Roses have a reputation, not only as favorite flowers of many, but as high-maintenance perennials that require a lot of attention and care. However, they don’t have to be seen as a beautiful burden. As long as they are planted and cared for correctly, these versatile beauties can be enjoyed with less effort than you think.
Step 1: Know Your Rose
Do some research to determine which rose type will work best for your needs. Vertical interest can be created with fragrant climbing roses, and accented with miniature roses along borders. Potted roses are great for patios and apartment balconies, or even tabletops. A rose collection adds fragrance to your garden and an abundance of blooms for bouquets. The rose types below offer all the beauty without much fuss:
- Hybrid Teas - By far the most popular, these roses have large, fragrant flowers on long stems ideal for cutting. The tall, upright bush forms qualify them as ideal specimens or accents. They also work well in group plantings. Protect them in regions where winters are severe.
- Floribundas - Carefree, colorful plants that bloom from spring through the fall. Low and bushy, they're naturally disease-resistant and considered the mainstays of the landscape. Use them in shrub borders, mixed perennial beds or in containers.
- Grandifloras - A hardy cross between hybrid teas and floribundas, these plants make excellent tall screens and provide an abundance of cut flowers. Some types bear one bloom per stem, others produce clusters.
- Climbing Roses - Cover a fence, trellis or arbor by anchoring the graceful, long canes of these hardy selections. They'll grow to 20' and longer, perfect for framing an entry, accenting a pillar or wall, or even covering a slope.
- Shrub Roses - From low-growing groundcovers to hedge-type shrubs, these hardy roses offer low-maintenance, long-lasting beauty in a variety of landscape settings.
- Patio Tree Roses - Perfect accents for small spaces, these roses provide extravagant color and an almost endless variety of uses. Try one as an accent for an entry, patio or landscape. Use several to line a walkway, drive or bed.
- Miniatures - Upright, climbing and trailing forms that mimic their bigger cousins. Miniatures are fun and easy to grow. You can even use them indoors in a bright window. Outdoors, plant them in containers or in groups in the garden. Stagger them in rows for a soft, rounded effect.
Step 2: Select a Site
Roses need their own space without competition from trees, shrubs or other permanent plants. Choose a well-drained location that gets six to eight hours of sun daily. A southern exposure that receives morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal. The site also should have good air circulation and provide some winter wind protection. Be sure you will have enough room for adequate spacing between plants. Hybrid teas require 3' to 5' between plants. Grandifloras need 2' to 4'; Floribundas need 2' to 3'; shrub roses require 4' to 8'; Patio trees need 2' to 3' and miniatures need 6" to 12".
Step 3: Prepare the Soil
Consult an expert at your local True Value hardware store store for advice about the soil pH needs for the specific type of rose you wish to plant. Generally, roses prefer a soil pH range of 5.5 to 7.0. Use a soil pH testing kit to determine how acidic or basic your soil is. If needed, add rose fertilizer to the soil, following the fertilizer instructions carefully. Then retest the soil to check that the new pH level is suitable.
When starting, prepare by removing soil from an area 18" to 24" wide and 24" deep for each rose plant, using a small shovel or spade. Add compost or peat moss to the soil you've removed. Add a little bit of sand if the soil is extremely moist.
Step 4: Plant
Roses are available as container-grown or bare-root plants. Although most are properly pruned and ready for planting, you may need to prune their tops, leaving 8" to 12". Remove any dead or damaged wood and examine the roots carefully after the plant is placed in the hole. Trim back dead or broken roots with a hand pruner. If necessary, clip root tips back about ½" to 1" to promote rapid growth. Use topsoil to form a cone in the bottom of the hole where the rose bush is to be planted. Set the rose bush into the hole. Spread the rose roots evenly over the cone of soil. Make sure the hole is large enough to provide adequate room for all rose roots. Most healthy rose bushes have three strong shoots coming up from the root system. Cover the knot just below these three shoots to a depth of 1". Pack the soil firmly around the roots. Fill the hole with water and allow it to soak in. Then refill the hole with water again. After planting, build a protective mound of earth around stems to prevent damage from cold and wind.
When planting in groups or large masses, use an odd number of plants such as 3, 5 or 7. If planting in rows, stagger bushes to give a softer effect.
After planting, prune hybrid tea roses back to lengths of about 6" to 8". Trim floribundas to lengths of approximately 4" to 6".
Apply organic fertilizer and water when the rose bushes have been planted. Apply again in two weeks. This will increase root hairs and reduce transplant shock. Once growth begins, remove the protective mound around plants and feed them monthly with either an organic fertilizer, such as composted manure, or a general-purpose rose food.
After the first feeding, apply a 3" to 6" layer of organic mulch. This will help retain moisture, moderate soil temperature, prevent weeds and add organic matter to the soil. As winter approaches, add more mulch, mounding some around the base of the plant to protect the bud union.
Newly planted roses must be watered frequently during their first three to four weeks. Water whenever the top 2" of soil is dry. Once established, soak the planting area every seven to 10 days during dry spells. Keep water off the leaves by using a bubbler or soaker system, and always water in the morning, as watering at night creates moist conditions that promote the spread of disease.
Step 5: Maintain Your Roses
Watering is the most important factor in growing bright, large, long-lasting buds. Like any other garden, roses need about 1" of water per week. A single, deep watering will promote root growth and make your rose bush stronger. If it is very hot or windy, or if your soil has a sandy texture, you might need to water a little more than 1" per week.
It is important to feed your roses three times a year with prepared rose food or a fertilizer with a 5:10:5 (Nitrogen: Phosphorus: Potassium) ratio. It is best to feed your roses just after pruning, after the first bloom and two months before the first frost. Don’t feed newly planted roses until a substantial amount of growth is evident.
Remember to mulch. It enriches the soil as it decomposes and gives your flowerbed a better appearance.
If you live in an area where temperatures drop below freezing, ask a True Value hardware store expert what type of protection is recommended for roses in your climate.
For the best results, roses should be pruned with pruning shrears in late winter or early spring . A well-pruned rose bush will result in a healthy and well-shaped plant.
Weeds take water and nutrients from your roses, and are a breeding ground for insects and disease. Use a pre-emergent herbicide in spring to kill weeds, and a rose spray or dust to keep the pests away.
Great work! Your rose garden is on its way to becoming a beautiful addition to your outdoors.
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