The Q&A Archives: Fertilizing Roses

Question: I understand that roses need lots of fertilizer, but I have no idea what to use, how much, how often. What do you recommend?

Answer: You're certainly right about how confusing the subject can be. But there are so many different kinds of fertilizers, different kinds of roses, and different kinds of gardeners. Start with this last point, the different kinds of gardeners: Most important is to find a product(s) that works for you, your schedule, and your habits. Your region is important too: Roses growing ten months of the year in the south or west will need more fertilizer than roses that only grow for three or four months in the north.

Controlled-release fertilizers are the simplest to use. One or two applications and you're set for the season. Organic fertilizers, such as an equal mix of alfalfa and cottonseed meals, are popular. Apply 10 cups of this mix around the base of each plant every 10 weeks, then cover it with mulch or compost. Many other organic fertilizers are available. Liquid-soluble fertilizers that dissolve in water are fast-acting but require the most frequent applications, sometimes as often as weekly.
Whatever product you ultimately select, always apply fertilizer to moist but not soggy soil, and water after application. Start fertilizing in early spring about four weeks before spring growth begins. In cold winter regions, stop fertilizing in late summer.

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