The Q&A Archives: rose bushes

Question: How do I care for rose bushes?

Answer: If you are new to roses, it would be a good idea to become vaguely familiar with the many different types:

Hybrid Teas: This is the flower that everyone pictures when we think about what a rose should look like. The classic spiral centre and individual long stem make this the most popular of the rose classes. The modern hybrid tea can be an excellent garden plant, as breeders are concentrating on improving disease resistance and overall garden performance. Many people believe that fragrance has been bred out of the modern rose, but there are many excellent tea roses with strong perfumes and more being introduced each year. Rose breeders realize that people still want fragrance in their gardens. Hybrid Teas are great for the formal garden, but should not be limited to this use. If you don't want be bothered with fussing about roses, be sure to seek the advice of an experienced rose grower who can advise you on the healthy and hardy varieties for your climate.

Climbing Roses: The modern climber is usually a repeat bloomer and grows around 10 to 12 feet tall or wide. There are so many different types available that it's hard to describe them in one paragraph. Let me just say that they are the anchor plants of my garden and definitley the favorite plants of visitors.

Floribundas: Commonly called cluster flowered roses. These come in many shapes and colours. Like the Hybrid Teas, many varieties have excellent perfume, combined with unmatched flower power. Bloom shape can be ruffled and informal or high centred like the HTs. Floribundas are generally considered to be excellent landscape plants, providing bloom from June to Hard Frost. Most varieties grow from 2 to 4 feet tall, but there are a few large ones in this class, ( the Americans call the big ones Grandifloras). Several modern varieties are capable of having over 50 blooms at the same time, with only a short rest in between the repeat cycle. If you're looking for roses that are well mannered and provide armloads of cut flowers, try planting a few floribundas.

Now that you're familiar with the various types of roses, lets get on with the best kept secret, how to grow roses.

Site and exposure requirements depend on the type of rose. Usually 5 to 6 hours of sun is preferred for most roses but there are a few shrubs, climbers and Rugosa types that will grow in more shaded situations. If you must choose between morning or afternoon sunshine, take the earlier option. Early morning sun will dry off the leaves, helping to prevent mildew and blackspot. Roses will tolerate a windy exposed site provided that hardy varieties are chosen or a winter mulch is applied to protect from harsh winter conditions.

Step By Step Planting

1. Dig an appropriate sized hole for the root ball, loosening surrounding soil. Usually a 2ft by 2ft hole for large roses and a 1 foot hole for minis.

2. Add some compost or well rotted manure to the hole plus a handful of bone meal. Mix gently and taste (just kidding). Spread the roots over this mixture positioning the crown at the soil level or slightly below, and refill around the roots with more of your good mixture. Firm the plant and water well. Water is really the secret in helping a rose or any plant get off to a good start in life. Remember to water a new plant often, especially if the weather turns hot.


This is the really easy part of rose growing. The first and most important type of rose food is plain old water. A rose that is well watered throughout the summer will grow far better than one that's treated to loads of chemical rose foods but little water. I use organic fertilizer outside with great success. Seakelp is excellent as are fish fertilizers and Canola meal. Many people like the all purpose rose foods available in most garden centres. Try not to get to hung up on stuffing your rose plant full of rose foods, and apply only a small handful about every six weeks if you remember. Fertilizer should not be applied after July 15 , as the plants need to use up what's in the soil and 'harden up' for winter. If all of this sounds too confusing, just throw a handful down before and after the first bloom, and your sure to get pretty roses.

Pests & Diseases

The old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" certainly holds true here. Planting a rose in good soil with plenty of sunshine and air circulation is your first and most important defense against insect and disease problems. Mildew and Blackspot are the two most troublesome problems but with a little effort can be easily controlled. If you don't want to spray fungicides at all, then be sure to plant disease- free roses like the Rugosas or one of the healthiest of the others. Strip off all the leaves before your rose begins to regrow in the spring and watch for any sign of trouble.

Most home gardeners can grow great roses without the use of insecticides. Aphids are easily washed off a plant or are soon eaten up by beneficial insects in a healthy garden. Other insects can be picked off or given the hose treatment. Spider mites are a real problem for people who spray often, but seldom bother the organic garden. When it comes to insects and disease, roses are truly highly over- rated, as many other types of plants from tomatoes to carrots have their troubles but we seem to demand perfection from our roses. Try not to be to concerned about the odd spoiled leaf but take reasonable precautions against bad outbreaks.

Hope this answers all your questions!

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