Frequently Asked Questions: Roses

When to Fertilize, Watering Techniques, Sun Requirements

Some roses, such as Dr. Brownell, are tough and beautiful. Check out the Sub-Zero Roses Collection for more super-hardy beauties.

Can I grow roses in a spot that is sunny for only part of the day? For most abundant blooms and greatest vigor, roses need to receive six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. In hot climates, they will appreciate receiving protection from the most intense afternoon sun. In cool climates, a fence or a warm south- or west-facing wall can add enough extra warmth to boost flower production and reduce winter damage.

My soil is quite sandy. What do I need to do to make sure it's good for growing roses? Sandy soil usually drains well, so you've got a good start. Roses need good drainage. However, roses also like rich, moisture-retentive soil, with a pH between 6.5 and 7. So, you should add compost to create a loose texture with a high organic content. If your soil is heavy (clay) and wet, you may want to consider planting your roses in raised beds.

I've been using a sprinkler to water my roses, but my neighbor says drip irrigation is better. Is this true? The problem with overhead watering is that it can spread diseases, such as blackspot and powdery mildew. The best way to water your roses is with drip irrigation. It concentrates the water at the root zone where it is needed, and keeps the foliage dry to minimize disease problems. A good, thick layer of organic mulch will help conserve moisture, reduce weeds, and encourage healthy root growth. As the mulch breaks down, it will also add organic matter to the soil.

How often should I fertilize my roses? Roses are heavy feeders, and will benefit from a steady supply of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You can provide these nutrients with either liquid or granular fertilizers, at a ratio of approximately 5-8-5. In most cases, regular applications of compost, rotted manure, fish emulsion and seaweed extracts will provide roses with all the nutrients they need. These organic amendments also help to moderate pH imbalances and stimulate beneficial soil life. Other organic amendments favored by rose growers include greensand, black rock phosphate and alfalfa meal.

I've heard that roses have lots of pest and disease problems. Are they difficult to grow successfully? Yes, pests and diseases can be challenging. Prevention is the best way to avoid problems. Here are the key factors:

  • Choose disease-resistant varieties.
  • Keep plants in healthy condition (well-fertilized and well-watered).
  • Maintain good air circulation by pruning to keep an open framework.
  • Avoid overhead watering.
  • Remove any diseased foliage or spent flowers.
  • For persistent pest problems, you can use botanical insecticides such as sabadilla, neem, rotenone, and pyrethrins. These are broad-spectrum controls, meaning they kill many types of insects, both good and bad. Though they are organic, these controls are potent and should be used sparingly.

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