Healthy Habits: Keep Your Roses Looking Their Best

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Growing and maintaining roses during the growing season can be a manageable task. 

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Following a planned procedure, only a few minutes each week are needed to keep a rose garden of moderate size in good condition.

Feed While Still Dormant

Established roses, plants in the garden for one summer or more, should receive their most important feeding while still dormant. 

The fertilizer should be applied at least six weeks before the roses start growing to penetrate the roots and become available to the plant.

At that time, each plant should be given 1/4 of a pound or 1/2 cup of well-balanced fertilizer (one with a 7-7-7, 5-10-5, or 6- 10-4 formula). Roses planted in prepared soil the preceding fall should not be fed at this time.

When winter is over and the buds on the roses have begun to swell, remove any winter protection from the plants. 

Cut Back The Tops

Cut back the tops of hybrid tea, floribunda, and Grandiflora roses to the desired height.

If you wish to maintain tall plants, cut them lightly. Remove all injured stems from living wood, as indicated by the swelling buds. 

Clean up all leaves, cut stems and debris from the garden, and burn them as a sanitation precaution. This material may contain disease spores or insect eggs. 

If the roses were planted this spring or the preceding fall, the mound of earth placed over the stems at planting time should not be removed until new shoots have grown 1’ inch in length.

Watering The Rose Bed

During an extended dry spell, give a thorough watering each week by using a soil soaker or by placing a hose in the rose bed and permitting water to run slowly for a long period to have it penetrate deeply into the soil.

This is much more desirable than frequent light watering, which often does more harm than good. Be careful not to wet the foliage because water on the leaves encourages blackspot, a fungus disease. 

Regular Spraying or Dusting

Begin regular weekly spraying or dusting as soon as new leaves have formed and continue throughout the growing season.

A good multi-purpose rose spray or dust produced by a reliable company containing a fungicide to control blackspots and mildew and an insecticide to control rose insects should be sufficient for normal conditions.

However, when applying a spray, if the material does not contain a spreader sticker, add one to diffuse the spray evenly over the foliage. Thorough spraying or dusting means covering all parts of the plant —under and over the foliage.

Preventing Rose Pests

Remember that preventing rose pests is more to be desired than controlling them after they are visible. 

Six to eight weeks are required from the time blackspot spores infect a plant until you see the effects of the disease.

It is folly, therefore, to wait until you see a black spot or any other rose pest before spraying. Start when the leaves form, spray or dust regularly each week, and you can have pest-free roses. 

Rose beds properly prepared need little feeding during the first growing season, but light feedings of soluble fertilizer by the manufacturer’s recommendation are beneficial and permissible.

Established roses can utilize more fertilizer. After the first blooming period, the second feeding of two to three ounces of fertilizer per plant will carry them over the rest of the summer. Feeding with anything but soluble fertilizer is not advisable after July 1st.

Create Healthy Roses

When we maintain a rather constant and relatively high level of fertility and moisture in the soil, the plants will utilize it to the fullest degree and will still harden off at the proper time for winter. 

Only when there is great variation in soil moisture and fertility will plants grow unusually in the late season and fail to harden off.

The food for all plant life is manufactured in the plant leaves, so encourage as much top and foliage growth as possible in the first season. This will create strong, healthy plants and prolong the rose’s life.

Remove all spent blooms as soon as they mature. When you remove a bloom, cut the blossom stem just above the first five leaflets, which point toward the outside of the plant. This will encourage a better-shaped plant.

Keep weeds removed and the soil cultivated or mulched 2’ to 3’ inches deep with peat moss, humus, or buckwheat hulls to conserve moisture.

44659 by George M. Hart