce a superb specimen. Other common roses for the home garden, are the rugosa, a multi-petaled large bush flower, and the floribunda rose, which is the type seen on trellises and fences, as they like to climb.
For pretty much all roses, the soil preparation is the same. They like an average PH of around 6.7, in a bedding that is well mulched with organic material to help maintain moisture, and provide drainage. If your earth seems very dense, work in plenty of compost and peat moss prior to bringing home your roses.
Pay attention to the specifications for spacing, and size on the tags, or in what you have read in gardening books. Where the tea rose may grow up, other varieties will grow out, and crowding together, means that leaves overlap, and provide a breeding ground for powdery mildew. Pruning at the appropriate times will take care of some of the wilder growth, but you still need to give them room to spread, naturally.
The rose bed should be located where the bushes can get six hours of sun daily. Morning sun is preferable, because afternoon is hotter, and causes heat stress to the plants. Watering at any time is important, but especially so during heat waves. Deep watering, that is water that reaches down into the roots, is essential to a healthy, well-rooted rose bush. Surface watering causes the roots to move upwards, seeking moisture. Not only does this mean they can be uprooted easily, but they are prone to winterkill, as the frost reaches into the top layers of soil. Roses like a good drink, but don’t drown them. Water well from the bottom, twice a week in hot weather, and at least once a week at other times. Do not water from above, as leaving wet leaves can allow diseases to take hold. The best time to water is early evening. If done too late, the water remains on the plant long enough that it can develop mildew before the sun dries it off the next day.
Roses also need fertilizing to encourage lush growth of the leaves and plant, and then a good crop of blooms. In the early Spring, use a fertilizer formula that is higher in nitrogen, which promotes vegetation growth. When the first bud appears, switch to one that is higher in phosphorous, which encourages more blooms. Fertilize every 2-3 weeks over the growing season, and then revert to a nitrogen rich fertilizer in fall, to build up the plant before winter.
Removing wilted and dying blossoms, will preserve the nourishment in the plant for buds that haven’t opened yet. If allowed to simply bloom and die, the flower will develop a “hip”, or nodule at the end of the branch, which leaches goodness out of the stalk. Cutting spent flowers is called dead-heading, a practice which should be tapered off towards the end of summer, allowing hips to develop while the canes harden in preparation for winter.
Keep your rose bushes healthy by judicious pruning. This would include small, weakly “suckers” or shoots growing out of the base, and any branches on the inside of the bush, which are especially crowded. Opening up the bush this way, allows more air circulation, and a healthier growth of the main stalks. Be careful to check resources on the type of roses you have. Some varieties will bloom all season, while some have a single blooming period. These rose bushes should not be pruned in Spring.
If you live in a cold climate, check with your local nursery on the best methods of mulching and protecting roses for your area. When starting a rose garden, remember what weather conditions you’ll have to deal with, and don’t doom your efforts by planting delicate varieties that may not survive harsh climates.