Roses are without a doubt one of the most-loved flowers all around the world. Roses have been honored in song lyrics and literature for centuries, they are seen as a symbol of love, and cut roses are often given as gifts. But all too often, gardeners resist planting roses in their gardens because rose growing is erroneously considered to be too challenging. Fortunately, rose growing doesn’t have to be a daunting task.
There are several types of rose plants to choose from, and each type is available in a variety of colors. This diversity makes it possible for virtually any gardener to find room for at least one rose plant in their garden. Even if you live in an apartment and have no room for a traditional hybrid tea or Floribunda rose, growing a mini rose plant is still an option.
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Most often when we think about roses, it is the hybrid tea rose that comes to mind. Hybrid tea roses have the classic rose flower shape with petals that spiral around the center, producing one beautiful blossom on each long stem. Hybrid tea roses can often be seen in formal rose gardens, but they also make fine specimens for rose growing in a backyard garden. Although some hybrid tea roses have been bred mainly for their color at the expense of fragrance, more varieties are being introduced that retain their lovely rose scent.
Floribunda roses are an excellent choice for the gardener who loves to have plenty of blossoms available for cut flowers. Floribunda roses are sometimes also called cluster flowered roses, earning this name because of their abundant blooms. Some varieties can have as many as fifty heavily scented blossoms on the plant at the same time. Floribundas keep on blooming throughout the season, from June up until the first hard freeze of the winter.
Grandiflora roses are similar to Floribunda roses, although the Grandiflora plants tend to be a bit larger, growing up to six feet tall. Grandifloras are the result of crossing a Floribunda rose with a hybrid tea rose. Grandifloras, like Floribundas, bloom repeatedly throughout the season, producing clusters of roses on stems that are not quite as long as stems on a hybrid tea rose. If you enjoy the classic shape of tea rose blossoms and wish to have abundant flowers for a long season, you may want a Floribunda or Grandiflora rose growing in your landscape.
Shrub roses are a good choice for the gardener who wants lots of flowers from a hardy plant that requires minimal care. The growth habit of shrub roses vary from types that grow into large hedges, while others are low-growing and sprawling landscape roses. Shrub roses generally require very little pruning to maintain their compact shape.
Rugosa roses are a type of shrub rose that is exceptionally hardy and resistant to disease. If you’ve seen a rather large rose growing on an ocean beach, chances are it was a Rugosa rose. Rugosa roses, sometimes referred to as Sea Roses, produce fairly large single blossoms on sturdy, thorny stems. The large red rose hips produced after the flowers fade can be used to make tea or jellies and they are quite high in Vitamin C. Rugosa roses are native to China and will grow in a variety of climates, although they grow best in light, sandy soil. Rugosa roses are drought tolerant and winter hardy even in areas where temperatures dip well below zero. Rugosa roses are also salt tolerant, making these plants a good choice for planting on a beach or roadside. Rugosa roses need very little pruning other than occasional removal of older stems. The plant’s habit of forming colonies from underground runners makes it valuable for erosion control.
Climbing roses are breathtaking as they cover a trellis or drape over an otherwise unsightly fence. You may even see a climbing rose growing amongst the branches of a tree, adding a bright splash of color to the green foliage. There are many varieties of climbing roses, and most bloom repeatedly throughout the summer.
A fairly new addition to the plethora of roses available today is the mini rose. Mini roses are generally purchased as potted plants, but they are not considered to be house plants. Most mini roses grow to about a foot tall and they will bloom abundantly all season long. Mini roses are ideal for gardeners who are low on space but desire a rose growing on their patio or balcony. There are even varieties of mini climbing roses that can dress up a balcony railing.
Finally, tree roses make elegant focal points for a formal garden. Tree roses aren’t really trees. Tree roses are created by grafting a long stem to the root stock of a hardy rose, with another rose bush then grafted to the top of the long stem. Tree roses are most hardy in mild climates and require extra care to survive cold winters.
Once you have decided which type of rose you want growing in your garden, choose the best place to locate your new rose plant. Most roses need at least five to six hours of direct sun each day, although in hot climates they will appreciate some light shade in the afternoon. Climbing roses, Rugosa roses and some shrub roses will tolerate a bit more shade than others. It is best to locate roses in a spot where the morning sun will dry their leaves as this will help avoid blackspot, mildew and other fungal diseases. A rose growing in a windy area will have a better chance of survival if it is located in a protected spot. If it isn’t possible to plant your roses where they would be sheltered by a wall or building, be sure to give them extra winter protection.
The best time to plant newly-purchased roses is in the early spring or in the fall. If an established rose plant needs to be relocated, transplanting is best done while the plant is dormant, either in the fall or early spring. If several roses are going to be planted in a group or row, they should be planted two to three feet apart.
Proper planting will give a new rose plant a good start. Begin by digging a hole for the plant that is about eighteen inches wide and deep. Next, add some compost to the hole along with a good handful of bone meal and mix them together a bit. Then spread the roots of the rose plant over the mixture. If you live in a cold climate, make sure that the bud union is about an inch below ground level. In warmer climates, the bud union should be at or slightly above ground level. The bud union is the knobby part of the stem where the rose plant was grafted onto the rootstock.
