The Q&A Archives: Roses

Question: What is the best way to grow roses and to make them look nice?

Answer: Here's what roses need: sun, free circulation of air around leaves, and porous, well-drained, fertile, acidic soil (pH 5.5 is best).

Plant roses in fall or spring in soil rich in organic matter. Allow 2-3' between rose bushes, other plants and buildings, as roses planted where air can't move freely about them are subject to diseases, such as mildew and black spot. Dig a hole large enough to fit the roots comfortably, and build a soil cone over which to spread the roots. The bud union the trunk should be at ground level, allowing for settling of the plant into the soil. Don't use strong fertlizer at planting time as it can burn roots; instead, use gentle, slow release fertilizers such as bone and blood meal mixed with the backfill from the hole. Water roses at planting and about once per week while the plant settles in. When the rose is established, water once per week during dry spells. Mulch is extremely helpful at retaining moisture. Water the soil under the bushes, and avoid splashing leaves, which can invite disease.

"Deadheading" (cutting off spent flowers) is important to keep plants healthy and blooming. It's helpful to leave the last of the flowers to form hips, which helps the bushes harden off in preparation for winter. For winter protection, wait til after a few deep frosts to mound soil up about 12" high over the graft union. Binding the plant with twine (in a spiral fasion) will make it easier to mound soil, and also provides some extra support if your garden gets windy in the winter.

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