rose plant problems - Knowledgebase Question

Dennis, MA (Zone 6A)
Question by erhmason
June 21, 2007
Hello and thanks for your help in advance:
My question is about 5 rose bushes that I have. They are all planted in a 5 X 12 area. Two have died, one is not so great but still alive, while the others have remained strong. The soil that they are planted in drains well and is ammended with compost. Any ideas to help future plantings and what I can do to help the semi alive one survive?
Thanks again,

Answer from NGA
June 21, 2007


Unfortunately, based on your description I am not certain what happened to your roses. Roses need full sun all day or for a bare minimum of half a day to stay healthy, so if the area has some shade that might be part of the problem.

Roses do need a well drained soil, but they also need adequate soil moisture. Ideally, it would be evenly moist like wrung out sponge, not sopping wet and not dried out. It should not flood in rainstorms or in the spring snowmelt. In times of dry weather, you would water slowly and thoroughly so it soaks down to the deeper roots. If you are using a watering system, dig down after watering to see how far the water is soaking in and to make sure the system is functioning as expected.

If you have a heavy clay based soil, you may need to try slightly raised beds to provide adequate drainage. Also, make sure to leave the sides of the hole rough rather than smooth, otherwise it will seem like a container when the roots grow to the edge of the hole. Compost is a good soil amendment, but avoid overamending the soil to where the soil in the hole is drastically different from the surrounding soil. For a rose, dig a very large and wide hole to accommodate its large root system.

Depending on what kind of rose you are planting, your planting area may be a bit small for so many roses. Many roses spread more than three feet across when well grown, and they need space between them for air flow and for the sun to reach all parts of the plant.

Depending on what kind of roses you are planting, winter hardiness might be an issue. Your zip code places you in zone 6A or the colder part of zone 6. Depending on the microclimate, it might be as cold as zone 5. Many hybrid tea roses need special winter protection in an area that cold.

Any damage to the graft will weaken a rose and can cause it to die. Poor planting as in planting with encircling roots left intact or planting too shallow (in your area a grafted rose should be set with the graft deep under the soil line) or planting a poor quality plant can lead to failure. Bare root plants must be planted early in the season while the weather is still very cool so they can wake up naturally with the weather; they should be in good condition at planting (and still be dormant.)

Without knowing what happened to the roses to cause them to die it is difficult to make suggestions, but I hope this helps you begin to trouble shoot.

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