The Q&A Archives: rose bush won't bloom

Question: I have two rose bushes on the east side of our home, one blooms every year, two times. The other has nice green foilage but never any roses. What can I do to produce roses on this bush?

Answer: Roses need two things for blooms: sun and nutrients. Are your plants receiving at least 6-8 hours of sun daily? Since the plants seem healthy otherwise, I suspect they might be missing essential nutrients. Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are the 3 major nutrients for all plants. (They correspond to the 3 numbers on fertilizer packages.) Nitrogen promotes growth of green leaves. It sounds like your plants are getting plenty of that. Phosphorous is essential for blooms. Roses are heavy "feeders" during their bloom period. I suggest you apply a rose fertilizer. The second and third numbers on the package should be higher than the first. Or, roses benefit from applications of greensand, which contains potassium, and bone meal, which contains phosphorus. Both of these nutrients are important for flowering. The thing to avoid is feeding them with high-nitrogen fertilizer that will encourage foliage growth at the expense of flowers. Keep them consistently moist and mulch with 2-3 inches of compost to help maintain soil moisture. Rosarians I know fertilize their roses every 6 weeks during the blooming season. One other possibility is that the rose died above the graft and the rootstocks are growing. I think this is unlikely in your case, but I'll cover it for your information. Most tea roses are grafted onto a hardier rootstock. If the grafted variety succumbs to cold or disease, the rootstock often sends up shoots. You may be able to see if this is the case, depending on how deeply you buried the graft union when you planted the roses. Dig around the base of the plants and look for the bulging graft unions. If the shoots are growing from below the graft union, the rootstocks have taken over and it's time for you to replace the rose. If the shoots come from above the graft unions, your rose is fine, it just needs a sunnier spot or more nutrients. Good luck!

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