Miss Kirby's KommonSenseTips for
Caring for Roses
Roses are for your enjoyment year round, not only on Valentine’s Day and other special occasions. All that roses need to be happy and thrive is plenty of food, light and water.
Since roses like a lower pH soil and lots of iron, our Walpole Wonder (WW) high minor-element fertilizer is perfect for them. It continually amends the soil pH downward with sulfur and contains lots of iron. The suggested maintenance feeding for roses in the ground is 1 cup every month for each 2 square feet of heavily foliated plant. Roses bloom a lot, so they need a lot of food. Add ?how much? bone meal every 3 months. If they and if they become chlorotic (yellow leaves) during the summer, use Ironite; if in the winter, use Muracid. for potted roses, reduce the feeding rate.
Roses prefer full sun all day long, but will perform quite nicely on 6 hours of sun per day. Morning sun is best, but they will do quite well with afternoon sun, too.
Keep the root-ball moderately moist. Water daily in the summer (sometimes twice daily) and every other day during the winter, unless it’s hot, then daily. Make certain that no mulch or soil touches the stem. This will allow your rose to perform beautifully 10 months out of the year. Be prepared for an unhappy rose bush during the months of August and September. They don’t like the heat, humidity and long days. But don’t worry; just keep feeding, watering and cut them back. When it cools down in October, they will be happy campers again.
If your roses get mites, use Orthenex every 3 days, 3 times. Prevent mites by spraying a fairly forceful water stream under and on top of the leaves. If they get fungus, use Funginex or Dithane PTR. I don’t worry about black spot, I just cut the diseased parts off and if it’s time for their granular WW, I feed them. If it’s not time for granular WW, I give them a dose of Dyna-Grow liquid fertilizer. An occasional shot of insecticidal rose food also helps.
Hard cut-back pruning, three to five times a year is necessary for the rose bush to be put into a false state of dormancy. Blooming takes lots of energy and they need their little naps. Up North roses go into their normal state of dormancy during the winter months; down here they grow and bloom 12 months out of the year. By hard cutting your rose bush, the stem that the bloom is produced on is thicker and you will get larger flowers. Prune with a bypass pruning shear, just above a leaf node, in the same direction that the leaf comes off the stem (that’s the direction of growth). Remove all dead wood back to good healthy growth and don’t let your rose bush get too thick/dense (they like air movement which keeps the fungus down).
Planting your Rose Bush
Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Mix in organic material (potting soil, cow or sheep manure, sphagnum moss, etc.). The amended soil allows more of the fertilizer to be used by the plant. Loose soil is easier for new roots to push through. Use the extra soil or sand from the hole to build a water ring around the outer perimeter of the new bed.
Before you plant, it is absolutely imperative that you find the top of the root system of your rose bush. Sometimes during the growing process they will sink into the potting soil, and if there is any wet /moist soil or mulch touching their stems, they will rot when the summer rains begin. If you cannot see the top of the root system, remove the soil until you can.
Take your plant, pot and all, and firmly place it in the hole. This prevents damaging the root system while confirming the size and depth of the hole; it also compacts the soil in the hole. Remember to allow the top 10% of the root system to be above the soil level. This allows enough room for your mulch NOT to touch the stem of the plant. Remove your plant from the grow pot, place it in the hole, and while the water is gently coming out of the hose, back-fill with the mixed soil or sand. This prevents air pockets and ensures that the root ball and surrounding ground is thoroughly soaked.
Now we’ll give your new rose bush its first meal. Wherever it puts new roots, it will find the nutrition and encouragement to grow into its new home. Mix half-and-half our Root Ball Special (RBS) 4-24-4 and our Walpole Wonder (WW) 9-9-9 or 10-10-10, and add 1/3 cup of bone meal. Fertilize a ring 6 inches wide, from the outside edge of the existing root ball, all the way around. Do this evenly, like peppering eggs, at about 1/2 cup per 3 gallon plant. Click here for Miss Kirby’s Fertilizer Guide for everything you want to know about fertilizer but were afraid to ask.
Top-dress with shredded, non-floating Cypress mulch, 3 inches deep, to the level of the top of the root system. Don’t let the mulch touch the stem, or the stem will rot when wet. Start your mulch level with the top of the root-system and gradually build it up to increase the depth of your water ring. Roses love moist soil and hate anything on the stem. Pat the mulch to set it, and water with a breaker on the hose so it won’t disturb the mulch ring. Now the roots of the plant are covered and the stem has plenty of air circulation. Mulch keeps the soil evenly moist and protects the plant roots from heat, dryness and weed whacker damage. With high quality non-floating thatching Cypress mulch, you'll only mulch about once a year and it will keep the weeds down (pre-emergent herbicide helps). Weeds that do come up are easy to pull.
During the first three weeks, water deeply every day, 1 to 2 feet past the edge of the mulched area. Water according to soil and weather conditions. Mist during the early afternoon if your rose bush wilts. Check to see if the water is wetting the soil below the root-ball: take a shovel or trowel straight down into the ground, wiggle it, pull it out and feel the attached soil to make certain it’s wet below the existing root ball.
Once new growth shows, the plant has settled into its new home. Water every other day during the cool months and every day when it’s hot or windy, unless it rains. When it rains, turn off the irrigation – it is possible to water too much. Correct watering is very important.