The Q&A Archives: non blooming carefree wonder

Question: I have a Carefree Wonder Shrub rose which I have moved several times. Its been in the new location 3 years and not one bloom! This also happened across the yard at its old location for 4 years and would only bloom a little on the back side. It gets sun almost all day, I haven't had the soil tested but should. Is there any reason this would happen since it is grown on its own root stock and grows to a 3 ft plant every year? I gave it rose fertizer so I don't think it had too much nitrogen. The plant it about 15 to 18 years old. I've also tried trimming all the old canes out to rejuvenate it but still nothing! One more year of probation and its a goner. Any suggestions might save its life! Thanks, Sandy

Answer: This award winning shrub rose is usually a prolific bloomer so this is somewhat unusual although I suspect it may be related to the plant's age; a rule of thumb is to expect a rose to do well for up to about ten years. Looking at your history of the plant it would seem the problems began at roughly age 8 to 11 or so. However, I personally hate to give up on a plant. You might try babying it a bit this winter, applying a deep mulch over the base of the canes in late fall to try to insulate the crown or possibly even cover the crown with a cone of soil as one might do for a hybrid tea. You might also give it a wind break of some kind such as a section of picket fence or a bit of burlap. In the spring, gradually remove the winter protection and fertilize with a general purpose fertilizer such as 10-10-10 in a granular, slow release form along with a top dressing of good quality compost. I would also try a bit of epsom salts, say a half a cup sprinkled over the root area now and again in the early spring. Next spring, trim out any winter damaged canes as well as thin out the older canes to remove about a third of the oldest growth. This should help open the center of the plant to air and sun as well as encourage vigorous new growth from the base. Another thing to do is check the pH of the soil, roses tolerate a wide range but prefer it in the neighborhood of about 6.5. Your local county extension should be able to help you with the testing as well as interpreting the results with an eye on growing roses. If by chance the pH is extremely acidic, this might explain much of the problem. Finally, make sure the plant is in a spot where the soil is well drained, especially if you have clay based soil. I hope this helps you trouble shoot.

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