The Q&A Archives: Groundcover Roses Are Not So "easy"

Question: Being a beginning gardener, I purchased 9 groundcover rose plants because they are supposed to be the "easy-care" rose and planted them this past spring 5 ft apart as instructed by my nursery. They were full of blooms at that time, however now I have already lost 2 plants and the blooms are few on the rest of them. I water them often and they are in a sunny area. Any suggestions about what I could be doing wrong? Also, what should I do this winter with these plants?

Thank you for your help.

Answer: In general, the ground cover roses are easy to grow particularly compared to notoriously fussy roses such as the hybrid teas.

First of all, all roses do best in a sunny location where the soil is evenly moist yet well drained, meaning not soggy.

Your best bet to good results is good soil preparation prior to planting. Ideally you would run some soil tests and then add amendments such as lime or fertilizer as indicated by the results. You would also add a generous amount of organic matter such as compost and, if you have heavy clay soil, possibly a small amount of sand. These would help improve the soil structure.

When planting, the roses should be set at the same level as they grew before. Any encircling roots should be loosened or severed and directed to grow in an outward direction. The plant should be watered deeply to settle any air pockets and then mulched. The best mulches are organic because they will rot down over time and continue to feed the soil. Use several inches of mulch over the root zone but do not allow it to touch the stems.

Watering from then on should be done as needed to keep the soil evenly moist. It is best to water by giving a deep soaking (dig down and see how deep it penetrates, you may be surprised!) less often rather than a daily light sprinkling. Check the top inch or so of soil to see if you need to water again. The soil should be kept moist this way up until it freezes for the winter.

Most of the roses sold as groundcover roses should do fine over the winter without any special protective measures beyond maintaining several inches of mulch over the root zone. In spring, if there are any canes that have died back or if the plants are untidy, trim them back as needed.

Over the years, the roses will perform best if provided supplemental water in times of drought. A regular fertilization program and applications of compost would also be beneficial. Follow the package label instructions.

You might want to consult with your local county extension for help with the soil testing and possibly to check and make sure your plants have not had a pest or disease problem this season. I hope this helps you trouble shoot.

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