Refill the hole, making sure there are no air pockets within the soil. Give the plant a good drink to help it settle in to its new home by filling the hole with water and allowing it to soak in. Finally, mound about six inches of soil over the plant. This will protect the canes and prevent them from drying out while the plant becomes established. Once the leaves begin to sprout, the mounded soil may be removed. Mulch may then be added to help retain moisture in the soil for the new rose growing in your garden.
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Keep your rose growing happy and healthy with regular feeding. Apply a general-purpose fertilizer or a fertilizer specifically for roses when the plant first leafs out in the spring. Additional fertilizer may be applied after each flush of blooms is produced by the plant. Avoid fertilizing roses for two months prior to the first fall frost. Fertilizing too late in the season can promote tender new growth that would be susceptible to damage by freezing temperatures.
An ample supply of water is more important to the growth of a rose plant than any fertilizer. Add water slowly to the soil around your rose plants until the soil is soaked twelve to eighteen inches deep. Be careful to water the soil and not the foliage. Water and wet soil splashed onto the leaves can help promote plant diseases.
Careful pruning of rose plants will help to keep them beautiful and blooming abundantly. Pruning encourages new growth, resulting in larger plants capable of producing more flowers.
If a rose plant has been growing wild and unpruned for some time and it needs a heavy pruning to get it back into shape, the best time to do this would be while the plant is dormant, in late winter or very early spring. Avoid pruning during extremely cold weather to prevent shattering the canes.
When pruning for regular maintenance of the plant, prune Floribundas, Grandifloras and hybrid tea roses in early spring at about the time when the buds are beginning to swell. Climbing roses and old fashioned shrub roses bloom on wood that was produced the previous season, so they should be pruned immediately after they are done flowering for the season. Of course, the plant is effectively being pruned each time stems are clipped off for bouquets, and when faded blossoms are snipped off the plant. For the final month before the first frost is expected in the fall, avoid deadheading the spent blooms or cutting flowers for bouquets. Cutting the stems encourages new growth that is more vulnerable to winter damage, so allow the last blossoms of the season to remain on the plant. This will help ensure that your rose plants safely survive the cold dessicating winds of winter.
Always use a good pair of bypass pruners when pruning rose plants. Bypass hand shears and long-handled loppers make cleaner cuts than anvil head pruners. To avoid damage to yourself from the plants’ thorns, wear a sturdy pair of leather gloves while working with rose plants.
All dead canes should be removed from the plant, along with suckers growing from the rootstock. Dead canes will appear blackened and somewhat shriveled, while live canes will remain green even while dormant. Canes that cross each other or rub against other canes should also be removed. This will help improve air circulation and keep your rose growing without the threat of disease entering rubbed spots on the canes. Once all dead, diseased and crossed canes are removed, the remaining healthy canes can be pruned to the shape you desire for your rose plant.
As winter approaches, extra care may be necessary to ensure your rose plant will be growing just as beautifully the next season. Refrain from picking any of the blossoms for the last month prior to freezing weather, and allow the flowers to develop naturally into rose hips. Along with the shorter days and cooler temperatures in the fall, this will help signal the plant to prepare for dormancy.
In warm climates where a rose can keep growing year round without going dormant naturally, it is beneficial to allow the plant to rest and rejuvenate itself for a period of time during the coldest part of the year. To force a rose plant into a sort of dormancy in warm climates, prune the plant back quite severely and remove all of the remaining leaves. This will allow the plant to rest and gather its strength so it can prepare for another long season of gorgeous flowers.
In colder climates where roses go dormant naturally, the plant prepares itself for cold temperatures by shedding most of the sap and thickening the cell walls in the canes. Without this process, severe cold would freeze the sap and form ice crystals that would burst the cell walls.
In colder growing zones, those that are Hardiness Zones 6 and colder, all roses will need extra protection for the first winter after they are planted. After their first winter, Floribundas, Grandifloras, shrub roses and mini roses will need less pampering, but hybrid tea roses are more delicate and will always need winter protection.
It is generally not the cold itself that damages roses over winter. Instead, it is the process of repeated freezing and thawing that does the most damage, along with the drying effect of cold winter winds. The goal of winter protection for rose growing is to keep the plant consistently cold and dormant until spring arrives.
Once the plant is completely dormant, usually by late November to mid December, soil can be mounded over the base of the plant to protect the bud union. The mound of soil should cover several inches of the bottom of the canes to protect the plant from the freezing and thawing cycle. To help contain the mounded soil and keep it in place, a simple cardboard collar can be constructed around the base of the plant before the soil is added. Before mounding soil over the plant, be sure to remove all remaining foliage. If foliage is allowed to remain under the mounded soil, it would rot and could cause disease to attack the plant. The mounded soil should be removed from the rose in early spring before the plant begins growing again.
Unless winters in your area are particularly severe, rose plants can be protected with just an extra-thick layer of mulch once they have become fully established. Hybrid tea roses, however, may continue to need the extra protection provided by soil mounded over them, while hardy Rugosa roses and own-root roses may not need any winter protection at all. Own-root roses are propagated by cuttings rather than by grafting, so they don’t have a bud union that needs to be protected.
Choosing the correct rose type for your climate and gardening style and learning a few tips on rose care will allow any gardener to enjoy beautiful roses in their own garden and make the neighbors think you are a rose growing expert.