Master gardeners often describe rose growing as an art form. If you’ve looked into the subject, you’ve probably read plenty of stories about rose growers struggling with finicky plants, weather conditions, disease and more. However, if you go about it the right way, rose gardening can be an easy, enjoyable pastime with beautiful results.
Read Up on Roses
Before you run to the nearest greenhouse, do a bit of reading about the rose varieties you like. Some roses don’t like hot climates, while others can’t tolerate sub-zero winters. To have the best chance of success, try to choose varieties with temperature requirements that are well within your climate zone. For example, if you live in climate zone 5, roses rated for zones 5 to 9 may not survive a particularly harsh winter.
Many varieties – such as hybrid tea roses – are prone to diseases, like black spot and powdery mildew. Most roses are prone to Japanese beetle infestations. If you know what symptoms to look for, you will be able to spot diseases and infestations before they seriously damage your roses.
Choosing a Good Spot
You will need to find an ideal location for your roses. Since roses are typically large, thorny shrubs, avoid areas like utility boxes or in front of your electric meter. The more sun your roses get, the better – most roses require at least six hours of sunlight daily. If you want roses for shady areas, look into English roses. Some of these beauties can handle as little as four to five hours of sunlight per day.
Preparing the Soil
Roses aren’t terribly picky about soil acidity, but you will get more blooms if your soil is slightly acidic. A soil PH of 6.5 is perfect for most roses. Your local agricultural extension agency can test your soil PH, or you can buy a home test kit from most garden centers. If your soil is too alkaline, try adding coffee grounds to raise the acidity. Adding lime or sulfur to your soil will lower the acidity.
Before planting, it’s a good idea to amend the soil with peat moss. Turn the soil over to a depth of at least 12 inches, and add a good two inches of peat moss. Peat moss helps to balance the moisture content of your soil. It helps sandy soil hold more moisture, and it provides extra drainage in clay soils.
Make sure to loosen the soil and apply peat moss over the entire bed. If you only dig a small hole, the hard soil all around the rose will act like an in-ground planter. You will see reduced root growth, smaller plants and fewer blooms.
Planting and Caring
Once you’ve purchased your roses, get them in the ground as soon as possible. If you live in an area where the winters are cold, make sure bud unions are set four inches below the ground level. In areas where the ground never freezes, you can plant bud unions at the soil level.
Create a mound of soil or mulch around the base of the rose and water it in well. Throughout the first growing season, make sure to water your new roses at least once a week, or more in very hot weather. After that first year, your roses will establish a healthy root system and should require less frequent watering.
Unless you plan to grow prize-winning flowers, rose growing is no more difficult than growing any other type of ornamental flowers. Your roses will be most vulnerable during the first year after planting – watch them closely so you can attend to any problems before they spiral out of control.
Once your roses are off to a good start, you will be able to enjoy countless colorful blooms with a minimum amount of maintenance.