The Q&A Archives: General Rose Care

Question: Can you give me the general care of roses? I've had them for 2years and they do not look good.

Answer: In general, roses do prefer a rich diet. The soil pH should be near 6.0 in order for the rose to be able to use the nutrients. Frequency will depend to some extent on what type of roses you are growing (and what type of fertilizer you use). Repeat bloomers such as hybrid teas seem to respond better to frequent light applications, while the older varieties of shrub roses are a bit less demanding and so once a year in early spring may be enough for them. You can use granular, powdered or timed release type fertilizer or, if you have the time and patience, the foliar spray type or even a combination; nitrogen is probably the most important nutrient, along with phosphorus and potassium. Some gardeners will also add Epsom salts, about a half a cup per plant per month, to provide magnesium. However, to really know what nutrients are needed in what quantity (too much is no better than too little) you should run some basic soil tests.
Pruning roses can be confusing because different varieties require different treatments. Here are the basics: In the spring, remove the dead and damaged canes as far back as necessary. Then, remove any suckers that arise from below the graft union, if there is one (the swelling near the base of the plant). Next, select the healthiest canes (thicker and bright green) and cut off the rest. If your roses are just a couple of years old, save about 3-5 canes. Save more on older plants. Lastly, cut the flowering canes back by one-third to one-half. Make your cuts about 1/4" above an outward-facing bud.

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