Rose Care and Fertilization|
(Also consult the American Rose Society: Fertilization web site.)
Roses may be the flowers of love and romance, but there's nothing romantic about spindly canes sporting spider mites, beetles and mildew instead of beautiful flowers. Just as romance sometimes needs a little helping along, so do your roses. The bonus in keeping roses watered, fertilized, mulched and pruned is that the resulting healthy plants are less susceptible to pest attack.
There is perhaps less agreement about how, when and with what to feed roses than any other aspect of their care. If there is any recommendation resembling a consensus of opinion, it would be to feed the modern, repeat-bloom rose varieties first in the spring right after pruning. Next, feed when they have developed flower buds, and then again about two months before the first frost in your area. Gardens with fast-draining, sandy soil or those in southern climates are usually fed more frequently.
Use a commercial rose food or a general-purpose fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 5-10-10 for the first two feedings. A formulation like 0-10-10 is best for the last feeding before frost.
Apply the rose food as well as the water-soluble and foliar fertilizers available according to the manufacturer's directions. Dry fertilizers should be scratched into the soil beneath the leaves - but not touching the canes or bud union - and then watered in well.
The older varieties of roses that only bloom once a year should be fertilized one time in early spring. (For more information, see the American Rose Society: Older varieties)
FEEDING AND SPRAYING ROSES IN SOUTH CENTRAL TEXAS
(Also consult the American Rose Society: Spraying web site.)
Your feeding program, like your spraying, should be done regularly. Roses are heavy feeders. To keep them growing vigorously, an organized program should be followed. Water rose bed thoroughly before and after food has been applied.
Using mulch, especially an organic one, is about the closest thing possible to a garden panacea. A mulch keeps weeds to a minimum, the soil moist and loose and adds nutrients.
Apply mulch in the spring just as the soil warms and before weeds start coming up. Mulch can also be applied anytime during the growing season if the weeds are removed and the surface lightly cultivated. Spread 2 to 4 inches of mulch over the bed, leaving some space open around the base of each rose. Replace the mulch as it deteriorates during the year.
For organic mulches, you'll want to use whatever is locally available and cheap. Some options include wood chips and shavings, shredded bark, pine needles, or chopped oak leaves. Extra nitrogen fertilizer may be needed when these mulches are first applied. Mixtures of materials are usually more satisfactory as they have less tendency to pack down and, moreover, permit easy transmission of water and fertilizers. Many compost mixtures are available -- also a light layer of manure may be applied under the mulch.
Adequate soil moisture is indispensable to the vitality of roses. (For more information, see the American Rose Society: Watering) Seldom can you rely on the natural rainfall to be adequate. The rule-of-thumb is 1 inch of water each week, but the actual frequency of watering will depend on your soil and climate as well as the age of the plant.
The goal is to slowly water until the soil is soaked 12 to 18 inches deep. Soaker hoses or a hose with a bubbler attachment are inexpensive solutions and keep water from splashing onto foliage and spreading diseases. Soil-level and drip-irrigation systems are more expensive but make watering a breeze.
(For more information, see American Rose Society: Pruning). Pruning controls the size and shape of roses and keeps the modern varieties blooming repeatedly all summer long, as they flower on new growth. The supplies you'll need include a good, sharp, curved-edge pruning shears; long-handled lopping shears; a small pruning saw; plus a pair of leather gardening gloves.
Well-established varieties of modern rose bushes such as hybrid teas, floribundas, and grandifloras should receive a major pruning each spring after the winter protection has been removed and just as the buds begin to swell (usually about when daffodils bloom). Harsh pruning makes bigger, but fewer blooms. And, there is no report that anyone ever killed a plant with a pair of pruning shears.
All that's needed otherwise during the growing season is to remove and destroy any diseased foliage or canes and to dead head, or remove the faded flowers, cutting their stems just above the first leaf with five leaflets.
Most old-fashioned and species roses as well as the climbers that bloom only once a year flower on wood from the previous year's growth. They are pruned right after flowering.
Practically all rose plants are budded on a special root, or understock. Occasionally you may find a sucker, or shoot, growing from this root stock itself. These sucker canes can usually be identified by the different leaf size and coloring. Remove sucker growth by cutting the canes off as close to the root stock trunk as possible.